The Millville High School boys’ soccer team did not enjoy a pleasant one-week span from Oct. 18-25.
After stepping into the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference I divisional lead with a win over Vineland on Oct. 17, the Thunderbolts had a chance to lock up the title by getting the better of Egg Harbor Township in a two-game series the past pair of Fridays.
Things didn’t go as planned for Millville, which dropped a 2-1, single-overtime contest to the Eagles on Oct. 18 before suffering a 1-0, double-overtime loss to EHT this past Friday. The results allowed Egg Harbor Township to claim the division crown.
The Bolts appeared to still be feeling the effects of that loss on Monday in an uninspired 3-1 setback to Cumberland in a nonleague game. Millville will need to regain its confidence by the start of Tuesday’s NJSIAA state tournament.
“I don’t think we were dwelling on those losses,” Millville midfielder Donald Daigle said of his team’s lackluster performance Monday. “We just didn’t play well, but I don’t think it had anything to do with losing the division and to EHT.”
The Bolts were shorthanded against Cumberland. Starting midfielder Jake Todd is out for the season after breaking his left foot Friday against EHT. Another starting midfielder, Tim Cain, also was out with a hip injury, though he should be back for the start of the postseason.
The loss of Todd will be hard to overcome, but not impossible, for Millville moving forward.
“Jake was playing 60-70 minutes for us, and with a bench that wasn’t too long to begin with, that makes it tough,” Bolts coach Christian Varga said. “It’s time for a couple of guys to step up and I think we have some guys on the bench who can fill in, so it will be up to them to do that.”
Millville is awaiting word of who it will match up with in the playoffs, though the team is practically assured to be on the road in the Group IV South slate and potentially draw the No. 12-14 seed based on the most recent power points standings.
Varga still thinks his team has the talent to hang with any squad in the group.
“On any given day, I still believe this team can play with anyone,” Varga said. “We’ve had our share of down moments this season, but we’ve always bounced back with good games. Even though we lost to EHT (on Friday), it may have been the best game we’ve played all season.”
Millville’s players aren’t doubting their capabilities with the postseason looming. They know they are mainly in control of what happens on the field.
“If we play well, we’ll be fine,” Bolts captain Terron Mitchell said. “In some of the games we’ve lost, like (Monday), we didn’t come out to play. We can’t afford those kinds of starts.”
Millville showed well in its regular season finale on Tuesday, topping Lower Cape May, 4-1.
Speaking of Millville, Bolts freshman forward Nick Grotti has showed no signs of slowing down in his first year at the varsity level.
Grotti notched goal No. 15 in Monday’s loss to Cumberland (not his 14th as I mistakenly wrote in the story), and added a hat trick in Tuesday’s win over the Caper Tigers to move him into a tie for second in the area with Schalick’s Avery Fralick with 18 goals.
At this pace, Grotti could challenge his cousin Mitch Grotti’s Millville school record of 69 goals (2006-09) by the end of his career.
With Monday’s 3-1 win over Millville, Cumberland improved to 5-1-1 in its last seven games and appears to be getting hot at just the right time of the season.
The Colts still have two games remaining in their Tri-County Conference Diamond slate and remain in play for the division title. The group also has loads of confidence as it prepares for the Group III South playoffs.
“In the high school game, having confidence is what it’s all about,” Cumberland coach Ryan Czop said. “We’ve made some lineup adjustments and the guys seem to be reacting well to them, so only time will tell how we do. But we’ve been pretty solid lately.”
Colts senior Tyler Skye leads all area scorers with 21 goals and seven assists. If Cumberland can get contributions elsewhere offensively as it did on Monday, when Andrew MacDonald and Dominic Patitucci both scored, the team could be dangerous in the postseason.
The offensive balance has been building throughout the year, evidenced by Freddie Beck’s 11 goals and Scott DeLussa’s five.
Delsea has scored 10 goals in its last two games, a 4-1 win over Haddon Heights and 6-2 victory against Triton. Senior midfielder Christian Cortese scored twice in the Triton win to improve his team-leading total to 14 goals. … Super sub Austin Jennings made his mark again for Vineland on Tuesday, scoring the game’s lone goal in a crucial 1-0 win over Middle Township. Jennings has given the Fighting Clan energy boosts countless times this season, none bigger than the first-half goal over the Panthers that should give the team momentum heading into Thursday’s date with Hammonton.
Area Power Rankings
⬛ 1. St. Augustine (12-4-1)
— Loss to Delran in overtime on Saturday ended a four-game winning streak for the Hermits.
⬛ 2. Vineland (10-5-1) — In need of a spark, the Fighting Clan got it in Tuesday’s win over Middle. Can Vineland keep it going?
⬛ 3. Delsea (9-5-3) — Delsea’s offense has come alive as of late as the team prepares for what it hopes is a deep playoff run.
⬛ 4. Cumberland (11-6-1) — The Colts are among the hottest teams in the area right now, having only lost once in their last seven games.
⬛ 5. Millville (10-8-2) — The Bolts snapped a three-game losing streak with Tuesday’s convincing win over Lower Cape May.
Records through play on Tuesday.