CEDAR GROVE, NJ - The Cedar Grove boys soccer team rebounded from a tough Essex County Tournament loss in a big way with a 4-0 victory over North Star Academy on ‘Senior Night’ on Wednesday.
“I liked the spirit, I liked the physicality and just overall it was good team play,” Cedar Grove head coach Mike Konopka said.
The Panthers set the tone early in the contest scoring the game’s decisive goal less than three minutes into play. Senior Joe Kang, who has established himself as one of the premier scorers in school history, took a pass on a through-ball and blew past his defender for a right-footed blast and a 1-0 Panther lead.
“[Jakub Zajak] chipped it over the top and It was me against the goalie and I volleyed it into the net,” Kang said.
North Star battled back, putting the pressure onto Cedar Grove in the next 20 minutes of play. Fellow senior, goaltender Dom Bryant was up to the task, trying not to be outshined by Kang. Bryant collected four first half saves in route to his 20th shutout of his career in the win.
“[Bryant’s] been big for us and we’re going to need him to be big down the stretch [because] we’re going to be in close games and we’re going to need him,” Konopka said.
At the half Cedar Grove made some changes, utilizing some youth on its back end to create additional transition pressure against North Star. Freshman Aiden DeSena provided a spark to keep the pressure on the North Star defense.
“I brought in Aiden late in the game and he was putting passes on a dime and all of a sudden we were looking dangerous on the attack,” said Konopka.
Having made the proper adjustments at the half yielded great results for the Panthers. Cedar Grove managed to outshoot their counterparts, 7-2, for the half, which helped generate five corner kicks.
“I think we started to open up the midfield a lot and we had a lot more space to work with,” said Konopka.
Ultimately, the squad found the net three more times with goals from Joe Gerard, Jakub Zajak, and Gavin O’Connor. The goals occurred in the 48th, 71st and 78th minutes respectively and is the sixth time this year the team has scored at least four goals in a game.
Cedar Grove will look to continue to play on a winning trend with just two regular season games left on the schedule before the State Playoffs. The now 10-6-1 Panthers will host Hoboken on October 23.