MONTVILLE, NJ - The Montville boys soccer team is heading back to the sectional semifinals for the second year in a row.
On the backs of a two-goal performance from Giovanni LoGrasso, top seed Montville (18-2-1) earned a 4-1 victory over eighth seed Roxbury (10-9) in the quarterfinals of the North 1, Group 3 state tournament at Montville Township High School.
The win set up a rematch in the semifinals against fourth seed Paramus on Tuesday at 2 p.m. It was Paramus that ended Montville's season in 2018, with a 2-1 victory in the semifinal round, en route to the sectional title.
It was the third victory of the year for Montville over Roxbury, after it picked up a pair of two-goal wins over the Gaels on Sept. 4 and Sept. 24. It's often said in sports how difficult it is to beat the same team three times, but the Mustangs were able to accomplish that exact feat.
"I asked all my guys what they think the reasoning behind it being tough to beat a team three times in a season is and no one could give me a real answer except that they know us," Montville coach Kevin Brown said. "So I told them that that statement holds no validity because we know them just as well. All week I heard people saying it to me, and I couldn’t stand it because we are always the most prepared team out there. So, playing a team once or 20 times a season, we know what we have to do. The key to the win was to score early and after halftime I told them we've been up 1-0 on Roxbury before and they came back to tie it. I told them we need a goal quick and they will fold – we proceeded to score 2 in the first 7 minutes of the second half."
Ken Shimabuku and Andres Lazo each scored for Montville, which took a 1-0 lead into halftime before netting three goals in the opening 16 minutes of the second half to build a commanding four-goal advantage. It surrendered a goal off a set piece with 16 minutes remaining, but was able to preserve the victory down the stretch.
The team also got a nice boost from its home crowd, as well. Due to the 2 p.m. start time, Montville High School actually agreed to let its students out a few minutes early so students could make their way down to the field to cheer the team on in such a big game.
"Everyone from the students, staff to administration is behind our guys and we feed off of it," Brown said. "Seeing the flock of students running to the field after the early dismissal bell felt like an episode of The Walking Dead. The guys stopped warming up for a second and took it all in. The school spirit and support is unlike anywhere I’ve seen and they’re a huge part of our success."
Now, it will get a shot at revenge on Tuesday, as it looks to take down the same Paramus program that ended the Mustangs' season a year ago in the same exact round. However, Montville will be on its home turf this time, and Brown feels that will be a nice advantage this time around.
"When the seeding came out, my guys didn’t look at anything else but the fact that we can match up with Paramus again in the semis and they were hungry for them, and now we’ve got them," Brown said. "We have reloaded this year and are ready to battle to avenge the loss from last year. It will be a much different game with home field advantage with our fan section."
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