MONTVILLE, NJ - In state tournament soccer, one play can be all the difference between moving on or seeing your season end.
The Montville boys soccer team has certainly had its share of celebratory moments throughout the state tournament. Whether it was advancing in penalty kicks against Bergenfield in the first round, or Brett Freeman's overtime goal in the sectional final against Ramapo, the Mustangs saw first-hand how little the margin for error is during this time of the year.
On Thursday night, it found itself on the opposite end of that, as one breakdown in the second half ultimately cost the team in a 1-0 loss to Millburn in the NJSIAA Group 3 semifinal at Indian Hills High School.
It was Millburn's Alex Migoya who finished off a service from Malcolm Migoya in the 52nd minute for the game's only goal, and it was the goal that ultimately ended Montville's hopes of its first-ever Group 3 state title in a relatively even game for both sides.
“We kind of weathered the storm in the first 15 minutes, and we were better for the most part for the rest of the game," Montville coach Kevin Brown said. "Soccer doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. We took one play off, and that’s the one play you can’t take off. Before I got to my seniors, I made sure my young guys know that we can’t let off for one play.”
Montville had its share of chances to equalize late, including a golden opportunity on a rebound with just under 10 minutes to go, but it was unable to capitalize.
It marked the end of a memorable season for the Mustangs, who finished the year with an impressive 20-3-1 mark, after starting the season 16-0. It reached the final of the Morris County Tournament, before winning the program's first sectional title since 2010 with a dramatic overtime win over Ramapo last Friday.
The 2019 campaign is one that Montville has been building towards, dating back to a 6-12 season just two years ago when several key players on this year's squad were sophomores and freshmen.
"These times kind of bring you back down to reality, but we could’ve been on the other end of a lot of games," Brown said. "You can’t take them for granted. Starting the season 16-0 is unbelievable, looking at the teams that we played and where they went in their state runs. It’s an honor. I told my seniors that they stuck with me for their four years, we had 6-12 seasons all the way up to this season, so ultimately they have to hang their hats on having that state sectional championship.
"Their banner will be up in the gym for the rest of eternity, so that’s something to be really proud of.”
Thursday's loss also marked the end of the high school careers for 12 seniors, including standouts Hunter Kolmodin, Brett Freeman, Giovanni LoGrasso, Fima Desir, and goalkeeper Max Metz.
“They’re great. Time after time, they’ve been big," Brown said of his seniors. "We don’t have one killer guy that does all the work for us. We spread the ball around, we spread the love, we have guys scoring all over the place and assists all over the place. They’re going to be missed. The time they put in is going to be missed. We have guys that were here for four years, three years, and you don’t find that too often. It was a great thing, and it really set a high standard for the younger guys coming in.”
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