UNION – The turning point of the Holmdel boys soccer team’s season came on Oct. 22 in a loss to Toms River North, according to coach John Nacarlo.
Since that loss, the Hornets had won seven games in a row leading into Sunday’s NJSIAA Group II State Final at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium.
That streak, and Holmdel’s inspiring turnaround for a team that once had three wins in its first 13 games this season, came to a heartbreaking end on Nov. 22 as the Hornets suffered a 2-1 loss to Garfield.
“We were 3-5-5 (at one point this season) and after losing 6-0 to Toms River North in the Shore Conference Tournament,” Nacarlo said. “We had a choice to either pack it in and just not try or just not care but the kids stepped up and we were able to put on a great run.”
That run saw Holmdel (13-7-5) outscore its opponents 15-2 during that pivotal seven-game winning streak in which the Hornets got their mojo back to reach the NJSIAA Group II state final for the first time since 2012.
“We are a young team. We’ll be back here,” Nacarlo said. “I’m proud of these boys and the way they stepped up at the end of the year.”
Unfortunately, the Hornets’ last memory of the season was a heartbreaking one in the Group II State Final against Garfrield (19-3-3).
First, junior midfielder Leo Nobrega tallied a goal with 8:12 left from a pass from sophomore Justin McStay to put the Hornets up 1-0. Then, the Hornets gave up two goals in 27 seconds as Garfield senior Wojciech Piwowarczyk was credited with both goals.
“This game is cruel sometimes,” Nacarlo said. “We had them right where we wanted them by getting that one goal and we just couldn’t hold it.”
Piwowarczyk scored with 2:03 left as Dave Herrera got the assist and Piwowarczyk tallied once more with 1:36 left as he barely headed a direct kick from Herrera.
“I don’t know how deep it was and I don’t know if my goalkeeper could have come out and got it (the shot on the second goal). They crashed everyone in the box,” Nacarlo said. “Again, I wasn’t sure, the wind kind of held it (the ball) up in a weird spot. Credit to them, they just wanted that ball more.”
Holmdel’s Tyler Marchiano made two saves and finished the season with 116 saves. Meanwhile, Nobrega got his sixth goal of the year and McStay recorded his seventh assist of the season.
Sherlon Christie: email@example.com
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