By Jimmy Allinder
The Metuchen High School boys’ soccer team won’t repeat as Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division champions, but the Bulldogs eased that disappointment with a big win in the conference tournament.
Metuchen (11-4) knocked off second-seeded New Brunswick High School, 2-1, in the conference tournament Oct. 21 for one of the biggest wins in Ed Albanese’s two-year career as coach. The Bulldogs were scheduled to meet 10th-seeded North Brunswick Township High School Oct. 25 in the quarterfinals.
“I’d have to say this is our biggest win since I’ve been here,” said Albanese, who took over for long-time coach Ken Graf in 2015. “We wound up third in the Blue Division, although we handed champion Spotswood [High School] its only two division losses.”
Albanese said beating Bishop George Ahr High School last year to clinch the division was significant, but the New Brunswick victory tops that.
“We understood how big this was by the reaction of the team and our fans when the final whistle blew,” Albanese said. “It’s a moment the kids will always remember.”
Metuchen will likely receive the fourth seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I tournament, which begins Nov. 1. The section is stocked with quality teams, including South River High School (11-4-1), which defeated the Bulldogs in the finals a year ago.
End defender and senior captain Kyle Harry (four goals, seven assists) continues to impress and has contributed important points. Junior captain Jack Bradley (seven goals, seven assists) has been the Bulldog’s best all-around player, Albanese said.
Others who have played well are seniors Sam Johnson (eight goals, one assist), Kenny Rosamilia (seven goals, five assists) and sophomore Avi Hogan-Appell (nine goals, three assists). Senior Brandon Iskandar leads in assists with 11, and goaltender Alex Brooks has recorded 83 saves.
In other GMC Tournament action, 13th-seeded Edison High School (9-6-2) advanced to the quarterfinals by upsetting fourth-seeded Old Bridge High School, 1-0, Oct. 21. The Eagles met fifth-seeded South Brunswick High School Oct. 25.
Sophomore Benito Rojas leads Edison with six goals, followed by Adolfo Vasquez (five), Armit Chauhan (four) and Jason Salazar (four).
Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen (10-6-2) advanced to the quarterfinals by defeating East Brunswick Vocational Technical High School, 4-0, Oct. 22 and hosted 16th-seeded Sayreville War Memorial High School Oct. 25.
The ninth-seeded Falcons have been led by senior Antonio Oliveira with 16 goals, followed by Nick Cruz, who has seven goals and a team-leading nine assists.
Bishop Ahr football coach Joe Vigilante admitted he knew about the by-law instituted earlier this year by the GMC that disallows a team that requests to be moved to a different division from being eligible for the championship.
That, however, hasn’t proved to be a distraction, as the Trojans are a game away from finishing with an unblemished record in the Blue Division. Since 2009, Bishop Ahr was a member of the White Division but moved down to the Blue Division this year.
Bishop Ahr defeated two-time champion Spotswood High School, 46-30, Oct. 22 and only needs to defeat winless Middlesex High School (0-7) Nov. 4 to finish with a perfect division mark. Before that game, the Trojans host Asbury Park High School (4-2) Oct. 29.
“This [move to the Blue Division] was right for us,” Vigilante said. “We’re now playing teams we should be playing if you look at the enrollments of those schools.”
The win against Spotswood showed why running back Andrew Brazicki is one of the top players in the GMC. The senior ran for 327 yards, scored five touchdowns with runs of 44, 84, 50, 53 and 11 yards and was a force on defense at linebacker.
“This was the best performance of my career,” Brazicki said. “It was very satisfying because we knew a lot was riding on this game.”
The Ridge High School girls’ tennis team, just like it was last year, proved to be the roadblock that prevented John P. Stevens High School from capturing the North Jersey, Group II sectional title. The eventual state team champions defeated the Hawks, 4-1, Oct. 18 — the second time the Somerset County team knocked off J.P. Stevens.
The Hawks ended their season at 16-3 and won the GMC Red Division and conference tournament. First singles player Elizabeth Yu was the lone winner over Ridge’s Kruti Navin, 6-1, 6-1.