In 2018, South Brunswick High School recorded the best boys’ soccer season in program history.
The Vikings finished 17-3-2, won the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Red Division, reached the GMC tournament championship and advanced to the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament semifinals.
But after their season ended with a 2-1 loss to East Brunswick High School on Nov. 5 in a state sectional semifinal, the Vikings were a little melancholy. That defeat came two days after they lost to East Brunswick, 1-0, in the GMC tournament championship on Nov. 3.
After such a great season, the Vikings expected to win more trophies in the postseason.
“We didn’t play our game. We didn’t get the ball out wide like we usually do,” said South Brunswick senior goalkeeper Justin Cross. “When we do, it’s pretty easy to win games. But it was rough because we weren’t able to.”
“I feel like we didn’t track our players as much as we normally do, which is our game. Focusing on your man at all times. We didn’t do that,” said South Brunswick senior defender Jared Budhu. “We gave up too many chances.”
But even after the loss on Nov. 5, the Vikings had enough perspective to still be proud of themselves. They had every reason to be proud after a dominant season, in which they outscored opponents 66-20.
“I think we had a great season. We are the winningest team in South Brunswick history,” Budhu said. “We made it to a GMC final, a sectional semifinal, won the Red Division. We had a pretty successful season.”
“I think the same thing,” said South Brunswick senior defender Colin Park. “We had our victories to show for it and we played well throughout the season.”
“I mean, to me it doesn’t really mean much because we’ve been trying to get hardware all year, and we only got one piece of hardware,” Cross said. “It kind of feels like a little bit of a letdown.”
South Brunswick beat East Brunswick twice in the regular season, 3-1 on Oct. 15 and 2-1 on Sept. 20. The rivalry was close, heated and fast-paced all year.
On Nov. 5, the Bears just made two more plays than the Vikings.
Late in the second half, in a tie game, East Brunswick defender Andrew Hong charged into the box, passed wide left to a teammate, got the ball back on the right post and toed it past the diving goalie. Minutes after that, Bears goalie Ryan McSwieney made a diving save, batting the ball wide right of the net.
“They just outlasted us. It was just chances and who could put them away,” Cross said. “Their goalie also made a great save, on an open net. That basically won the game for them.”
Eight of South Brunswick’s 11 starters will graduate in the spring. It is a talented group that the Vikings will miss.
Cross had 136 saves and six shutouts in 2018. Seniors Connor Ferry (13), Vinayak Iyer (six), Antonio DeBari (five), John Bohrer (four), Park (three) and Jay Mehta (two) combined for 33 goals.
But South Brunswick will also bring back some talent, including three starters in Jake Stump, Antonio Iovine and Sebastiano Villano. Stump led the Vikings in scoring this year, with 21 goals and eight assists. Iovine posted five goals and six assists. Villano helped anchor South Brunswick’s defense at center back.
The seniors left them a strong foundation to build upon in 2019.
“Over a four year span, I think we have the most victories on the varsity team,” Cross said. “It was a good four years. I enjoyed it.”