BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Thunder U11 girls soccer team’s remarkable state championship run ended in a penalty shootout on Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Capelli Soccer Complex in Tinton Falls.
Competing in part of the United States Youth Soccer’s national championship competition, the Bloomfield girls had made it all the way to the final four of the New Jersey Youth Soccer’s Presidents Cup state championship tournament. At the semifinals, the girls battled to a 0–0 end-of-regulation and overtime deadlock before being eliminated in a penalty shootout by a strong and dedicated Bridgewater Soccer Academy U11 girls squad.
“The state cup championship run was a roller coaster of emotions for the girls,” said parent Katie Blakley. “They played challenging games against some of New Jersey’s best teams. Many games were decided in overtime and penalty kicks.” Despite the finger-biting and tension-filled games, Blakley added, “We saw the girls support each others’ fears and nerves. The love and respect the girls have for one another has only grown through this experience. As a parent, that has been something really rewarding to watch and I’m excited to see what they can do next year.”
The single-elimination tournament started for Bloomfield with a round-of-32 overtime win on Monday, Sept. 25, against a strong Roxbury team in Roxbury. This tough win set the stage for things to come. Said parent Daniel Gadd, “Matching up against academy teams that play in higher competition levels and winning showed the girls that, with preparation and hard work, anything is possible.”
Next came a late-night, back-and-forth battle with a determined STA Mount Olive team on Thursday, Oct. 5. For the second consecutive game, the outcome would not be decided in regulation time. Through overtime, the game remained deadlocked. Then late in the evening, Bloomfield would advance on penalties to the elite eight.
Reaching the elite eight in the state championship tournament is in itself a great feat, a sentiment acknowledged by parent Kerri Logosso-Misurell: “It’s impressive to recognize how far the players have developed in three years under the leadership of coach John Babula. It’s also amazing, considering they started as a Bloomfield recreation team with a local dad as the coach. To see this ‘little engine that could’ compete against academies and top talent is nothing short of a youth sports miracle and a life experience for which we are very grateful.”
On Sunday, Oct. 22, playing their only home cup game and before a packed crowd at Liongate park, the U11 girls advanced to the final four of the President’s Cup state championship tournament. Here, the girls delighted the home crowd with an impressive win over a hard-working group of girls from The Football Academy NJ.
The next stop for Bloomfield would be the final four weekend, starting Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Capelli Soccer Complex in Tinton Falls, where in the shootout,
the Bloomfield girls’ run ended one goal short.
Said coach John Babula, “This year’s state cup run, which was the first experience the girls have had with a knock-out tournament, brought more to this team than one might expect. The girls were able to experience their first-ever penalty kick shootouts, as well as overtime. One could certainly imagine those being possible outcomes when in a tournament of this nature. What was unexpected was just how much the girls grew, in terms of their love and support for one another! As a coach, you want to teach the girls how to play the sport properly, and I think that is happening, but when you also see that, within this process, the girls are learning how to be great teammates for one another, leaders both on and off the field, and just overall wonderful young ladies, you know you are doing something right.”
Added parent Joe Papasidero, “The state cup tournament run was an amazing experience for the girls and their families. We got to see how a town travel team played against some of the big academies and the girls proved that they belong amongst the best in the state. This Thunder team is a special group of girls that play together with the focus being on the team.”
Next year, the goal is the trip to the United State Youth Soccer Nationals.