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South Brunswick boys’ soccer team plays well in tough GMC championship loss

South Brunswick goalkeeper Joseph Mastromonica surveys the field during the GMC championship game at Sayreville War Memorial High School on Oct. 24.

After the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship game ended in penalty kicks, Chris Hayston did not even consider it a loss for his South Brunswick High School boys’ soccer team.

“You guys are as much of a county champion as they are,” Hayston told his Vikings during their postgame meeting.

On Oct. 24 at Sayreville War Memorial High School, South Brunswick lost the GMC title game, 4-3 in penalty kicks, to rival East Brunswick High School.

But the teams played to a 2-2 tie through 100 minutes of soccer, with each club taking eight shots. After such an even matchup, losing in penalty kicks was devastating. You could see it in the long faces of the South Brunswick players.

It was so devastating because it felt sort of cheap, as penalty kick losses often do. After so much real soccer, how could a game be decided with a round of free kicks?

That was Hayston’s point after the defeat, though he did give East Brunswick credit.

“They are a great team,” Hayston told his players. “Let’s take nothing away from them.”

The coach’s senior captains, though, agreed with him. Even though they lost, they didn’t feel like they deserved to lose.

“We played pretty well overall,” said South Brunswick senior captain Sebastiano Villano. “We gave it our all, stayed in the game and then it’s just penalties.”

“It is what it is,” he added.

“A shootout can go either way on any given day. It just happens,” said Jake Stump, another senior captain for the Vikings. “They are a great team and that was a great game.”

Despite the loss, South Brunswick is still playing well going into the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament. The Vikings won three straight GMC Tournament games to get to the final, two by four goals each. Before that, they went 4-1 over their last five regular season games.

“Now we just need to focus on our next game, which is states,” said South Brunswick senior Cory Petersen, also a captain. “We just need to go out there, win that game and move forward from there.”

South Brunswick is the No. 12 seed in the Central Jersey, Group 4 tournament, and it is scheduled to play at Princeton High School on Oct. 29 in the first round. Princeton is the No. 5 seed in the  state sectional tournament.

The Vikings likely won’t play a home game for the entire tournament, but they are still confident because they can score with anyone. South Brunswick has scored 53 goals in 19 games this year, led by Stump with 26.

“We’re really going to try to bring the attitude up and give Princeton a real good game,” Villano said. “Hopefully we can advance to the next round of states and keep the season going.”

Even if they lose, the Vikings will still be proud of their campaign. They lost 16 seniors and eight starters after last year, when they went 17-3-2 and reached the state sectional semifinals, losing to East Brunswick, 2-1.

Even with a mostly new lineup and roster, the 2019 Vikings still grew into a title contender by season’s end.

“A lot of people doubted how we were going to do after losing so many people,” Stump said. “But we came a long way and proved a lot of people wrong.”

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