WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange High School boys soccer team came so close to winning the state championship.
Though the Mountaineers came up short in a penalty-kick shootout, head coach Doug Nevins’ team certainly can be proud of its great run and season.
West Orange and Cherokee battled to a 1-1 tie after 100 minutes of action (two 40-minute halves of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes). It went to a penalty-kick shootout. Cherokee won the shootout by a 3-1 score in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Group 4 state championship game held at Franklin Township High School in Somerset on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13.
It was the ultimate game of the season. West Orange, the North 1, Group 4 sectional champion ranked as the No. 3 team in the state by the Star-Ledger entering the game, finished with an 18-3-1 record, with the state final counting as the tie. In soccer, a game that goes to a penalty-kick shootout is counted as a tie, regardless of the outcome.
Cherokee took a 1-0 lead in the first half. West Orange tied it on senior Evan Kops’ goal on a shot in the box off an assist by senior Mason Bashkoff on a crossing pass, 10 minutes into the second half. It was Kops’ first goal of the season.
After the second overtime, Bashkoff opened the shootout by converting his attempt. But Cherokee converted three shots to win it, with the last one ending the game. Senior Justin Scavalla saved one shot in the shootout. Cherokee, the No. 19 team in the state and the South Jersey sectional champion, ended with a 16-2-3 record.
In the Group 4 state semifinals, the Mountaineers defeated Westfield, 3-1, on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at Westfield. Bashkoff and juniors Atticus LaFargue and Arthur Rosu each had a goal, and junior Jack Dvorin had two assists for West Orange. Scavalla made 11 saves.
It was the Mountaineers’ sixth straight win. In the previous game, they defeated Clifton, 2-1, in the North 1, Group 4 sectional final on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Clifton. Westfield, the North 2 sectional champion, ended the season at 18-2-1.
Cherokee, the South Jersey sectional champion, defeated Central Jersey sectional champion Freehold Township, 1-0, in the other Group 4 state semifinal.
The Mountaineers have won two Group 4 state titles, in 2006 and 2013. They were also Group 4 state runner-up in 2015. Nevins has been the WOHS head coach for 23 seasons.
Photo Courtesy of WOHS Sports Media Assoc.