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Monroe, Saint Joseph boys’ soccer teams hope to end seasons strong

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Monroe Township High School’s boys’ soccer team continued its success this season and, in the process, spoiled Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen’s senior day.

On Oct. 14, Monroe displayed its weapons en route to a 6-2 victory over the host team in Metuchen.

“We moved the ball well,” Monroe head coach Steven Mackenzie said. “We attacked with some speed, and we finished our chances.”

Mackenzie still wants a little more consistency from his team.

“We can’t give up the little mistakes,” Mackenzie said. “We just need to clean up passes in certain areas and continue to take advantage of our chances.”

Monroe improved to 12-1-2 this season with the victory.

The coach has championship expectations for his squad.

“Our expectations are to win the [Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament] championship and to win a state title,” Mackenzie said. “Those were our goals going in, and we’re just looking to finish.”

Monroe is the No. 1 seed in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament, which started on Oct. 17. It received byes in the play-in and preliminary rounds and is scheduled to play on Oct. 21 against either No. 16-seed Spotswood High School or No. 17-seed South Plainfield High School in Monroe.

Monroe’s senior center midfielder, Liam Craver, felt that the team’s defense was really good against Saint Joseph. Craver had a goal and two assists in the game.

“I think we were pretty solid defensively,” Craver said. “We were able to get the ball to the midfield, where we were able to attack.”

Craver believes the team can be even better and needs to make the adjustments to get there.

“I think the quality of our passes have to be better,” Craver said. “Our finishing [also needs to improve] so we can win every game.”

Brendan Deal netted two goals and added two assists against Saint Joseph. Christian Bernal, Adrian Dilascio and George Olynk each had a goal, while Matt Hoyt posted two assists.

Craver wants the team to ride its momentum into the postseason.

“I want to win everything,” Craver said. “We have the talent to do it.”

Saint Joseph coach Brian Jenkins was disappointed in the loss, but he was happy with the bigger picture of the day.

“In the second half, I thought we played a little bit better,” Jenkins said. “We were a little bit more organized and played with a little bit more intensity. Obviously, getting Matthew [Pinho, a senior center midfielder], on the board was nice. Today was about the seniors and getting everybody on the field today, so in that aspect, it was nice.”

Pinho, who scored both goals for Saint Joseph, loved the effort in the second half by team but wished it had started the game better. Nick Cruz assisted on both of Pinho’s goals.

“In the first half, we came out very flat,” Pinho said. “We didn’t even look like we had what it took to compete. But in the second half, I think we came back better, but we still let in some soft goals. But we still showed glimpses of having good possessions, and we scored two goals, so that was good.”

Jenkins wants to see an improvement on defense.

“We gave up a lot of goals lately,” Jenkins said. “We need to do a better job. Earlier in the year, that wasn’t happening. We were having trouble scoring, but we weren’t giving up the soft goals. When you get into the tournament, you can’t be conceding soft goals. So we have to shore it up in the back.”

Pinho wants the team to stick together and communicate during the hard times.

“I think another thing is we have a disconnect between the defense, the midfield and the forwards,” Pinho said. “As soon as we get down a goal, that disconnect becomes greater. So in order for us to get better, we’re going to have to stay connected.”

Pinho believes that connecting more as a team begins with better communication.

“It has to do with overall communication,” Pinho said. “In the next few games, we have to verbally connect with one another. As soon as that comes, and we can start reading each other’s plays, we can start pinging passes to each other and make it easier than trying to rely on one person to get it done for us.”

Despite falling to 7-7 with the loss, Jenkins has high expectations for the Metuchen team.

“I expect us to compete for a county championship,” Jenkins said. “With some of our results, I think people are going to take us lighter than they probably should. Anything can happen in the tournament. If we stay consistent, anything can happen.”

Pinho thinks a strong end to the regular season is all the team needs to have a magical postseason run. Saint Joseph is the 10th seed in the GMC Tournament  and will play a preliminary-round game against either No. 23-seed Perth Amboy High School or No. 26-seed Bishop George Ahr High School on Oct. 19 in Metuchen.

“Within these last few games, if we can come out strong and get some wins, then we’ll boost our confidence, and that can carry us through,” he said. “That will help a lot. If we can continue that streak, we can do great things.”

Monroe ended the regular season on the road at Perth Amboy High School on Oct. 16 before returning home against New Brunswick High School on Oct. 17.

Saint Joseph was scheduled to play a regular-season game on the road at Piscataway Township High School on Oct. 17.

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