WEST ORANGE, NJ – Recently, Livingston High School sophomores Jake Samuels, Gerrett Meinhardt (of Temple B'nai Abraham) and Jack Wasserman (of Temple Emanuel of West Essex) helped their team to achieve the Bronze medal at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Maccabi Games in Austin Texas.
From July 28 to Aug 2, the boys competed on the U-16 (Under age 16) Boys Soccer Team where they represented JCC MetroWest. Team MetroWest, was made up of players from all over Northern New Jersey, including, Jack Wasserman, Garrett Meinhardt, and Jake Samuels from Livingston. Kevin Zeligson from West Orange, Colin Morrissey from Basking Ridge, Noah Nazmiyal from Montville, Max Ramsfelder from Morristown, Ethan Tuckman from Towaco, and Ross Baron from Scotch Plains.
The JCC Maccabi games has the largest gathering of Jewish teens in the world and brings together delegations from all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and Israel for Olympic-style competition and cultural and social activities. Among the 1300 kids present at the Maccabi games this year, JCC MetroWest sent teams to compete in soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, swimming and tennis.
The Maccabi Games have been running in the United States since 1982 when the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America brought the concept from Israel, Europe and South America. The JCC Maccabi Games can be called the Olympics for Jewish Teens, but they serve a larger purpose than athletic competition.
“The Games also promote community involvement, teamwork, and pride in being Jewish,” said Tina Greenberg, Communications Coordinator for Temple B'nai Abraham in Livingston. “Over 100,000 teens have benefited from the JCC Maccabi Games since 1982. The energy and excitement make it a unique and unforgettable experience for every participant, from athletes to volunteers, from coaches to host families.”
"Going to Austin, Texas as a member of the JCC Metrowest Maccabi soccer team was an unbelievable experience,” said Ross Baron of Scotch Plains. “It made me a better athlete and a better Jewish individual"
“Without ever competing as a team and after only a few practices prior to Austin, the team’s performance in the tournament certainly exceeded all expectations,” said Matthew Fox, team MetroWest soccer coach, and supervisor of sports and recreation at JCC MetroWest.
Team MetroWest won their first game against Fort Lauderdale, 7-2, “This game helped build confidence among the MetroWest squad which they would need as they progressed in the tournament and faced tougher opponents,” said Fox.
Their next game was played against Edmonton in 100 degree heat. With only 1 substitute, team MetroWest played hard to finally achieve a tied score of 1-1, after being rewarded a penalty kick in the first half. “This game showed the grit and mental toughness of the MetroWest team,” said Fox.
On Tuesday, the team recorded its ‘first clean sheet’ of the tournament with a score of 5-0 to Dallas. The team also found victory in the second game of the day against Boca Raton with a final score of 2-0. “A team defense mind set was the key in this win against Boca. While Boca had a couple chances, MetroWest dominated the play in this game. Exceptional play from goalies Garrett Meinhardt and Ross Baron and the defensive core of Colin Morrissey and Jake Samuels led to the team’s second consecutive shutout,” said Fox.
Team MetroWest earned the #1 seed in the medal round after achieving a 3-0-1 record as well as a match against the #8 seed, Chicago/LA on Wednesday morning. “While the #1 seed gave MetroWest a favorable matchup in the first game of the medal round,” said Fox. “The other two teams in the bracket were Boca and Edmonton, ensuring a tough draw for MetroWest should they reach the semifinals.” MetroWest won 7-1 against Chicago/LA, with 4 goals from Kevin Zeligson. This victory led to another match against Boca Raton in the semifinals on Thursday.
“The semifinal match against Boca was a tough learning experience for MetroWest,” said Fox. The match was pretty even throughout although MetroWest actually controlled a lot of the possession and had a number of goal scoring opportunities, three of which hit the post, and a bunch more which just missed the net.”
The score remained 0-0 through halftime and well into the second half. In the last 10 minutes of the game, a Boca Player took a shot from about 35 yards out which entered into the net from the top corner. “A perfectly placed shot out of the reach of the keeper,” said Fox. MetroWest suffered a lost in this game with a final score of 0-2. “The loss was an unlucky result and a tough one to swallow for a team that felt like they had controlled the game,” said Fox.
Finally, the bronze medal game was played against #2 seed and hosts, Austin. “Although MetroWest was considered the ‘home team’ for this game, the crowd was obviously in support of Austin,” said Fox. Halftime resulted in a tie of 1-1 followed by the second half which was dominated by MetroWest. The team scored three goals making the final game a 4-1 victory for MetroWest, winning them the Bronze Medal.
MetroWest was able to return home from the Maccabi games with a final 5-1-1 record, with 26 goals. Kevin Zeligson lead the team with eight goals, followed by Jack Wasserman who scored six goals and added seven assists. Noah Nazmiyal, who led the team in points with 13, scored four goals and added nine assists. Also scoring goals for MetroWest were Max Ramsfelder (3), Garrett Meinhardt (2), Ross Baron (2), and Ethan Tuckman (1).
“Jake Samuels was self-credited with by far the most ‘hockey assists’ on the team,’ said Fox. “As a team, led by goalies Garrett Meinhardt and Ross Baron and the defensive duo of Colin Morrissey and Jake Samuels, MetroWest recorded two complete game shutouts.”
According to Fox, a number of team members were asked to play in positions that they didn’t usually play. In particular, Max Ramsfelder and Ethan Tuckman were asked to step into a number of different roles throughout the tournament, with Ramsfelder finding time in midfield, forward, and defense and Tuckman moving around to all three midfield positions as needed. “It was this ‘team first’ attitude that contributed to MetroWest’s success,” said Fox.
“What a great week it turned out to be for the MetroWest Boys’ Soccer Team. The young men left the Maccabi Games with the respect and admiration of everyone they encountered; opponents, coaches, referees, and parents,” said Fox. “They should be proud of the way they conducted themselves both on and off the field and how they represented their communities, their families, and most importantly themselves.”
Fox anticipates the return of many of these players next year “to build upon their success” at the 2014 Maccabi Games next summer.
Livingston has one of the best school systems in New Jersey; it raises up Governors, Playwrights, Actors, Artists, Doctors, Lawyers…or to put it plainly… Superstars! But before they became successful grownups, they did extraordinary things as kids.
Read on to learn about the exceptional things our Livingston children are doing these days.
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