CLARK, NJ – Both Summit and Scotch Plains-Fanwood fans were kept on the edge of their seats on Saturday night, as the Hilltoppers and the Raiders boys soccer teams squared off in the Union County Tournament semifinal round.
Summit came into the matchup having defeated Roselle, Roselle Park, and Plainfield in the tournament’s previous rounds, while the Raiders earned first and second round byes and punched their semifinal ticket with a 5-0 win over Johnson last weekend.
The two teams met just once this season on Sept. 15, when Scotch Plains-Fanwood mounted a two-goal comeback in the second half to beat Summit 2-1.
Saturday’s matchup was an all too familiar scenario for the Raiders, as they failed to secure a lead until the game’s end. After a scoreless first half, Jafeth Reyes broke the tie just nine minutes into the second half, putting Summit ahead 1-0.
The Hilltoppers towering defense held the Raiders in check despite Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s ability to dominate time of possession.
With just two minutes to go in regulation, Summit buckled under the pressure and opened the door wide open for their opponent by tripping Brian McManus inside the 18-yard box. The Raiders’ leading goal scorer, Ari Rosenzweig, converted the game-tying penalty kick to send the game into overtime, simultaneously sending the Summit crowd into shock.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood took advantage of their momentum heading into overtime, wreaking havoc on Summit goalkeeper Alex Dadourian by sending countless shots in his direction. Jake Longo, Jonathan Schwab, and Zach Halma each connected with the ball on separate occasions, but could not score.
After two scoreless ten minute overtime periods, the game was sent to a decisive penalty shootout.
In the best of five series, Summit looked to be victorious after Patrick Ellman’s shot was denied by Alex Dadourian. However, Zach Halma kept the Raiders alive with a conversion and left the game in the hands of Sean Murray, who needed a big stop to keep his team’s hopes alive.
“My coach told me I only needed to save one, and he was right,” Murray said. “I told Patrick Ellman, ‘I got you,’ because I knew he was upset after missing.”
“Sean is without a doubt the best goalkeeper in the county, there is no question about it,” Coach Breznitsky said afterward.
With a clutch save, Murray sent the shootout itself into sudden death, where both teams opted to send their captains to the hash mark.
All hope for Summit crumbled, however, when Peter Guadagno sent a shot soaring over the goal to open the door once again for Scotch Plains-Fanwood. The Raiders’ golden-footed Ari Rosenzweig delivered the final blow, beating Dadourian top right and electrifying the Raider Nation crowd.
“I guessed the wrong way and I saw the ball fly up over the crossbar and it was just a feeling of relief,” said Raiders’ goalkeeper Murray.
With a semifinal victory, Scotch Plains-Fanwood will advance to their fifth straight Union County Tournament final. The Raiders will play Elizabeth, who earned a spot by defeating Westfield on Saturday night in overtime.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood defeated Elizabeth 2-1 in their only matchup this season last week.
“We have to come out prepared no matter what team we are playing,” said Raiders’ captain Zach Halma.
The Union County Tournament Final is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30 at Kean University (time TBA).