With the Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division title on the line for both teams, someone was bound to go home happy and the other disappointed in defeat as the Spotswood and South River boys soccer teams took the field against each other Monday afternoon.
After a scoreless first half in which South River got a couple good looks at the net only to see Spotswood keeper Matt Krause come up with several big saves, an own goal in the 55th minute put the Rams ahead 1-0 and ended up doing Spotswood in, as South River claimed its third consecutive Blue Division title.
“We wanted to come out here not just to win the Blue Division, but against our rival,” South River senior midfielder Adrian Pietrzyk said. “To win (the division) for a third year in a row, for our seniors especially to get it in their last year playing, it was really big. We really wanted to win this game.”
South River (13-4-1, 11-4-1) held on, despite playing the final 23 minutes down a man after one of its better players received his second yellow card of the game, resulting in a red card and automatic disqualification.
“Tough to go down 11 vs. 10 where we thought we were going to get a PK in the box and (the ref) says ‘No, our guy was diving,’ but (the ref) made the call,” Clays said. “To lock down that win, I was really, really impressed with the level and the will to win. We had guys gassed at the end of the game chasing the ball and trying to get it in a position to make a defensive play if (Spotswood) were to start attacking.”
“Playing with 10 men is always hard, especially against a good team like Spotswood, they can score any minute, but our defense has gotten stronger over the past few games and we push everyone back and were just making sure to clear that ball as far as possible,” Pietrzyk said. “It was crazy, but we got it done.”
Spotswood (10-7, 10-6) managed to keep the game scoreless, as Krause made 13 saves, but the constant pressure from South River caused the Chargers defense into making one crucial error that ended up being the difference.
“On the own goal I thought we were pressuring,” South River coach Eric Clays said. “Other teams have pressured us – we’ve made a similar mistake when we’ve been under some pressure like that.”
It was also the second straight season in which both teams played in a winner-take-the division scenario, and like last year, it was Spotswood that came out on the losing end of things as the Chargers head toward postseason play mired in a three-game losing skid.
“I’m just so proud of my guys for even being in this situation, with everything that we lost from last year,” said Spotswood coach Jeff Marvinny, as his team only returned two starters this season from last year’s team. “Before the year started I don’t know that we had expectations, but we got on a nice little run through the middle of the season and we were here, and it hurts. Two years in a row is a little tough.”