Shortly after North Arlington’s 27-19 victory over Lodi on Friday night head coach Joe Borkowski delivered a message to his team that would have seemed impossible just a couple weeks earlier. The Vikings were likely heading to the state playoffs.
“We saw that Boonton was up (on Whippany Park) after the conclusion of our game and I told them there was a good shot that we were making (the playoffs),” Borkowski said, knowing that Boonton had already submitted its intentions to opt out of the state tournament and potentially open up a spot in the North Jersey, Group 1 super section. They were really excited,” Borkowski said.
A little more than 24 hours later, it became official. North Arlington’s win combined with Boonton’s lopsided victory at Whippany Park as well as Brearly’s loss to Dunellen on Thursday night, elevated the Vikings to the 16th and final playoff spot. It is the first time North Arlington has qualified in consecutive seasons since the state tournament started in 1974.
“Going into the Lodi game (the message was) we got to win and we’re going to need some help,” said Borkowski. “We knew that if Boonton won we were going to get in. When our game ended, Boonton was up three or four scores.
North Arlington, the eighth seed in the North 1, Group 1 section, faces a daunting task on Friday night when it travels to top-seeded and NJIC runner-up Park Ridge at 7 p.m.
The Vikings (3-5) are one of two Observer area teams to qualify for the state tournament this fall. Lyndhurst is the fifth seeded in the North 1, Group 2 section and will travel to fourth-seeded Newton on Friday at p.m.
The Golden Bears (4-4), enter with four-straight losses as they have been without multiple starters on defense.
But despite the skid, Lyndhurst coach Rich Tuero is confident that the challenging October games against Rutherford, Butler, Park Ridge and Hawthorne will serve as beneficial especially as those injured starters are expected to be for Friday’s showdown at Newton.
“I certainly feel it helped us learn how to compete in big time games,” said Tuero, who’s team is back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the North 1, Group 2 championship in 2019. “Injuries have absolutely killed us since playing Waldwick. We finally get to play with a healthy team this week.
“(We’re back to 0-0) and it was a big point of emphasis. We lost to two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds. It’s time to bounce back where it really matters.”
On Monday afternoon, the NJSIAA seeded their boys and girls state soccer tournaments.
First round games are set to begin on Wednesday as Harrison, the defending North 2, Group 2 champions, are the top seed in the section and will face Passaic Valley. Lyndhurst is seeded eighth and will face ninth-seeded New Providence.
North Arlington earned the top seed in North 2, Group 1 and will face 16th-seeded BelovED Charter of Jersey City. Kearny, seeking its second North 1, Group 4 title in three years is seeded third and will play Paterson Kennedy, while Bloomfield, seeded fourth, will host Union City. In North 2, Group 3, fourth-seeded Belleville hosts Chatham, while 14th-seeded Nutley goes to third-seeded Somerville.
First round games for the girls soccer tournament are scheduled to begin on Thursday, highlighted by a North 1, Group 4 matchup among Observer-area teams as sixth-seeded Bloomfield will host 11th-seeded Kearny.
The highest seeded team among the seven local teams is North Arlington, who is the fourth seed in North 2, Group 1 and will be home to face Dayton. In North 2, Group 2, ninth-seeded Lyndhurst will play eighth-seeded Hanover Park and 15th-seeded Harrison, making its first tournament appearance since 2018, plays second-seeded Madison. In North 2, Group 3, Belleville, seeded ninth, goes to eight-seeded Colonia and 12th-seeded Nutley is set to face fifth-seeded Somerville.
The girls volleyball tournament was set to seed on Tuesday, after our deadline. Based on the final power point standings, Belleville is the projected top seed in North 2, Group 3, with Nutley the projected three seed. Lyndhurst is the projected two seed in North 2, Group 2. Bloomfield (North 1, Group 4), Kearny (North 2, Group 4) and Harrison (Central, Group 1) are all projected to qualify in their respective sections.
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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.)