GLEN RIDGE, NJ--In a historic season for the Glen Ridge High boys' soccer team, first-year head coach Austin Alvarado has stood for trust and respect, among his players, team parents and the competition.
And that was never more evident after the Ridgers won its first North 2, Group 1 championship in eight years, with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Super Essex Conference (SEC) foe Technology High, before a large crowd at Watsessing Park, on Nov. 8.
Glen Ridge, the top seed, improved to 11-7-1 on the seaon, with its fourth straight win and fifth in the last six games. It will play Waldwick in the Group 1 semifinal, on Nov. 13, at Passaic Tech, in Wayne. Kickoff time is 6 p.m.
The season became historic at Glen Ridge because this is the first time that the boys and girls varsity soccer teams won state sectional titles in the same season. The GR girls had captured its eighth straight state sectional title on Nov. 7 and will play in the Group 1 semifinal on Nov. 12, also at Passaic Tech, against Mountain Lakes.
Alvarado appreciated the support from a large fan base and the girls varsity team.
"I can't begin to thank (Glen Ridge head girls coach) Oscar (Viteri) and his team for being at our game," said Alvarado. "Oscar has been great to work with, as I got comfortable as the head coach here."
Alvarado also included the parents of the players in a pre-game talk, and was thrilled that long-time head boys coach Stephen Reitberger was on hand to see the title game.
"Coach Reitberger did so much in over 30 years for this program," said Alvarado. "It was important that he was here, and we wanted him in our team picture and to enjoy this. He's a really good man.
"I also thought it was important for the parents to be a part of our pre-game talk. We wanted to show them we appreciated their support and how much this game meant to us."
Alvarado also extended his admiration to a tough team from Technology High, in Newark.
"Let me tell you something, those kids were really tough," said Alvarado. "They played hard, physical soccer. Technology competed and played really well. We had seen a lot of film on them and knew it would be a battle. I have a lot respect for them."
Glen Ridge trailed, 1-0, in the first half, but came back quickly to tie it. on a goal by Matt Whtiney. Glen Ridge hadn't trailed in all its state tournament games and had registered three straight shutouts before the championship game. Then, in the second half, the Ridgers took the lead for good, as team captain Lucas Costa found the back of the net. Glen Ridge goalie Logan Katronis made the lead hold up.
It was the first state sectional title for Glen Ridge since the team, then coached by Reitberger, won back-to-back championships, in 2010 and 2011.
While the sectional title was certainly gratifying, after the Ridgers had lost in the final two of the last three years, Alvarado is already looking ahead to the team's game against Waldwick.
"They're a very good defensive team," said Alvarado of the Bergen County school, which won the North 1, Group 1 championship, as the fifth seed, and will come into the game with a 16-3-3 record. "They beat a really good (top-seeded) Wallington team (in the sectional semis) and then Cresskill (in the final)."
When Glen Ridge last played in the Group 1 semifinal, back in 2011, it also faced Waldwick, and lost on penalty kicks. It has never been to a Group 1 final before.
"Our kids have been great all season long, when I made adjustments to the lineup," said Alvarado. "When we got to the point that we weren't going to win our conference, the focus was on the state tournament and we tried to play our regular season games down the stretch with that in mind. I've said it all along, that our SEC schedule really prepared us for the state tournament. When you play the teams we have, like Seton Hall Prep, Montclair, Montcliar Kimberley, West Orange, Verona and Millburn, all of whom have good speed and play physical soccer, it could only help us, and it has."