CLARK, NJ — Whenever the Westfield High School boys varsity soccer team has played in big games this season, the offensive attack led by Jack Dobosiewicz has risen to the occasion. It was no different Saturday night in the Union County Tournament semifinals, where Westfield handedly controlled the run of play and Dobosiewicz netted two goals to lead the Blue Devils to a 3-1 victory over Summit at A.L. Johnson High School.
Westfield, which will play Elizabeth in the UCT final next Saturday at Kean University, applied forceful pressure on Summit right from the beginning and didn’t relent for the rest of the night. In the 15th minute, Dobosiewicz positioned himself perfectly along the back post and, from inside the six-box, finished a set piece sent from Andrew Echausse. Then to begin the second half, Echausse was on the scoring end of a goal for Westfield, which netted two goals in the final 40 minutes. Dobosiewicz, the team leader in goals (12), finished the night for Westfield with his second goal the match with just 18 seconds remaining.
The highly-pressuring attack allowed Westfield to win its 14th consecutive game.
“It’s really important [to apply the pressure], especially considering we beat [Summit] earlier in the season, so they’re coming out with a lot of intensity and they’re trying to knock us off since we’re the one seed,” Dobosiewicz said. “It’s good to deflate them like that, and it gives us a lot of confidence to try and get more goals, which we did well.”
Dobosiewicz’s first goal came during a first half in which Westfield dominated possession and could have put up more than just a goal. Prior each of their first scores, Dobosiewicz and Echausse had shots hit the right crossbar and bounce out of bounds early in the first half. Had the posts at A.L. Johnson High School been the fairly standard round as opposed to being square, Westfield very likely could’ve taken a 3-0 lead into halftime, as pointed out by head coach Eric Shaw.
Nevertheless, Westfield clearly dominated possession and made clear its intention of punching a ticket to the UCT finals.
“We had good possession; we have a good style and we kind of got them to chase the game a little bit,” said Shaw. “We moved the ball from person-to-person relatively easy in the first half. In the second half, I think their pressure, speed and energy kind of caught us a little bit, but that first half we were able to do that easily and create chances.”
Westfield was also able to create many chances during its two-goal second half. Echausse got the Blue Devils started after the intermission by beating Summit goalie James Ford, who left the box to stop the ball, and scoring in front of a then open net. Dobosiewicz scored his second goal in similar fashion, as he also defeated Ford to gain access to a vacant goal.
“We’re really good under pressure and we all play for these big moments — I think that’s what really everyone plays for,” Dobosiewicz said. “We do well under the lights, and with a lot of fans we’re able to calm ourselves down and play the style that we know how to play in.”
While Westfield came out of the break firing, Summit came out of the intermission with crisper touches and improved scoring chances during the run of play. After missing on a few close-look shots, Delmer Argenal put the Hilltoppers on the board with a goal off of a rebound in the 54th minute. Argenal received the ball after a rocket of a strike bounced in and out of the hands of Westfield keeper Josh Mendelson.
“I don’t think in the end there was anything threatening, except for that one chance that Josh spilled,” said coach Shaw. “They’re very direct, trying to bypass the middle, throw balls up top and win second balls, and for the most part we dealt with that. I still think we had the better of play at times.”
Despite the drop that led to Summit’s goal, Westfield goalie Josh Mendelson recorded four saves.
With the victory, the Blue Devils now have the opportunity to defend their 2016 Union County crown. No. 1-seeded Westfield can go back-to-back next Saturday, when they will take on No. 2 Elizabeth at Kean University, starting at 7 p.m. Westfield has defeated Elizabeth twice in the teams’ two prior meetings this fall.
“We’ve played them twice and we tape every game, so we’ll certainly watch those tapes and make sure we know what individual players they are, and we look at the tactical advantages and put something together that can exploit their weaknesses,” said Shaw. “We’ll certainly give the boys some rest and then hopefully come in with a plan for Saturday.”