Boys Soccer Captures Group One State Championship
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Verona Boys’ Soccer made history this fall of 2016, which is pretty amazing considering they lost their first three games on the way to digging themselves into a 1-6 hole.
With a 1-1 tie against Haddon Township on Sunday Nov. 20, the team became group one co-state champions. Senior Jack Farrell provided the goal on a penalty kick while the defense, anchored by goalie Billy Czupak, turned in yet another outstanding performance.
Early season challenges included the talent of their opponents and a lack of cohesion between coaches and players. As the schedule became less difficult and state playoffs neared, the boys pieced together a few wins, earning a berth in the state playoffs with a 7-10 record.
The team was seeded 8 out of 16 and prepared to take on 9 seed Saddle Brook. The boys easily cruised through Saddle Brook. Sal Vassallo then Doug Spardel scored in the first half and Gianluca Delbarba scored in the second half leading them to a 3-0 win.
The team then prepared to take on the 1 seed Hasbrouck Heights. This game remained scoreless until the second half. Midway through, the Hasbrouck Heights defense allowed Doug Spardel to dribble down the wing and slide one in the left side. Shortly after, Thiago Queiroz and Sal Vassallo scored confirming the 3-0 victory.
In the semi-finals versus 4 seed Pompton Lakes, the bumpy, degraded grass of Pompton Lakes’ field caused the boys trouble in the first half. However, Cole Smith scored a beautiful goal in the final minutes of the first half. In the second half, Pompton Lakes had a defensive error leading to a goal by Jack Farrell making the game 2-0. This ended any hopes for the home team and propelled the boys into the sectional championship.
The sectional finals versus 3 seed Wallington was intense. One minute into the game, Jack Farrell netted a head ball making it 1-0. At the end of the first half, a Wallington player drew a foul and scored a penalty kick making it 1-1. In a static game with mostly Verona attacking, the game fell into double overtime. Sal Vassallo scored a golden goal leading to an epic 2-1 win.
The boys, excited by their string of three upsets, prepared to take on Dayton in the state semifinals. After a slow start, the boys took control and Thiago Queiroz netted a solo goal with a great left side run. After this goal, Dayton had few chances and could not generate offense against the solid Verona defense. Verona hung on for a 1-0 victor.y
With their tie against Haddon Township, the boys completed a season for the ages. Not since 1981 had the Verona boys soccer team won a state championship.