Bombers finish with plenty to celebrate

Local teams zero in on tournament crowns


Staff Writer

A successful season came to an end for the Sayreville High School boys soccer team on Tuesday in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs.

Known throughout the campaign for its outstanding defense (the Bombers allowed just 26 goals against on the year) Sayreville uncharacteristically fell behind early as Danny Geffen scored four times in the first half to propel Marlboro to a 6-0 success.

“Things just didn’t go our way,” head coach Nick Cifelli said. “Marlboro played very well, but it was also one of those days where we just couldn’t do anything right. It’s tough to end the season with a loss.”

Entering the year, Cifelli was unsure what to expect from a team that was returning only four starters. Sayreville started strong and carried that momentum through the campaign to win the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) White Division title.

The Bombers earned the top seed in the GMC Tournament, but were upset in the quarterfinals by St. Joseph’s in a shoot-out. Sayreville’s state tournament berth was its eighth in as many years.

“Our guys certainly exceeded my expectations,” the coach said. “Several of our guys played together over the summer and they struggled, plus we lost a lot of players to graduation. But they put it together when the season started and we went on to win the White Division. I don’t think anyone expected us to do that. We also set a team record for wins and winning percentage.”

The emergence of freshman Kene Eze, who led the Bombers in goals with 16, helped, although the Bombers do have plenty of other firepower. Forward Colly Muwalo pumped home eight goals and added eight assists. Midfielder Lamin Sidibeh led Sayreville in scoring with nine goals and 13 assists. Fellow midfielder Matt Welna, a junior, added eight goals and four assists.

Except for a 4-1 opening-day loss to Monroe and the loss to Marlboro, the Bombers played a stretch of 17 games where they went 15-2 and allowed just 16 goals. Junior sweeper Mike Weber and sophomore stopper Sean Mosser played key roles, particularly after fullback Mike Mokken suffered a broken leg. Goalie Jason Tash played well throughout, getting occasional assistance from Mike Mosser.

Cifelli can look ahead to 2007 knowing that eight of his starters will return, representing nearly 60 percent of his team’s goals. In addition to Eze, Weber, Welna and Sean Mosser, returnees should include junior forward P.J. Gary, midfielders Ryan Reed, a junior, and Tisnashe Muwalo, a sophomore.

“These guys checked their egos and worked hard to win games,” Cifelli said. “I’m proud of them because they really became a team focused on one goal: winning. And they accomplished a lot.”

Only the strong surviving

This is the kind of week high school soccer fans dream about.

Now that the postseason has advanced through the preliminary rounds, the best teams in the state are left to shoot it out for the prestigious titles they’ve been preparing for all season.

And this year, the shrinking group of elite teams include several local squads, both boys and girls, all of whom are inching closer to capturing some hardware.

The Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament will reach its conclusion on Sunday, as both the boys and girls games will be held at Sayreville High School.

While the girls final match-up was to be determined last night, with East Brunswick and South Brunswick playing in one semifinal for the right to face the winner of the Old Bridge-Woodbridge game in the other semifinal, the boys’ final has been set, and it will be a battle of the Falcons.

St. Joseph knocked off the tournament’s top seed, Sayreville, in the quarterfinals, and previously unbeaten Perth Amboy Tech in the first round, leading many people to label them the “hot” team in the tournament. On Sunday, ninth-seeded St. Joe’s did nothing to cool that talk, as they handed South Brunswick a 3-0 loss to advance to the finals.

St. Joe’s got goals from Rob Allen, Bryan Gilmartin and Chris Yip in the first half to knock of the Vikings – the same Vikings who beat St. Joseph’s twice during the regular season.

This Sunday, St. Joseph will take on another hot team – the Monroe Falcons.

Monroe finally found a way to beat two-time defending champion North Brunswick on Sunday, and they did so in dominating fashion, blanking the second-seeded Raiders, 4-0. The Falcons, who had not beaten North Brunswick in six straight games, got three first-half goals (two from Frank Carr and one from Ivan Barreto), before Sean Lawrence capped the scoring just five minutes into the second half.

Defensively, the Falcons found a way to stop junior striker Ibrahim Kamara, holding him without a goal or an assist for the first time this year. In fact, they didn’t allow the 25-goal scorer a shot at the net all day.

This Sunday’s final is exactly what the GMCT final should be – two red-hot teams playing each other with a title on the line.

But before Monroe can worry about St. Joseph, there’s a little matter of beating Ocean Township tomorrow in the second round of the Central Jersey Group III tournament. Monroe, the fifth seed, advanced to the second round via a 4-0 win over Monmouth Regional on Tuesday, while Ocean knocked off Hightstown.

The winner moves on to the sectional semifinals, set for Tuesday.

St. Joseph will also have a state playoff game tomorrow, as they take on St. Augustine in the Non-Public South A first round. The Falcons are the sixth seed, with St. Augustine seeded third. East Brunswick was eliminated from the CJ Group IV tournament on Tuesday, with the 10th-seeded Bears falling Hamilton East, 4-1. The Bears were 11-7-2 on the year.

On the girls side, only East Brunswick, Old Bridge and Spotswood remain in state tourney play. East Brunswick advanced to the second round of the CJ IV tournament with a 4-0 win over Freehold Township on Monday, while Old Bridge knocked off West Windsor South, 1-0.

The Bears will take on second-seeded Montgomery (a 3-0 winner over Sayreville in the first round) later today, while the 11th-seeded Knights will host 14th-seeded Brick Memorial, who knocked off the third seed Hunterdon Central on Monday.

Spotswood, the fifth seed in CJ II, will take on fourth-seeded Governor Livingston today. Monroe’s girls were eliminated from the CJ III tournament on Monday with a 2-1 loss to Princeton.