Kardinals fall short in quest for Group IV state title

Lose to Bridgewater-Raritan via penalty kick shootout


Photo by Jim Hague/ Kearny senior striker Almir “Junior” Batista (left) scored 65 goals in his career, tying Sergio Ulloa for the school record.


By Jim Hague

It’s a hard idea to fathom, but it’s true.
The Kearny High School boys’ soccer team played five games during this year’s NJSIAA state playoffs and did not surrender a single goal in any of those contests.
Yet, the Kardinals did not come away with an overall Group IV state championship.
The Kardinals continued the postseason shutout streak last Tuesday when they faced Bridgewater-Raritan in the overall Group IV semifinals. Kearny earned a berth in the overall state semifinals by defeating Randolph to capture the school’s first North Jersey Section 1, Group IV sectional title since 2004.
In the semifinal game against Bridgewater-Raritan, senior goalkeeper Tyler Anderson recorded 11 saves in regulation and overtime to keep his shutout streak going.
However, the game ended after 100 minutes with no scoring by either team, sending it to the penalty kick shootout.
That’s where Bridgewater-Raritan managed to find the net five times compared to Kearny’s three tallies and the dream of another overall Group IV state title died last Tuesday at Watchung Hills High School in Warren.
“You’re always going to hate to lose by the penalty kicks,” Kearny head coach Bill Galka said. “It has to come down to some way to get a result. We’ve been on both sides of it in the past. It’s not the perfect way to get a result.”
From a personal point of view, Galka has no qualms with the rules to break a tie in the state playoffs.
“I don’t really have a problem with it,” Galka said. “There has to be a winner and if you can’t decide a winner in 100 minutes (80 minutes of regulation, followed by two 10-minute extra sessions), then something has to be done. You can’t keep playing. It definitely hurts when you lose by it.”
The Kardinals knew that they would have to capitalize on their recent defensive prowess if they were going to be successful against Bridgewater-Raritan, which entered the game with 20 wins and only two setbacks during the season.
“It was a very well played game,” Galka said. “They definitely did their homework scouting us, because they did a good job marking Junior (Batista). I thought we had a few more chances to score. We played equal to them, if not better. We went back and forth and had some good possessions, but we just didn’t get the goal.”
Galka knew the formula for winning in the state tournament.
“We needed good defense, a good goalkeeper and be opportunistic with your goal scoring chances,” Galka said. “That’s how you win in the states and that’s what we were doing. Of course, you have to get a goal to win and we didn’t get it.”
But nothing will take away from what was a great season for the Kardinals.
“We won the state sectional and it was my first as a head coach,” Galka said. “It was a great accomplishment to get that far. I’m proud of the kids. They got through some tough games against some good competition. They bounced back after a tough loss (to Union City in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals) and played five good games in the state tournament. I don’t know if there’s ever been a team not to give up a single goal in five straight state tournament games.”

Photos by Jim Hague/ Defender Joao Parreiras emerged as a steadfast defender for the Kearny boys’ soccer team. Goalkeeper Tyler Anderson (back) looks on.


Nicholas Coelho (16) was one of the key contributors in Kearny’s NJSIAA state sectional championship run.


Galka credited his 16 seniors who provided stellar leadership throughout the course of the season.
“We’re going to miss those players,” Galka said. “They contributed a lot. We created a lot of good memories with those guys.”
One of those is striker Batista, who ended his career with 65 goals, tying Sergio Ulloa for the school’s career scoring mark.
“Without a doubt, Junior proved himself to be a fine goal scorer and one of the best we’ve ever had. It’s a sign of a quality player to be able to score that much in just three years.”
Another key contributor was senior center midfielder Abdellah Bouzidi, whose tireless energy was a driving force in the Kardinals’ success.
“He was fantastic all year,” Galka said. “He didn’t play much as a junior, but he was determined to get on the field this year and wanted to give playing center midfield a chance. His energy level was tremendous, chasing guys down all over the field. I told friends and other coaches that you had to see him to believe it.”
The defense was also tremendous. Anderson proved to be an All-State caliber net minder. Sweeper Ryan Wilson was the last line of defense and was almost flawless in doing so.
“We lost Eric Castellanos to an injury and the rest of the team rallied around it,” Galka said. “It’s never easy to lose a good, veteran defender. But guys like Gabriel Frietas, Joao Parreiras and Michael Dias all did a terrific job. It’s a great sign when you can lose a player like Eric and still come back strong.”
Galka also received contributions from a deep and talented bench, playing many of the members on the Kardinals’ roster all season.
“That’s a good thing to have,” Galka said. “We had a good, solid team.”
Galka said that he met with the team after the loss to Bridgewater-Raritan.
“I told them that it was a good year for us,” Galka said. “We had a great run. It was an enjoyable year. We had the great win against Harrison at Red Bull Arena. We won a state sectional title, beating quality teams. We’ll have to rebuild a little, but we’ll be back.”
One thing is for sure: The Kardinals haven’t relinquished a goal in almost a month. But the season still ended. Sometimes, soccer isn’t a fair sport at all.

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