Boys Soccer – Matawan Beats Wall to Earn First SCT Quarterfinal Trip
ABERDEEN TWP. - The seniors on the Matawan boys soccer players have heard and read throughout this year and in their previous years about how there were better programs in their division.
After the Huskies won a share of the Shore Conference Class A Central division title for the third time in three years, they still saw four of the five other division champions - plus three other teams with richer SCT history - seeded ahead of them in the Shore Conference Tournament.
Saturday, against a ninth-seeded Wall team with decade-plus run of postseason success, Matawan made some postseason history of its own and continued to carve out its place among the Shore Conference's top soccer programs.
Junior Griffin Hayward scored the only goal of the game in the 55th minute and Matawan topped Wall, 1-0, to advance to its first ever Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal round.
This senior-heavy Matawan group has some round-of-16 experience that dates back two years, when the Huskies lost to Jackson Memorial, 2-0, with a quarterfinal trip on the line.
"We definitely came into this tournament like we had something to prove," senior center fullback Keleb Mehari said. "Our team has never made it to the quarterfinals in the Shore Conference Tournament and that's something we wanted to do. We also want to show that we're one of the top teams in the Shore Conference.
"All year, we've been reading about how all of those B North teams like Ocean, Wall and Middletown North are better than us and today was an opportunity to show that we deserve to be in that conversation."
The No. 8 seed Huskies dominated the game in possession and in the shot column - evidenced by an 8-0 advantage in shots at halftime and 9-0 prior to the goal. Hayward set up his own goal by winning a headball in the air, then picking it up again after teammate John Vail touched it away from two Wall defenders. With the Ball sitting at the six-yard marker, Hayward got to it first and poked it past Wall keeper Nolan Cloney and into the goal to give Matawan the lead.
The Huskies nearly scored in the opening minutes, when they put up three dangerous shots near the goal frame in the first 1:30 of action. A rebound shot by Jacob Labinger hit the left post and on the ensuing corner kick, Hayward bent a shot just high of the right corner of the goal.
Matawan goalkeeper Ethan Goldenthal needed to make just one save to earn the shutout and he made it with 12 minutes left on a near-post, direct kick rip from 22 yards out by Callum Price.
In Matawan's first ever trip to the conference quarterfinals, the Huskies will play defending champions and top-seeded Christian Brothers Academy on the road Tuesday. CBA defeated Colts Neck, 3-1, on Saturday.
"From the time this tournament started, we were hoping to win this game so we could get a chance to play CBA," Mehari said. "We want to have a chance to play the best. We've never played them - definitely since I've been here - so we're going to see how good we are. I know that if we play the same way against CBA like we did against Wall, we can play with them. And if we can play with them, I think we're good enough to beat them."