CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ — In a game that seemed destined to stretch on forever, the Millburn Boys Soccer team made sure that they would be the ones to come out on top.
Rory McLaughlin blasted home the winning penalty kick in the sixth round of the sectional championship, as the seventh-seeded Millers scored a 1-0 victory (4-3 PKs) over the top-seeded Cliffside Park Raiders. The win is the sixth sectional title in 12 years for the program.
Millburn also bested Cliffside Park in last year's sectional final, which was held in Millburn.
Both goalkeepers were on fire, making a number of key saves throughout the contest to keep it deadlocked through 100 minutes of gameplay. Millburn Goalkeeper Zach Barr said that despite being a lower seed in the section than last year, the team still had plenty of confidence in their abilities.
"We've always thought that we should belong here in the finals," Barr said. "And we truly believed that, and we never stopped believing that. Because of that, we were able to beat the number one team in our section. To win sections for us is huge."
He also spoke about what his teammates did to help him get in the right mindset before he stopped the final shot.
"Before that I met with my teammates who were taking penalties," Barr said. "They said we believe in you, you got this, you're the best keeper here, you're the best keeper in the state. That put me onto another level. Because of that I thought that's why I saved the next ball to win us the game."
For Millburn Head Coach Jason Robinson, the win was a show of tenacity from his team.
"These guys fought their butts off, Robinson said. "The win was a little bit end-to-end so it kind of determined who had the attack going, but we were able to play pretty well when we had it and play through it when we didn't."
When asked about the progression this year's squad has shown since the first few games in September, Robinson said that in his opinion, the team was healthy and gelling as one unit t the perfect time in the season.
"This is just the healthiest we've been all year," Robinson added. "We started preseason injured, we went through our first couple games injured...they had a couple weeks at the End of October to make sure everyone could get back out there."
Robinson also said that in his opinion, the team was also suffering a bit of a mental hangover after losing in the states on penalty kicks, but the team seemed to have moved past that in his opinion, saying "might as well put a run togther and see what we can do."
Millburn will be back in action this Wednesday playing North 1 champion Montville in the Group 3 semifinals. The game will be held at 6:00 p.m. at Indian Hills, a neutral site.