by ANDREA FRENCH Section Editor
For the first time since 1987, the Monroe Township High School soccer team made it to the Group 4 State Championship. Lead by Coach Steven MacKenzie, these boys became a family and have had much success.
Luigi Buffolino (10), Sean Doyle (9), and Dom Polidoro (16) are this year’s senior captains. All three of them, as well as the rest of the team, put a lot of effort into this season, and the benefits have been quick to follow. The boys finished the season with a record of 20-7.
The success started very early in the season. On October 17, the boys became Greater Middlesex County Champions, defeating South Brunswick 2-1. South Brunswick was the third seed and Monroe the fourth. Both goals came from Buffolino. Doyle fed Buffolino the ball twice, and he finished both times. Monroe’s boys soccer team last won the GMC finals in 2008.
After winning GMCs, the boys hoped their success would lead them to success in the state tournament. In the state quarter finals on November 14, Monroe defeated North Brunswick in penalty kicks after Monroe’s Mike Mischler (15) scored, tying up the game at 1-1.
Next, the team moved onto the semi-finals on November 16. Again, Monroe ended on top. Defeating Hillsborough 1-0, Doyle scored the only goal for Monroe in the 13th minute of the first half. Monroe’s key to success in this game was their hustle. A lot of loose balls in the mid-field were won, which allowed Monroe to win.
In the NJSIAA tournament finals on November 19, Monroe was able to defeat Jackson 3-1. Doyle had a goal and two assists. Buffolino had one goal and assist. Matt Anderson also finished with a goal, and goalie Tyler Utheim made five saves. At this point, the team was on an 11-game winning streak, and there was nothing that could stop them.
“This team has become such a family. They all put in 110% at every practice and game. These boys play with their hearts and they deserve to win,” says sophomore Samantha Fasbach. The gallery was not found.
In the NJSIAA group tournament semi-finals round, Monroe played Washington Township on Wednesday, November 28 in Neptune Township. At the very beginning of the game, one of Washington’s players fouled Doyle and was red carded. Therefore, Washington was forced to play one man down for the remainder of the game.
With only 11 minutes left in the second half of the game, Washington’s Eric Jordan tripped Buffolino in the box. A penalty kick was awarded to Monroe. Doyle took the kick and scored the only goal in the game. This win allowed Monroe to make it to the NJSIAA group tournament final round.
On Saturday, December 1, Monroe played Millburn in the finals. For the seniors on the team, this was the last high school soccer game they will ever play. In the first 24 minutes of the game, Millburn was ahead 2-0. However, with 20 seconds left in the first half, Doyle scored off a pass from Corey Klaskin (4).
In the 57th minute of the game, Millburn was called for a hand ball in the box, and Monroe received a penalty kick. Doyle took the kick and, with his usual accuracy, was successful. The game was now tied 2-2, and became very intense.
Late in the second half, Monroe was forced to play a man down due to two yellow cards. As Monroe went into double overtime, they continued to play a man down. The golden goal rule was in effect, meaning the first team to score would become state champions.
Millburn crossed the ball into the box and managed to get a head on the ball. Sideline referees called the player to be offside, but the center referee disagreed. Monroe fans, coaches, and players were all shocked with the call. However, everyone realized how much of an amazing season the players had.
“Even though we may not have won it all, this was still a great season. There are so many good things that this team has accomplished together,” says sophomore Catarina Santo.