Little was said, but the anger and frustration was painfully obvious on the faces of the Kearny boys soccer team as they walked off the field at Red Bull Arena on Thursday night.
Just minutes earlier, the Kardinals hopes of a third consecutive Hudson County title had been dashed with a 2-1 loss to St. Peter’s Prep on a goal with just 2:21 remaining.
Now, all that was left was to regroup for the state tournament that is set to begin on Wednesday.
“It certainly was a disappointing night, losing the game like we did,” Kearny head coach Bill Galka said. “We have to forget about it quickly and concentrate on the next season which is the states.”
Trailing for a large part of the evening, Kearny evened the score when Hans Zoller blasted a 30-yard freekick into the top-left corner of the net in the 64th minute.
“He’s a great striker of the ball, but we haven’t had him take many free kicks. We figured it was out of the range of Aaron (Ocana) so we needed a little bit more power,” said Galka. “It was a fantastic freekick goal.”
The two teams, which shared the HCIAL American Division title, seemed destined for its second overtime game of the season, until the 78th minute when the Marauders’ Philip Sayouwoh dribbled down the left side and past a defender who had stumbled. The St. Peter’s Prep freshman took advantage of the extra space he cut towards the net and shot it just inside the far post for the winning goal.
Sayouwoh had both goals on the night for the Marauders as well as the lone goal in St. Peter’s Prep’s 1-0 overtime victory over Kearny on Sept. 13. Kearny won the other regular season meeting, 5-0, on Sept. 27.
“We misplayed it a little bit, one of our players slipped on the play and their player (Sayouwoh) did very well to get by and get the goal,” Galka said. “At the time, we thought we were in control of the game. They took advantage of a mistake on our part and he certainly did well to use his speed and get to the goal quickly.”
Kearny had one last regular season tuneup – a 10-0 victory over Becton on Saturday morning – before the start of the state tournament on Wednesday, which seeded on Monday afternoon.
With a 12-4 record, Kearny was projected to be the third seed in an always loaded North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 bracket.
I think we’re at the point of the season where it takes a day or two to get over a loss like Thursday when you play in a final and at Red Bull Arena,” Galka said. “But hopefully we learned a little bit from it. It’s important to move on and concentrate, learn from the mistakes and take those lessons forward into the states.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)