Hornets top Hanover Park, 2-0, to win Group II state soccer championship


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The shining star of the 2021 NJSIAA Group II girls soccer tournament was Holmdel High School senior Juliana Kolbasovsky.

From scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of the Central Jersey Group II state sectional tournament championship match against Wall High School, to scoring two goals in Holmdel’s victory over Haddonfield High School in a Group II state semifinal match, Kolbasovsky was a clutch performer for the Hornets.

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So it was no surprise that Kolbasovsky once again delivered a big performance when the Hornets faced Hanover Park High School of Morris County in the Group II championship match on Nov. 21 at Kean University in Union.

Kolbasovsky scored two goals in the second half to lead the Hornets to a 2-0 victory as Holmdel won a state group championship for the first time since 2014.

“It feels so good,” Kolbasovsky said after the match. “I’m so happy I was able to score and that the team won. I’m trying to make the most of all my opportunities and make sure I finish.”

During postseason play, Kolbasovsky scored nine goals in six games after being moved into an attacking midfielder role.

In the Group II championship match that pitted two teams nicknamed the Hornets, the squads played to a 0-0 tie after the 40-minute first half.

In the 42nd minute, Kolbasovsky was fouled in the box. She bounced back up after the foul and stepped up to take the penalty kick. In her approach to the ball, Kolbasovsky faked out the goalkeeper as she appeared to be shooting to the right, before she went left and put the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“I just knew where to place the ball and when I looked up it was in the net and it was a great feeling,” Kolbasovsky said. “We knew this was our game and that if the defense continued to play well like they were that we would win the game.”

Hanover Park had a chance to tie the match in the 70th minute on a free kick, but Holmdel goalkeeper Katrina Walier saved a shot on net to keep the Hornets in the lead. The senior goalkeeper finished the match with five saves.

“I’m just so lucky to have a good team in front of me to help us get a shutout,” Walier said. “It’s all about communication in the back and that’s what we have worked on all year. We are so happy with the results.”

A moment after Walier saved Hanover Park’s free kick, Holmdel earned a corner kick. Senior Mia Giamanco sent her kick into the box and Kolbasovsky headed the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead.

No one scored in the final eight minutes and the Holmdel players celebrated their victory as the final whistle sounded.

Kolbasovsky finished the 2021 season with 14 goals. Her outstanding performance in the postseason had her feeling elated as she and her teammates celebrated their victory.

“It feels insane,” Kolbasovsky said. “Words don’t really describe it. I’m just so happy to do this with all my best friends by my side.”

Coach John Nacarlo won his fourth state title; his first with the girls after leading Holmdel’s boys to three state crowns.

He said it felt good to become a four-time state champion, but was more excited to see his players experience the thrill of winning a state championship.

“I’m just so happy for all the girls,” Nacarlo said. “They put themselves in this position. For the girls to step up the way they did is what you need and I’m happy they were able to do it.”

Nacarlo took the reins of the girls team in 2020. The Hornets were 15-0 before the program was shut down due to COVID-19 and were unable to compete in a regional tournament that replaced the NJSIAA’s traditional state sectional tournament for one season.

It was a point of emphasis in 2021 for the Hornets to finish what they started in 2020 and to do it on their terms.

“This is a great group of girls and I wanted this so badly for them,” Nacarlo said. “It’s a great group of seniors and I’m really happy for them.”

The Hornets finished the 2021 season with a 19-1-1 record and had the storybook ending they did not have a chance to write a year ago.

“There’s no other feeling like it,” senior Katie Vassilakos said. “There’s no better way to go out. I’m so proud of my team.”

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