WOODBRIDGE, NJ - On Saturday afternoon, East Brunswick High School and South Brunswick High School met on Woodbridge High School’s soccer field to decide who would be the 2015 GMC girls’ soccer tournament champion. Both teams had to overcome adversity this season just to get to the title game, and both teams were familiar each other. The teams were 1-1 against each other in the regular season, and had previously met in 2010’s GMC final, where East Brunswick came out on top. This time though, thanks to some stellar defense and a clutch goal, it was South Brunswick who came out on top. The Vikings won by a 1-0 scoreline, and in the process, prevented East Brunswick from winning their fourth straight title, while picking up their first title since 2001.
Defense was a strong point for both teams in the game, but the Vikings defense proved to be especially sturdy. Despite some pressure from the Bears’ strikers, South Brunswick’s backs stayed them off for the most part. Vikings goalkeeper Sydney Schneider was only tested twice in the first half.
“I think all year long our defense has been unsung heroes.” said Vikings coach Beth Barrio. “The defense always remained solid and they would always hold, time after time, to give us opportunities to score. The defense, in my opinion, was the nucleus.”
South Brunswick’s offense got some work in as well. Vikings sophomore Francesca Dimitrakis, pestered the Bears’ defense for much of the second half, setting up near scoring opportunities and drawing fouls. Barrio says that her play was the thing that separated the two evenly matched squads.
“I think Francesca was highly important today.” said the head coach. “For East Brunswick it always comes down to one thing, whether it’s an unfortunate mistake or a lucky break, or one counter attack. It’s always competitive, back and forth. I thought Francesa really stepped up today as the X-factor.”
Francesca ended up setting up the deciding moment of the game. With six minutes left in the match, Francesca helped create a breakaway, and delivered the ball right to the feet of senior Julianna Franco. Franco, the leading scorer for the Vikings, and the owner of the team’s regular season goal record, put the ball away into the corner of the net and clinched the win for her team.
“I’m very thankful that the ball was with her on the breakaway.” said Barrio. “Senior captain, it’s like one of her last moments, and she finishes it. I think it was wonderful that it was her. For a teenage girl to be able to do that in the moment is a lifetime worth of memories.”
The Vikings came into the game with a 9-7 record, having experienced some rough patches in the beginning of the season. Coach Barrio says the experience from all the games in the season ended up helping her young team getting the title.
“The first half of the season, we were really getting to know each other.” said Barrio. “Things were very choppy, and the game results reflected that. I think in the second half, everything settled down. This girls got to know each other much better, and we were able to formulate game plans that didn’t always revolve around what we were going to do, but our opponents as well. We beat everyone in the second half of the season second time around, except Monroe. And in the tournament, Monroe was the third time we played them, Old Bridge was the third time we played them, and now East Brunswick. We felt it was leaning towards this direction, and I’m just thankful to be on the winning end."