By Jimmy Allinder
Matt Mischler is far and away the leading scorer for the Monroe Township High School boys’ soccer team with 20 goals and 12 assists.
But the center attacking midfielder considers his most important asset the ability to maintain his composure during the heat of the game. That balance can be difficult when the pace is fast and intense, but Mischler understands not taking penalties is vitally important to the success of his team.
“I learned the importance of keeping focused and not losing my temper from my brother,” he said about Mike Mischler, who starred for Monroe two years ago and has moved on to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. “He’s bigger than me, so Mike taught me how to be physical but maintain self-control.”
When the shifty senior makes runs off the ball, it’s obvious he and teammate Matt Hoyt — Monroe’s other scoring leader (eight goals, 13 assists) — have an unspoken connection.
“A lot of my focus is on [him],” Mischler said. “We work constantly together in the midfield and on attack. I try and dictate much of my movement off what he does and vice versa.”
The pair combines to form a potent wave of speed and power, and opponents need to be mindful of where they are at all times. The dynamic scoring duo has propelled Monroe to an 11-1-1 record in the Greater Middlesex Conference (Red Division and overall) and a comfortable lead over New Brunswick High School (7-2-2 division and overall) in the division race.
Unless the Falcons lose to rival Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen (5-4 division and overall) Oct. 15, they can wrap up the division title with a tie or victory at New Brunswick Oct. 18. The final regular-season contest is Oct. 20, when Monroe hosts South Brunswick High School (7-4 division and overall), which is the only team to hand the Falcons a defeat, 2-1.
Mischler is one of the team’s acknowledged leaders and will not entertain thoughts about championships until they are won.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” he said. “There’s a lot left in the season, and we need to continue to work hard in our preparation.”
He is also not thinking about the postseason conference and NJSIAA state tournaments. The conference tournament begins with play-in games Oct. 17, and the Falcons will likely be the top seed, so they won’t see action until the first round Oct. 21. The Central Jersey, Group IV tournament starts Nov. 3, and seeds will be determined by power points.
Although Mischler has turned into a vibrant scorer since he was inserted into the starting lineup as a sophomore, he grew up playing goalie.
“When I entered high school, I was switched to the field,” he said. “I have always played multiple sports. In elementary school, it was recreation basketball, baseball, lacrosse and soccer. I even wrestled. Now that I’m in high school, I play soccer, lacrosse and compete in track.”
Mischler has received interest to play soccer from several small NCAA Division I schools in addition to a few Division III colleges, including the Merchant Marine Academy and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. However, he’s not sure he’ll play when he graduates.
“I would prefer to go to school on the west coast or in the south,” Mischler said. “My top two choices, if I get admitted, are the U.S. Naval Academy or UCLA, and I plan on majoring in mechanical or aerospace engineering.”
His academic goals are lofty, but he’s confident of succeeding after taking several honors and Advanced Placement courses and achieving a 96.5 average.
“Balancing school and sports requires time management,” he said. “Most of my free time consists of fitting in homework and studying, even if I stay up late at night.”
Because of his outstanding soccer skills, Mischler plays for the Players Development Academy. He played in the net but, like his high school experience, switched to outside back and now plays center back.
His parents, Michael and Tabitha, and the coaches and teammates throughout his career have made an indelible impact on Mischler’s life.
“My parents have been there for me, and my soccer coaches, Gary Taffet and Phill Herbert, and high school coach, Steve Mackenzie, have always encouraged me to be better and handle adversity in a composed and effective manner,” he said.
“I also have to credit our defense and goalkeeper, [Nick Rios], who have kept us in many games. As long as the team wins, who scores makes no difference. What only matters is the success of the program.”