Vincent and Joy O’Dell have been Middlesex residents since 1956 and raised four children, Allyson, Vincent Jr., Lauren and Cheryl, who all went from kindergarten through senior year of high school in borough schools.
The O’Dell’s were busy with their children’s activities as they grew. Vincent Sr. recalled that he was a scoutmaster, adding that he and Joy were also at plenty of their children’s swim meets and field hockey games and Vincent Jr.’s soccer games.
Soccer is a big part of the O’Dell fabric, and Vincent Sr. still gets to as many Middlesex boys games as possible.
“I don’ know how to explain it; I get in my car and I wind up at a soccer game,” said the 82-year-old Korean War Army vet, who was a blood courier.
O’Dell is a Seton Hall University graduate, who was keeper for the Pirates in 1949 when they went 10-0-2 and were led by three-time All-American Jim Hanna and two-timer Bill Sheppell. The Pirates went 11-0-3 for coach Bill Garry when O’Dell was playing for the freshmen. Those two Pirate teams are the only ones in the 75-year history of the program to be unbeaten.
“I remember we played Brockport State (Conn.) and it was such a crazy environment; they hung us in effigy and there were like 1,000 people there,” said O’Dell, talking about it with the kind of enthusiasm he had that day on the bus ride back to South Orange. “We had two 15-minute overtimes and then the game went into penalty kicks and I was able to stop a shot by their All-American.”
The university didn’t send the team to St. Louis where the “soccer bowl” was held (10 years before the first NCAA Tournament), so the Pirates had to be satisfied as 1949 mythical eastern champions. Penn State and the University of San Francisco tied at 2-2 in the soccer bowl.
“We would have loved to have gone because we felt we were the best team in the country: we had some really special players on that team,” he said.
O’Dell recaptures some of his youth as he watches Blue Jays’ senior keeper Carsten Bowers. In a recent game against Spotswood, Bowers punted the ball about 70 yards, the ball taking a big hop over a defensemen and keeper and bounding into the Chargers net. Bowers, a defenseman last year with two goals, had remarkably scored one as a keeper.
“One in a million,” said O’Dell, who wasn’t at the game, but read about it. “The kid has some leg; he just kabooms them.”
That’s what O’Dell marveled at, the power of Bowers’ leg.
“It was a windy day, I just punted it straight down the field and the wind was with me,” said Bowers, who also has an assist this year against Wardlaw-Hartridge. “I think there was a miscommunication between the goalie and defensemen. It was insane.”
O’Dell went to the next home game where he sought out Bowers to shake hands.
“He wanted to shake hands was out of respect, from one goalie to another,” said Bowers.
“He’s a nice young man and I look forward to seeing him play again,”
Ridge hall of fame
Six men and five women will be inducted Sunday afternoon into the fifth class of the Ridge High School Athletic Hall of Fame. The event begins at 1 p.m. at the Basking Ridge Country Club.
Steve Archer (Class of ’87, soccer, golf), Stephanie Hulke Batbouta (Class of ’98, soccer, basketball, softball), Meghann Ganey Carroll (Class of ’97, track, cross country), Jim DaSilva (Class of ’02, baseball, football), Jim Hopta (Class of ’86, cross country, track), Christina Hulke (posthumously, Class of ’98, soccer, basketball, softball), Mike Morano (Class of ’02, baseball, basketball, football), Joe Petite (Class of ’91, football, basketball, baseball), Maggie Pinzuti (Class of ’91, skiing, soccer, track), Judy Schmidt-Reising (Class of ’89, basketball), Judy Schneider-Wysowaty (Class of ’91, field hockey, skiing, softball).
Wrestling coach and teacher Frank Pagano will also be honored, having started the Red Devils’ program in 1961 and being an assistant for many years Hall of Fame coach John Welch.
Tickets can be purchased for $60 per ticket by contacting theRidge High athletic office at 908-204-2585 (ext. 140) or email RShello@bernardsboe.com.