Boys soccer tops Monroe in shoot-out for GMC Tournament title

Senior Donovan Battle, who scored on two penalty shots during the shoot-out, uses his body to shield the ball from an opponent.


            Last night, in sudden death overtime, Stephen Deak blocked Monroe’s attempt to match Vincent Tribiani’s shoot-out goal, earning the program its first ever GMC Tournament Championship for Old Bridge High School. “It’s an honor to just be on that team that did it for the first time in school history,” said senior Donovan Battle. “Us seniors, ever since freshman year, have said that our senior year will be the year.” 

            Monroe took an early lead in the first half, and the Knights had to work hard to overcome it. “Everyone was in shock. I saw heads go down,” said senior Tribiani, who leads the team with eight assists this season. “I told them that we have been down before and that if we change the momentum, it’s a dangerous score line for Monroe.” 

            “We have a really bad habit of falling behind early,” said goalie Stephen Deak, who scored a shoot-out goal and saved two while also providing the team’s only assist.  “We managed to score and keep pushing.” 

            Although they trailed almost the entire game, the Knights never gave up. “We knew what our goal was and what we wanted to achieve,” said Battle who netted both of his attempts in the shoot-out, the first shoot-out goal and the first in sudden death.  

Senior Eduardo Hernandez controls the ball and looks upfield for a teammate to pass to.

            After halftime, something clicked, and they fought to do what was needed to pull off the win. “We were knocking on the door, putting out a lot of shots. I looked at the clock and saw five minutes remaining and knew it was now or never,” said Tribiani, who contributed two shoot-out goals and stands at second on the team in goals scored for the season. “That goal was the breakthrough we needed.” 

            The lone Old Bridge goal in regulation came from an unlikely source, Jake Southwell, who hadn’t scored a goal all season. He explained, “Goalie Stephen Deak, off a free kick, sent the ball into the box from the 40-yard line.” 

            Southwell took it from there. “Stephen kicked the ball 60 yards into the box. We had their 6-yard box flooded with players because we were down to the last four minutes of the game,” said coach Christopher McGrath. “The ball went in and became a jump ball. Jake Southwell was the first to react and flicked the ball into the net with his head.” 

            That goal earned the team a chance to compete in overtime. Once it reached a shoot-out,  the team relied on Battle to keep the momentum going their way. “Scoring the first pen was huge. It was a big feeling of relief for the team and I,” said Battle. “Getting that first penalty on the board is big to just calm the nerves and quiet the opposing fans.” 

Junior Antonino Reitano dribbles the ball through the defense in the middle of the field.

            Although the game was played at JP Stevens, a neutral site, as always, Old Bridge fans turned out to support their peers and help energize the team. “The fans were there and helped us a lot,” said Deak. 

            In the end, Monroe failed to match Tribiani’s sudden death score, and the Knights earned the victory. “We had to keep fighting until the end to get what we wanted,” said Battle. 

            Now that the GMC tournament is over, the team looks forward to states. “We cannot relax. Just because we won the conference does not guarantee us anything in states. It’s a new tournament, and everyone starts fresh once again. We have to stay focused.” 

            The boys all seem to have the mindset that the job isn’t finished. “This is our year, and we think that we can win it all,” said Battle. “We won the GMCs but we want more.” 

Click here to read our last story about the boys soccer team from 10/20/22.

Posted on 10/26/22

Photos by Tristan Panday

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