Boys Soccer – Holmdel Pays Back Rumson-Fair Haven to Reach Central Group 2 Semifinal
HOLMDEL -- Two seasons ago, David Weiner joined a Holmdel boy soccer program with a recent championship tradition, but heading into this year's NJSIAA Tournament, he and his teammates were not happy with what was shaping up to be their own annual tradition.
Since the start of 2021, the Hornets were 0-3 against Rumson-Fair Haven and the last two of those results were overtime losses -- one that cost the Hornets a 2021 Central Jersey Group II championship and another that cost them an outright 2022 Shore Conference Class A Central title.
Entering Monday's rematch with the Bulldogs hoping to reverse the momentum in the rivalry, it took exactly one minute for Holmdel to spin the narrative on its head.
Weiner set up a goal by senior Colin Hynes a minute into the game and converted a penalty kick midway through the second half as Holmdel -- the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group II sectional -- beat seventh-seeded and defending sectional champion Rumson-Fair Haven, 2-0, to advance to the sectional semifinal round.
"We just wanted revenge," Weiner said. "We played them two years in a row, three games in a row, same score: 2-1. Last year I thought we were really close but this year, we knew we were better. We lost off our mistakes (during the regular season) so we knew we needed to sharpen up and execute better."
Playing a Rumson team coming off an overtime win over Metuchen in Thursday's opening round, Holmdel jumped on the Bulldogs from the opening whistle. The home side earned a corner kick and Weiner blasted a service through the clutches of Bulldogs goalkeeper Cole Herman and off the far post.
The ball bounded back toward the scum in front of the goal and Hynes was the first to touch it, poking it into the goal from inside the six-yard box.
"We saw at the beginning of the game, they seemed kind of soft and not loud at all," Weiner said. "We could tell we wanted it more and we tried to go right away and it worked out perfectly."
Several Rumson defenders contended that Holmdel junior Frankie Brusco slowed the ball down with his hand, but video taken by Shore Sports Network did not show clear contact with the ball by Brusco, who did appear to swipe at the ball with both hands as he fell to the ground.
Holmdel dominated play for the next 30 minutes before Rumson began to find its footing and the Bulldogs made it to the second half with just a one-goal deficit.
"Opportunities are so limited," Weiner said. "Their pressure, especially on counters is so good. They shut me down a lot on the counters, so getting that early goal was great."
Despite the Bulldogs rising to the challenge in the second half, Holmdel did not crack defensively and ended up with the first good scoring chance of the half regardless. In the 61st minute, Hynes was taken down at the edge of the 18-yard box and ruled to be inside the box when the foul occurred.
That set Holmdel up for a penalty kick and Weiner stepped up and buried it for a 2-0 lead.
Adding to Rumson's frustration was a foul on Holmdel at the edge of its own box several minutes later that resulted in a direct kick just outside the box instead of a penalty kick.
The Bulldogs manufactured two close calls the rest of the way, the first of which was a 50-yard blast by center back Reece Moroney that pushed Holmdel goalkeeper Ilan Golden up against the goal line. Golden backed into the goal in order to catch the shot, but managed to keep the ball on the safe side of the line to deny Moroney.
In the 75th minute, Rumson striker Alec Pentikis broke free for a one-on-one chance vs. Golden, but fired wide. The Bulldogs did not get another scoring opportunity the rest of way.
Monday's performance helped wash out the bad taste in Holmdel's collective mouth left by a 2-1, overtime loss to Rumson earlier this season. In that game, Holmdel committed two costly turnovers in the back that led to both Bulldogs goals, including the golden goal.
"We had to have better touches," Weiner said. "Both goals we gave up were because of too many touches and sloppy passing, so we worked to connect with the ball, be more sharp and quick and just be more aware."
Since Holmdel moved into Group II in 2011, the two Class A Central rivals have met five times in tournament play -- four times in the state tournament (2015, 2016, 2021 and 2022) and once in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals back in 2013. Prior to Monday, Rumson owned a 3-1 edge head-to-head in the postseason and with Monday's result, both Holmdel postseason wins over Rumson are in the Central Group II quarterfinal round. The last time Holmdel beat Rumson in the sectional quarterfinals, the Hornets went on to win the 2015 Central Group II title.
With top-seeded Bordentown losing to Wall, Holmdel is now the best team remaining in Central Group II by seed, which means the Hornets will be at home Wednesday when they play No. 6 Manasquan and, should they advance, again on Saturday against the winner of the other semifinal between No. 5 South River and No. 8 Wall.
"We can't let up now and think we won already," Weiner said. "They were the seventh-ranked team, so there are still a lot of good teams left."