UNION, NJ —
For any high school team, the ultimate goal is to finish the season as state champions.
With first-year head coach Austin Alvarado providing guidance, the Glen Ridge High School boys soccer team achieved that goal.
The Ridgers defeated Bound Brook, 2-1, in overtime to capture the Group 1 state championship on Sunday night, Nov. 17, at Kean University.
With the student body – known as Ridger Nation – in full force, the Ridgers stormed back to win the title and capped off their amazing 13-7-1 season. The Ridgers were appearing in their first-ever state final.
On a cold night, the Ridgers trailed 1-0 at the half. With just 7:17 left in the game, junior Lucas Costa brought the Ridgers hope as he scored the game-tying goal in the box with an assist from fellow junior Travis Burnett.
Just three minutes into overtime, the Ridgers won it on an own goal, setting off a wild celebration.
GRHS senior goalie Logan Kotronis was magnificent in goal throughout the game, making four saves. Bound Brook – the Central Jersey Group 1 sectional champion – finished 18-4-1.
Alvarado took over as head coach this year, replacing Steve Reitberger, who retired as the head coach after 38 years. Reitberger led the Ridgers to back-to-back North Jersey Section 2, Group 1 state titles in 2010 and 2011, the program’s first-ever sectional titles. Last year, Reitberger guided the Ridgers to a North 2, Group 1 sectional runner-up finish.
As his players were hugging each other and basking in the celebration, Alvarado talked about how proud he was of his players’ resiliency while expressing his gratitude to them for embracing him when he became the head coach.
“I’m just so grateful,” said Alvarado to the Glen Ridge Paper moments after the game. “They battled back, and that’s who they are. I’ve said it since Day one, they are resilient, and they trust the process and they trust me. They bought in and I’m just grateful for their trust. Just putting it all together, you have your expectations, but nothing could be done without the boys’ trust and their ability to buy in and that’s why I’m so grateful, because every day, they just listen to me and they do what’s asked of them. It’s not easy coming into a new group after a legendary coach, like coach Reitberger. They expect the same things a certain way, and again I am so grateful. They accepted me and they allowed me to do what I do.”
The Ridgers, indeed, were elated for winning the state title.
“I have waited my whole entire life to have something like this,” said senior Mark Whitney to the Glen Ridge Paper after the game. “I’ve never been happy my whole entire life.”
“We’ve been working for this since August 12,” said senior Grant Conte to the Glen Ridge Paper after the game. “It’s been a journey of ups and downs, but our team, it’s brought us so close together and this state championship caps it all off. This is really a big win for our program, especially coach Alvarado, coming into his first year, picking up where coach Reitberger left.”
As the No. 1 seed, the Ridgers beat Technology to win the North 2, Group 1 sectional title on Nov. 8 at Watsessing Park.
The Ridgers then rallied to beat Waldwick – the Section 1 champion – by a 2-1 score in the Group 1 state semifinals on Thursday night, Nov. 14, at Passaic County Tech in Wayne. Trailing 1-0 at the half, the Ridgers scored both goals in the second half. Burnett scored in the 63rd minute off a corner kick by senior Will Livingstone to tie the score. Six minutes later, senior Ian Heinicke netted the game-winner off a pass from Whitney.
Competing this year in the American Division, which is the highest division of the Super Essex Conference, the Ridgers made a statement when they defeated highly-regarded West Orange – Alvarado’s alma mater – in the season opener Sept. 4 at Carteret Park. The Ridgers created more buzz when they stunned state powerhouse Montclair, 2-1, in overtime in the fifth game of the season Sept. 14 in Montclair.
Though he’s retired, Reitberger is grateful that Alvarado has allowed him to remain involve with the program. Reitberger, who organizes an annual alumni game held in August, was on the sideline for the state final and celebrated with his former players, expressing his gratitude to Alvarado.
“He’s included me in a lot of things, which is nice,” said Reitberger, referring to Alvardo, “and to be here with the boys, I mean it feels great. I’m literally retired, but still part of the program. This is what I try to do with the alumni stuff, is to keep everyone involved, and I’m glad he’s allowed me to be involved. It’s a great thing. It’s a great thing for Glen Ridge boys soccer.”
NOTES – The Group 1 final was the third of four finals held at Kean on Sunday, Nov. 17. The first two games were both decided by penalty kicks, with both games ending scoreless after the end of the second overtime. Millburn beat Wall in the Group 3 final in the first game and Clifton capped an undefeated season by beating Hunterdon Central in the Group 4 final in their respective penalty-kick shootouts. The fourth final was between Bernards and Delran in the Group 2 final.
Glen Ridge fell to Millburn and Seton Hall Prep this season. SHP won the Non-Public “A” title on Sunday, Nov. 10, at Kean.
Seniors: Logan Kotronis, Josh Debelak, Grant Conte, Ian Heinicke, Gavin Robertson, Matthew Whitney, Will Livingstone, Grantham Ghaemi, Cole Schubert, Luke Femino, Justin Sweet, Xavier Bell, Phoenix Silkensen.
Juniors: Segun Wallace, Gabe Cabrera, Travis Burnett, Ty Rank, Drew Hiner, Lucas Umana, Keith Juros, Nicholas Garcia, Willem Kleinberg, Lucas Costa.
Sophomores: Aidan Shea, Jack Robertson, Cooper Sharp, Max Renteria.
Head coach: Austin Alvarado. Assistant coaches: Mike Dello Russo and Will Montes de Oca.
W, West Orange, 1-0
L, at Seton Hall Prep, 3-0
W, Cedar Grove, 3-1
W, at Nutley, 2-1
W, at Montclair, 2-1 (OT)
L, Montclair Kimberley Academy, 2-1 (2 OT)
W, Newark Academy, 2-0
L, at Milburn, 4-1
L, at Verona, 2-0
W, Bloomfield, 3-2
L, at East Side, 4-2
T, Livingston, 0-0
L, Verona, 2-1, Essex County Tournament first round
W, Columbia, 2-0
L, at Roselle Park, 4-2
North 2, Group 1 tournament
W, Warren Tech, 6-0, first round
W, Hoboken, 1-0, quarterfinals
W, Dayton, 2-0, semifinals
W, Technology, 2-1, final
Group 1 state semifinal
W, Waldwick, 2-1, at Passaic County Tech
Group 1 state final
W, Bound Brook, 2-1 (OT) at Kean University
Photos by Joe Ragozzino
Editor’s note: Steve Reitberger was misidentified in one of the photos. In the photo, Reitberberger is the second person from the right.