Yes, a state sectional crown is a great achievement, but for those who held the Group trophy aloft, it was a chance to put the finishing touches on a season already filled with great memories.
BERNARDS PUTS A BOW ON A MEMORABLE SEASON
While Holmdel was looking for its second straight state championship, Bernards came in with other ideas.
An evenly-matched game throughout, a stubborn Bernards defense did an outstanding job, while senior forward Erick Villegas delivered his 11th goal of the season – and the biggest of his career— to give Bernards a 1-0 victory in the Group 2 final at the College of New Jersey.
The Mountaineers shut down 21-goal scorer Zach Bond – while senior goalie Sam Polito earned his 18th shutout – adding to his school-record.
With the win, Bernards nailed down its third state title, having won the Group 2 crown in 2006 and the Group 1 title in 1989.
WALDWICK DELIVERS SECOND STATE CROWN
Waldwick boys soccer fans remember the year 1995, when the Group 1 state trophy was hoisted for the very first time in program history after defeating powerhouse Schalick.
But Haddon Township had other ideas, with Zach Curl’s two goals and one assist helping the South Jersey school to victory over the Bergen County power.
Haddon Township came away with a hard-earned, 3-1 triumph over Waldwick in one of the more wide-open and entertaining games of the tourney.
Zach Neugebauer had played a relentless game in net for Waldwick with seven saves, including several big stops against Curl in a scoreless first half.
But senior Kevin Kosilowski scored for Haddon early in the second half and Curl put one home later in the stanza before Waldwick’s Rikuo Nakamoto made it 2-1. Haddon Township reasserted its pressure with Curl scoring to add the icing on the cake, as Haddon captured its first Group state crown in history.
RIDGE FALLS TO LENAPE IN GIRLS GROUP 4 FINAL
When you talk about Lenape girls soccer, there’s just one word that comes to mind – dominance.
For the fifth straight year, Lenape captured the Group 4 state championship thanks to a pair of first half goals and an equally impressive defensive showing.
Lenape’s Courtney Kovac tallied first just five minutes into the game before Katie Rigby (21 goals) scored 25 minutes later off a pass from Shannon Westhead for the 2-0 lead, which put the pressure squarely on the Red Devils in the second half.
Lenape finished the season at 24-2-1, with keeper Allison Johnson earning the shutout.
Hats off to Ridge keeper Rachel Axt, who was outstanding in the loss.
NORTHERN HIGHLANDS DELIVERS IN GROUP 3 FINAL
The rule is, 'you cannot score off a throw-in, unless the ball is touched by any other player on the field.’
And that’s exactly what happened for Northern Highlands, which scored off a long throw-in by junior sweeper Jackie Reyneke when the keeper deflected it into the net.
Northern Highlands captured the girls Group 2 crown by a 2-0 count against a tough Moorestown team, which closed its campaign at 17-4-2.
Hana Kerner added an insurance goal soon after the first to put the finishing touches on a sparkling 24-0 season, and the program's first outright state championship, adding to its three co-titles.
Highlands goalie Brook Holle made a pair of sensational saves on breakaways to keep the opposition at bay, and the unbeaten season intact.
RAMSEY DEFEATS ROBBINSVILLE IN OT
Eighty minutes of regulation play were not enough for Ramsey and Robbinsville.
Despite an impressive display of ball-control and an early lead, Robbinsville did not have enough to hold off Ramsey or scoring standout Lexi Knief, who tallied her 43rd goal of the season in overtime to secure a 2-1 victory and the Group 2 championship.
Gabrielle Martone launched the game-winning cross that found Knief four minutes into the first overtime period.
Robbinsville held a 1-nil lead until Morgan Coonrad tied the game at 1-all on a long direct free kick.
This was the fourth state title for Ramsey, which won back-to-back crowns in 2000 and 2001.
NEW PROVIDENCE WINS ITS SECOND STRAGHT CROWN
One thing you can say about the Union County school –- it knows how to handle pressure.
The Lady Pioneers had already won the Group 1 state title in 2010, and had nine starters returning, meaning expectations would be exceedingly high for a repeat.
All season long, New Providence made it look easy, and the final was no different, adding a 4-0 shutout against Haddon Township as its final calling card in 2011.
Sophomore Casey Trezza scored the eventual game-winner which stood up into the second half, before the Pioneers added three more, with Ashley Evangelos, junior Alex Schlobohm and Paige Carleen adding to the Haddon headaches.
New Providence keeper Jill Ashinsky picked up her 15th shutout of the season as the Pioneers finished with an impressive 18-1-1 mark.
Mike Curci covers boys and girls soccer for MSG Varsity.