MILLBURN, NJ- The Millburn Millers boys soccer team faced the Seton Hall Pirates last night. The semifinal matchup of the Essex County tournament turned out to be a thriller won by Millburn in penalty kicks.
The Pirates had already defeated Millburn twice earlier this year, including a 5-0 victory on Oct.14. This time, Millburn looked to score the upset victory. The Millers who were 8-4-2 on the season were the fourth seed in the tournament while Seton Hall obtained the number one seed in the tournament after finishing the season 15-1-2. The Millers found victory in penalty kicks after the hard-fought 1-1 semifinal game last night. The two teams were competing for a spot in the Essex County Tournament championship game.
At the 60-minute mark in the second half, Seton Hall’s Mike Hall put the ball in the back of the net to give the Pirates the 1-0 advantage early in the second half. The first goal came after a scoreless first half.
As the second half began to come to a close and penalty time arrived, there was only a glimmer of hope for the Millers, who would need to make quick work of the two-minute penalty time. Luckily, Millburn’s Jeff Plump came in clutch with a minute and a half left in the second half. As Millburn’s star sophomore scored a goal, the Millburn crowd erupted. The equalizing goal sent the exciting game into overtime. Junior Matt Stine was credited with the assist.
The game almost ended with 5:19 left in the first overtime, when Seton Hall sent a booming kick towards the Millburn goal, but senior goalie Marc Langendorf was there to prevent the Pirates attempt by diving for an incredible save.
After a Seton Hall penalty, Millburn was awarded a penalty with 3:16 left in overtime. The Millers were unable to deliver the winning goal, as the shot missed right of the net.
Marc Langendorf had another crucial save with just less than 8:30 left in the second overtime, which sent the Millburn crowd into an uproar. Langendorf recorded 10 saves on the day. Seton Hall goalie’s Connor Hagan and Bobby Schneiderman split time in net and accumulated for six saves.
It was time for a penalty shootout as the second overtime came to a close. As the shootout progressed, the Millers led the surge with a one-goal advantage. Josh Mata, Gideon Tamir, and Peter Kost all came through with goals for Millburn in the Penalty kicks. Pat Thees and Carter Spyrka added goals to the board for Seton Hall in the penalty kicks. The tally was 3-2 in favor of Millburn, which still wasn’t enough to clinch victory.
The decisive moment came in the fifth round of penalty kicks when it was sophomore Jeff Plump’s turn to see if he could “save the day” for the Millers and add his second goal on the day. The sophomore came through as he knocked the ball into the back of the net to award Millburn a trip to the final round of the Essex County Tournament. Plump said, “It was one of the craziest moments of my life. It felt amazing to put in the winning goal and help our team succeed.”
The crowd exploded and the student section flooded the field to meet their peers on the field as the students and team members celebrated together. Coach Jason Robinson described the moment by saying, “It was a scary moment during the penalty kicks, but it was an amazing feeling after we won.”
The Miller soccer players were relieved after their hard fought victory. Senior Josh Mata said, “The win feels incredible. They were the number one team and we were able to knock them off. It was kind of a revenge game because they beat us twice during the year and this time it was our turn.”
Robinson went on to say, “It's nice to beat a top ranked team. I feel that we have earned a spot as an elite team in the state and that we should be playing well against top-ranked teams such as Seton Hall. It was a great fan turnout and it was really great to be at home. I am proud of the boys for sticking with it and playing 100 good minutes of soccer.”
Millburn will play the second-seeded Montclair in the championship game on Saturday at Livingston. Montclair defeated Livingston, 2-1, in overtime.