Monroe relishes soccer success despite state tournament loss

soccer ball

By Jimmy Allinder

The Monroe Township High School boys’ soccer team (16-3) has played this season at a high level, just like it always does.

But when the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament began, the Falcons knew they needed to kick it up another notch. In a hotly contested match against the top-seeded team in the sectional, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, the Falcons dropped a 1-0 decision, thus ending their season. The Red Devils moved on to the championship game Nov. 10 against Marlboro High School, which defeated Manalapan High School, 1-0, in another semifinal game.

Monroe was a participant in the sectional championship the past two seasons but dropped both contests by a goal (1-0 to Manalapan in 2014 and 3-2 to Freehold Township High School in 2015).

Monroe comes off a regular season where it won the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division crown. But as the top seed in the GMC Tournament, it was upset in the first round by Sayreville War Memorial High School, 2-1.

Looking at statistics, the Falcons have been led by senior Matt Mischler (31 goals, 15 assists) and junior Matt Hoyt (14 goals, eight assists). The pair has accounted for 48 of the team’s 67 scores.

“In addition to [them], Matt Cavadas (eight goals, two assists) and Kevin Senkus have been outstanding on the back line,” Monroe coach Steve MacKenzie said. “For a team to have the success we’ve had, we need contributions from the entire team.”

Senior Pat Nolan, juniors Alessio Mariello and David Zaorski and sophomores Tommy Haimer and Brendon Deal — along with junior goalie Nick Rios — are among those who have elevated their games.

MacKenzie believes managing the game’s mental aspect is the key to winning come tournament time.

“We’ve tried to be focused on the match at hand and get 80 minutes out of our players,” he said. “When that happens, the better our chances are to win [and advance]. Each game provides different challenges and new opportunities because of the opponent’s tendencies. If we limit the challenges and exploit the opportunities, we’ll be successful.”

MacKenzie believes the commitment to winning as a team by his players, regardless of the minutes played, has contributed to winning matches.

“Those who don’t start have had to deal with the uncertainty of playing time,” he said. “But nevertheless, they have been an important part of our success.”

Despite the disappointing end to the season, MacKenzie says he is proud of his team and confident the program will remain strong.

“I have found I can get a good idea how our team will perform after watching those players who have come in trained in soccer skills, demonstrate strong leadership and encourage their teammates,” he said.

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