Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The magical season of the Monroe Township High School boys’ soccer team will not include a state championship, but it will be remembered for the titles that were won by the Falcons.
The prospect of winning a state championship came to an end when Monroe fell to Princeton High School, 2-1, in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional semifinals on Nov. 8 in Monroe.
But Monroe can celebrate a season that featured the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament championship and a 21-2-2 record. The Falcons, in fact, had not tasted a defeat since they fell to South Brunswick High school in the opening game of the season in early September.
Monroe also gained revenge when it defeated South Brunswick, 2-1, in the GMC Tournament finals. The Falcons also claimed the GMC Red Division title during the season.
Princeton, the third seed in the section, was able to crack through second-seeded Monroe behind freshman Nick Petruso. He scored twice in the second half to lift Princeton to a 2-0 edge.
Monroe closed the gap to 2-1 with just over one minute to play when Liam Craver scored off an assist from Matt Hoyt.
“That team had not lost a game since Sept. 5,” Princeton coach Wayne Sutcliffe said about Monroe after his team had advanced to face top-seeded Hunterdon Central Regional High School in the Central Jersey, Group 4 finals. “They are a very good team. We made a few adjustments at halftime, and we were able to knock a couple goals in. We knew it was going to be a tough game. But we’ve played some high-level competition this season, and we felt like we had a real chance to win.”
The teams battled through a scoreless first half, during which neither team had a dangerous scoring attempt. Princeton finally took the lead when Petruso knocked in a goal off a free kick by Remy Hebert with 23 minutes left to play in the second half.
“It bounced in the box, and I just hit it with my shoulder,” Petruso said. “It just dribbled in. I hit it with my left shoulder, and it went right by the goalie into the left corner.”
Less than three minutes later, Petruso tallied his second goal of the game for a 2-0 lead.
Monroe kept the pressure on through the final 15 minutes, during which Princeton played a man down due to a red card. Craver, a senior, scored his 12th goal of the season with just over one minute to play to cut the Princeton lead to 2-1. The Falcons had one more solid scoring chance in the closing seconds but could not convert.
The Falcons had advanced to the state sectional semifinals with their 15th straight victory, a 3-0 decision over Trenton Central High School in the sectional quarterfinals.
Brendan Deal scored two goals and Hoyt hit on the other goal to lead Monroe in its final victory of the season.
Bob Nuse, Sports Editor