NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The North Plainfield High School boys soccer team’s season was on the line earlier today, as the squad matched up against Rumson Fair-Haven on their home turf for the first round of the Central Jersey Group 2 state tournament.
In addition to keeping their season alive, a win over the 13th seeded Bulldogs would’ve given the 4th seed Canucks a higher win total than their team had last season. Unfortunately for North Plainfield (14-4), the Bulldogs came in with an upset in mind, and their play allowed that thought to become reality.
Rumson Fair-Haven (8-12) made the most out of their chances, and their success on set pieces allowed them to get a 3-1 upset that meant another prematurely ended North Plainfield soccer season.
“Seasons' over, and as far as I can see, they just wanted it more than us, and I hate to say that,” Canucks head coach Chuck Henriques said after the match. “They were the team that ran harder and played harder and that's what state tournament soccer is about. I thought we had a game plan, and I thought if we executed it we would've came away with the W, but it just wasn't our day.”
Even though the Bulldogs came in as a substantial underdog, they certainly didn’t show any intimidation. Just nine minutes into the match, Rumson Fair-Haven’s Carson Greengrove headed in a goal off a set piece to give his team the early lead.
North Plainfield has showed throughout the season that they don’t go away easily though, and today’s match was no different. In the first few minutes of the second half Ronaldo Garcia knocked in an equalizing goal. The Bulldogs reacted quickly though, as Greengrove doubled his statline and the scoreline by knocking in another goal a few minutes later.
As the clock kept ticking in the second half, the Canucks got more aggressive, and the Bulldogs kept firing back. By the 30-minute mark of the second half the game had become an outright battle with both teams running down both ends of the field, creating and missing chances.
Rumson Fair-Haven put a stamp on the game right as it was winding down, as a 2 on 1 breakaway in stoppage time led to Joseph Calabrese knocking in a goal that drove the dagger into North Plainfield’s hearts.
Henriques said that the first two goals were particularly disheartening because they came on set-pieces, which he says has been a season-long issue.
“Defending set pieces has been one of our biggest things and they scored one two on them,” the disappointed coach said. “We had five or four players around the ball, but no one reacted to it. If you can't defend you can't win games.”
“We had a lot of times where we just stood around, and we didn't attack them or attack the ball,” the coach added. “I mean, at the end, last ten minutes, we played hard, but where was that in the other minutes? There's a lot of could've done this or could've done that.”
The Canucks end their season with the same record as last year’s team, but with one less post-season win. While this year’s team had its ups and downs, they did have their fair share of accomplishments, as they went 9-1 in conference play and secured their third straight Skyland-Mountain division title.
“We had a great season and I like our 14-4 record,” Henriques said. “I like that division title, and we'll probably have a couple kids make All-County and All-Conference. Would I have liked to win a state championship? Yeah. But we had a pretty solid season. It is what it is.”