A championship was won on the soccer field at Glen Ridge High, and the character of those who attained it spoke volumes, both in its play and after the game’s conclusion.
The Ridgers’ boys’ soccer team edged Bound Brook, 2-1, in overtime, in the NJSIAA Group 1 championship game, on Nov. 17, at Kean University.
It was Glen Ridge’s first-ever state title in boys soccer, and came in the first season with a new head coach in Austin Alvarado. The program, which had won consecutive sectional titles in 2010 and 2011, had never been to a Group 1 final before. The boys soccer program at Glen Ridge began in 1980.
Trailing 1-0 in the second half, Glen Ridge tied it when Lucas Costa fielded a pass from Travis Burnett and drilled home a shot. It was the third straight game in the state tournament that Glen Ridge had fallen behind, only to capitalize with a tying goal and an eventual win.
“This time, we had to wait a while to tie it,” said Alvarado, noting Bound Brook led, 1-0, at halftime. “When we fell behind in the other two games, we tied it pretty quickly. But, again this was about creating opportunities and not panicking. And these kids did that very well.”
The game remained tied until overtime, when the Ridgers’ aggressive defense contributed to a mistake near the Bound Brook net, which resulted in an ‘own goal’.
In other words, the ball was inadvertently tipped into the Bound Brook goal by a member of the BB squad.
While the Ridgers celebrated a big win, there was also compassion from the team, as team captains Gavin Robertson and Drew Hiner tried to console their opponent.
“Watching our kids do that meant so much to me,” said Alvarado. “Seeing them win with class made me very proud.”
Logan Kotronis turned back four shots in goal as Glen Ridge finished the season 13-7-1. The team won its last six games, all in the NJSIAA Tournament, with the last three wins by 2-1 counts, after trailing, 1-0.
“There was never any panic on the part of our kids,” said Alvarado after the win over Bound Brook, when asked about falling behind in each of the last three games. “It’s how we respond to adversity. I attributed it to the ‘Thunderbolts’. We play from the opening whistle to the final whistle.”
Alvarado had succeeded long-time coach Stephen Reitberger as head coach this fall. Reitberger had guided the Ridgers since 1981, and had outstanding success, including back-to-back state sectional titles in 2010 and 2011.
“Coach Reitberger has been a big part of this program for many years,” said Alvarado. “Our kids all respected him, and we’re glad he came to a lot of our games and supported us. He’s a wonderful guy.”
Read more about Reitbergers’ career as a coach and educator, here. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/nutley/sections/sports/articles/after-three-decades-of-service-glen-ridge-coach-reitberger-retirement-plans-include-helping-others
Alvarado had focused for the last month of the season, on the state tournament.
“Once we knew we couldn’t win a conference title, we locked into the county tournament, and after that, the states,” said Alvarado. “We got the top seed (in the North 2, Group 1 section) based on a really tough (Super Essex Conference) schedule. In some of those late league games, we tried some different things to prepare our kids for the states.”
Read more about five players commenting on a memorable season, here.
Alvarado had enjoyed coaching success as an assistant at powerhouse West Orange High, where he also was a star player during his scholastic days. Ironically, the Ridgers opened the Alvarado era with a home game, against West Orange, and prevailed, 1-0, on Sept. 4.
“That was a tremendous way for our kids to start the season,” said Alvarado. “But to be honest, all I was thinking about afterward was Seton Hall Prep (the next opponent) and then games against teams like Montclair, Nutley, Livingston and Montclair Kimberley.”
Holding the state championship trophy, on three different occasions, has had a different meaning for Alvarado. In 2006, he was captain of a state champion team at West Orange High, and seven years later, was an assistant coach at West Orange when the Mountaineers won another Group 4 crown. Now, he’s done it as a head coach, at Glen Ridge.
“This one was all about our kids,” said Alvarado. “There’s no greater feeling than seeing their faces when that final whistle blew.”