Glen Ridge HS boys soccer team captures sectional tournament championship

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The seventh-seeded Glen Ridge High School boys soccer team outlasted top-seeded David Brearley High School of Kenilworth in a penalty-kick shootout to capture the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 state tournament championship on a beautiful Saturday night, Nov. 5, at Brearley.

After the teams played to a scoreless tie through regulation and two overtimes, the Ridgers won the shootout, 4-1. 

Nicholas Overholtzer made four saves in regulation and in the overtimes for Glen Ridge.

This game marked the Ridgers’ fifth straight appearance in a sectional championship game and the team’s third sectional title in that span. The team also won sectional crowns in 2019 and 2020. 

Brian Ianni, who was the longtime assistant coach for the GRHS girls soccer team under current head coach Oscar Viteri, is in his third season as the Ridgers’ head coach. 

The Ridgers, who moved to a 9-8-3 record this season, were scheduled to host North 1 champion Waldwick in the Group 1 state semifinal on Wednesday, Nov. 9, after press time. 

Brearley ended with a 15-2-1 record this season. Waldwick defeated Wallington, 1-0, in the North 1 final to improve to 14-3-3. The other semifinal pitted Central Jersey champion Shore — 9-9-3 record this season — against South Jersey champion Haddon Township, which is 19-2-1.

The semifinal winners will meet in the Group 1 state final on Sunday, Nov. 13, at 10 a.m. at Franklin High School in Somerset. 

After beating 10th-seeded Palisades Park, 5-0, in the first round at Watsessing Park on Thursday, Oct. 27, the Ridgers upset second-seeded Ridgefield, 3-2, in the quarterfinals on Monday, Oct. 31, at Ridgefield.

The Ridgers defeated No. 3 seed North Arlington, 2-1, in the semifinals on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at North Arlington. Glen Ridge trailed 1-0 at halftime before scoring two goals in the second half. Christoffer Cabrera and Wylie Koss-DeFrank scored the goals for the Ridgers.

Last season, the Ridgers lost to Cedar Grove, 2-1, in the North 2, Group 1 sectional final. In Ianni’s first season at the helm in 2020, the Ridgers defeated Waldwick in the North East A, Group 1-A sectional final to cap the season.

In 2018, the Ridgers were North 2, Group 1 sectional runner-ups. In 2019, the Ridgers won the sectional title and won the Group 1 state championship, their first group state title ever, with an overtime win over Bound Brook at Kean.

Ianni was elated for his team.

“I am extremely excited for the boys,” said Ianni in an email to The Glen Ridge Paper. “We knew we were a good enough team to get back to the sectional finals, and our schedule prepares us for that. We know we have a daunting schedule that prepares the boys. The juniors and seniors on this team have all been through this in last year’s tournament run to the finals. Their experience and leadership really aided in this run. We have three freshmen and two sophomores that gained tremendous experience through our difficult schedule. When the tournament games came along, they were unfazed by the magnitude of the moments.

“In the quarterfinals and semifinals, we had to come from behind in the last 15 minutes of the games. The boys remained composed and confident. They know that we don’t clock out of work until the final whistle. That has been our mantra all year, and the work they put in during the off-season and throughout the year has paid off. We had to knock off great teams in Palisades Park, Ridgefield, North Arlington and then Brearley. All great teams with players who can take over a game at any time. This may have been the most balanced and competitive state tournament I have been a part of. After knocking off the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, the confidence was just high.”

Ianni talked about the win over Brearley. 

“Brearley is a great team and very well coached,” he said. “They made some good adjustments in the second half, which limited our scoring chances compared to our first half. Our defense, led by John Lee, Yuki Kishimoto, Cam Atkinson, Nick Kilgen, Nick Nichols and Nathan Latifi, stood strong all game. Latifi was responsible for marking out their most talented player, and he did a great job of it. That was only the second time all year Brearley failed to score a goal, so credit our defense and our goalie, Nick Overholtzer, for a fantastic game. Offensively, we had good scoring opportunities throughout the game but came up just short. The boys were able to convert on their penalty kicks, and Overholtzer came up huge with two great saves.”