The Somerville High School girls soccer team has spent much of the past decade on the outside looking in, a smaller school trying to get noticed among the Group IV and Non-Public A powerhouses of the Skyland Conference’s Delaware Division and Somerset County.
The Pioneers have not had a losing season this century, averaging 14 wins per season since 1999, and Somerville hasn’t let up, winning the past three Skyland Conference Raritan Division titles.
Now, at 8-1, with a squad loaded with talent and its lone loss coming in double overtime to Hunterdon Central — a team that has elevated itself into the Skyland elite, exactly where Somerville wants to be — the Pioneers are no longer standing out in the cold, balanced on their tippy toes, longingly peering through the frost-covered window. Somerville is pounding loudly on the front door, demanding to be let into the party.
“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” said Somerville coach Michael Kydonieus, whose fifth-seeded team opens its Somerset County Tournament run Saturday against No. 12 Rutgers Prep. “We think we’re an elite team. When we played Hunterdon Central, we proved to ourselves that we belong with the big guys this year. We’re from a smaller conference and we’re a smaller school, but we believe we’re going with the bigger things this year, so we’re ready to go.”
Somerville is loaded and certainly appears as if it would be right in the middle of things playing in the Delaware Division with the likes of county juggernauts Pingry, Montgomery, Ridge and Bridgewater-Raritan.
With an offense led by junior Maxine Blackwood, who is tops in the conference in scoring, as well as speedy freshman Alexis Williams, senior Brooke Benner and junior Emily Lockwood, the Pioneers have proven to be a very dangerous offensive side.
The defense, however, while certainly solid, is largely untested against elite teams, allowing a goal or fewer in conference games, but giving up two or more in both games against non-Raritan Division opponents, including three against Central.
Still, Somerville should get its chance to prove itself soon enough, as it is the heavy favorite against Rutgers Prep on Saturday and a win would set up a quarterfinals meeting with fourth-seeded Ridge. The Red Devils finished second in the Delaware Division, Somerset County and in the Group IV state tournament last year and that’s precisely the kind of team Somerville has between its crosshairs.
“All games are important, everything’s important,” said Blackwood after scoring two goals in a 5-2 mashing of Governor Livingston on Saturday. “We try and build ourselves up to try and beat everybody.”
The Somerset and Union county tournaments are under way with second-round SCT action set for Saturday, the day the UCT hits the third round.
The No. 5 through No. 8 seeds will play their first games of the Somerset County Tournament, with No. 5 Somerville playing host to No. 12 Rutgers Prep, No. 6 Watchung Hills facing Immaculata, No. 7 Hillsborough playing No. 10 Mount St. Mary, and No. 8 Bernards welcoming in No. 9 Franklin.
The No. 5 through No. 8 seeds in Union County will play for the first time Saturday, as well, including No. 7 New Providence, which will play host to No. 10 Rahway or No. 15 Brearley.
Meaningful stat dept.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood is the area’s lone undefeated team. The Raiders improved to 9-0 Tuesday with a win over Governor Livingston.
Meaningless stat dept.
Bernards has won or lost by shutout in each of its 11 games. The Mountaineers are 9-2 after blanking Bound Brook on Tuesday.