WEST ORANGE – During the preseason, head coach Doug Nevins knew his West Orange High School boys’ varsity soccer team could be in store for a tremendous season.
But to finish the season as state champions? That was something even Nevins could not have expected.
After a tremendous run, the Mountaineers came oh-so-close.
Regrouping from their one and only loss of the season in the semifinals of the Essex County Tournament to Super Essex Conference rival Livingston, the Mountaineers went on to capture the state sectional title before advancing to the state Group 4 championship game against defending state Group 4 champion Washington Township.
After giving up a goal in the first half, the Mountaineers fought hard the rest of the way, but couldn’t find the back of the net, as they fell 1-0 at Kean University in Union on Sunday night, Nov. 22.
Despite the tough loss, the Mountaineers finished a fantasstic season with a stellar 21-2 record.
After the game, Nevins told his players to hold their heads high.
“They (Washington Township) were a very good team, and it was a championship level game,” said Nevins, whose team was seeking its second Group 4 title in three seasons and third overall under Nevins in his 16th year at the helm. “In these games, it’s usually a set piece or one great play… I think my played their hearts out and I think (Washington) was a little tougher in the box. When you make it this far in the tournament, it’s rough, but at the same time, we pride ourselves in playing real hard and taking it to teams and going after them, and I thought the first 20 minutes they were the better team, and I think from that point on, we started to show our quality, and in the end, they win and they deserved to win because they kept us from scoring.
“Sometimes you play great in soccer and you lose, so I thought we played really well; they just made a couple of big plays.”
After beating Randolph, 3-0, to win the state North Jersey Section 1,Group 4 tournament title on Nov. 13 at Lincoln Field – their sixth state sectional title in 13 seasons – the Mountaineers defeated Elizabeth, also by a 3-0 score, in the state Group 4 semifinals on Nov. 17 at Hopewell Valley, as senior Zach Brown had one goal and one assist; junior Andrei Rosu and senior Kamsi Udodi each had a goal; junior Pancho Pozzolli, junior Dillon Reitberger and senior Zach Ames each had an assist and junior goalie Diego Pedrido made
Though they came up short in the state championship game, Nevins was extremely proud of his team for a great season.
“Ah, it was amazing,” Nevins said. “To go 21-2 and play in probably the hardest conference in the state. It’s a good mix of juniors and seniors, and I am very proud of what they did.
“It was a great season,” Nevins added. “I’m very proud of the kids. We’ll miss the seniors dearly. They were great for the program. I’m very proud of them.”