MONTVILLE, N.J. - Survive and advance.
That's the name of the game once tournament play begins in any sport. With everything on the line in each game, anything can happen, and a team's performance on the field will not always be perfect.
The Montville boys soccer team got its first taste of that on Saturday afternoon, as the second-seeded Mustangs went up against 18th-seed Morris Tech in the second round of the Morris County Tournament. Despite dominating possession and having several scoring chances, the team found itself behind on the scoreboard until late in the second half.
But sophomore Mats Kolmodin scored the game-tying goal off a set piece in the 63rd minute. Then, senior Hunter Kolmodin put the team ahead for good by converting a penalty kick in the 75th minute, and Montville survived a scare from Morris Tech, 2-1, at Montville Township High School.
The win extended Montville's record to a perfect 10-0, and sent the team into the quarterfinals of the Morris County Tournament.
The team controlled the majority of the possession in the first half, as the team earned 11 corner kicks, yet was unable to convert. It then found itself behind after Morris Tech's Jake LaFlesh deflected a ball into a wide-open net after a turnover in the defensive end.
“It was a little bit ugly," Montville coach Kevin Brown said of the game. "We had the majority of the play, we had 11 corner kicks in the first half. I told my guys at halftime, if we had 11 set pieces in the first half, would you take it? And they said yeah. So I said well, there’s nothing wrong then. They got one touch in our end and it was a goal. We have a ton of time left, and we’ve been in their end for 97 percent of the game. So there was nothing to be mad about. Goals happen, and we need to react to that in a positive way and not put our heads down.”
In the second half, Montville continued to get its opportunities. But it wasn't until the team earned a free kick from 15 yards out, and the sophomore Kolmodin was called upon. He saw space in the top left hand corner, and managed to hit it on target- just out of the reach of Morris Tech goalie Kasper Kozdron, tying the game at one.
“I got ready. I saw the opening and the wall was a little bit off and the goalie was off to the side," the sophomore said. "I scored a goal in that exact spot earlier this season, and I thought I could do it again. So I hit it right in the spot I wanted to and it went in.”
Then, in the 75th minute, Morris Tech committed a foul in the box which gave Montville a penalty kick, and a legitimate opportunity to take its first lead of the game.
Hunter Kolmodin- who is playing the rest of the season with a cast on his right arm after fracturing his arm in a game last week- was called upon to take the kick. Having played in games of this magnitude before, he knew the importance of getting his team the lead and avoiding a potential overtime situation. The ever-confident senior managed to convert the kick, and Montville had a lead that it did not relinquish.
“When I lined up for that penalty, I knew I had to score it and I knew it was going in," Kolmodin said. "As soon as I kicked it, I knew I hit my target and that’s all I wanted. It was a must goal since we had opportunities the whole game and I knew I had to score it.”
It managed to hold Morris Tech off in the final minutes. Goalie Max Metz finished the game with four saves.
The adversity that it faced on Saturday afternoon is something that should serve the team well, as it prepares for a showdown against either 23rd seed Parsippany Hills or seventh seed Dover next weekend in the quarterfinals.
“This was a good game for all of the new players on the team," Hunter Kolmodin said. "It’s the first county game and a chance to get everyone ready. County and state games are more intense and we’re not going to be winning by a huge score. So everyone has to be ready to play every single game.”
Brown added: “We’ve gotta capitalize on our chances. I told the guys that chances are a good thing, even if they don’t fall. We can’t be mad at not scoring. We have to be happy that we have those chances, because some games, where you play Delbarton, Chatham, or Morristown, you’re going to get three or four chances a game and you’re not going to have 11 corner kicks in the first half. So we have to take advantage of that.”
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