West Orange HS boys’ soccer team gives great effort in loss in state championship game

WEST ORANGE – Despite not being able to win a state championship, head coach Doug Nevins knows his West Orange High School boys’ varsity soccer team has nothing to ashamed of.

The Mountaineers’ goal for a state Group 4 title fell short when they lost to Washington Township on Sunday, Nov. 22, in the state Group 4 championship game at Kean University.

“We finished 21-2-0 and became Super Essex Conference-American champions, which is the first time ever and the fifth overall conference championship and we also won the state North I, Group IV championship for the six time and this was also the first team in our school’s history to be ranked No. 1 in New Jersey.”

Pertaining to the game on Sunday, Nevins said the match certainly lived up to the “hype.”

“Washington Township was excellent. They were athletic, tough, and well-coached. Their kids played their hearts out and so did ours,” he described. “The first 20 minutes they were the better team. They put the pressure on us and it paid off finally on a corner kick. Soccer is a funny sport. No matter how well you play you still need the ball to bounce your way. Their kid hit a good shot but it went through a bunch of legs and (goalie) Diego (Pedrido) was screened until it was in the corner and he still almost saved it. A lot of the bounces that went our way earlier in the tournament, did not yesterday. Most of it, was their defenders just being very good and very brave. Some of it, was just being unlucky, but after that first 20 minutes, we settled down and played and left everything on the field. Washington Township was the best team we played. They didn’t have one superstar player, but every kid that stepped on the field for them knew his role and did his job. In the end, we put a lot of pressure on them but couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the net and that is okay because all you can ask for is your kids to play their hearts out and they did.”

Nevins continued to commend his opponent as well as his team.

“I have nothing but good things to say about Washington but also nothing but pride and praise for our kids as well,” he said. “The fact that so many West Orange students, teachers, and families came out to the game was amazing. It was something that our kids will never forget. Yes it’s sad the season is over and I won’t get to coach the seniors any more but I’m so happy to have had a chance to coach such a great group of kids.”

To get to this point of the season, Nevins’ team defeated Elizabeth, 3-0, in the state Group 4 semifinals.

“That win was was amazing,” he said. “The kids played so well. Elizabeth is a great team and they really came out flying.”

After about 20 minutes, Nevins said his team was then able to get onto the scoreboard.

“We settled down after about 10 minutes and finally broke through around the 20th minute when Dillon Reitberger took a long throw and Zach Brown flicked it to Andrei Rosu, who headed it home,” Nevins said. “On the second goal, Pancho Pozzolli bent a perfect corner kick onto the head of Zach Brown, who flicked it in.”

In the second half, Nevins said Zach Ames beat his man and crossed the ball on the ground to Kamsi Udodi, who blasted it in to give WOHS a 3-0 lead.

“Diego Pedrido was incredible in goal in registering his 16th shutout in 22 games and the defenders, Dillon Reitberger, Andrei Rosu, Ryan Rosa, and Russell Hoffer, were great all game, while Zach Brown, Bryce Millington, Zach Ames, Cristian Vargas, Nikendy Pierre and Matt Bana controlled the midfield,” Nevins said. “Kamsi Udodi, Pancho Pozzolli, Dan Romain and Dylan Rosa were very dangerous up top.”

Notably, WOHS was seeking its third state title under Nevins, who led the Mountaineers to the state titles in 2006 and 2013.