One-point victory for Eagles sends them to state playoffs

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

 Metuchen High School’s Mya Stolarski (21) wins the ball in air against New Egypt High School’s Lauryn Laning during the Nov. 5 NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I quarterfinals in Metuchen. The Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals with a 4-0 victory.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Metuchen High School’s Mya Stolarski (21) wins the ball in air against New Egypt High School’s Lauryn Laning during the Nov. 5 NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I quarterfinals in Metuchen. The Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals with a 4-0 victory. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR It took a missed extra-point attempt by Sayreville War Memorial High School with nine seconds left that would have tied Edison High School to breathe new life into the Eagles’ football season.

As a result of the errant kick, Edison (3- 4 division, 3-5 overall) upset the Bombers, 20-19, enabling the Eagles to qualify for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V playoffs based on power points.

Edison (sixth seed) opens at third-seed Old Bridge High School (5-2 division, 5-3 overall) Nov. 13, which will mark the second time the teams have met this season. On Sept. 18, the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division foes faced each other, with the Knights coming out on top, 45-27. The winner in the sectional game faces the victor of the contest between seventh-seed Freehold Township High School and second seed New Brunswick High School a week later.

Considering how difficult this season has been, the Eagles’ victory over Sayreville was especially gratifying. If not for a 28-26 decision in triple overtime against East Brunswick High School Oct. 2, a loss to Sayreville would have been Edison’s seventh straight. Head coach Matt Fulham, a Sayreville graduate, glowed as he talked about his team’s third straight win against his alma mater (including a forfeit last year).

“A key turning point of the game was Nick Yanik recovering a fumble when Sayreville was driving, then catching a pass and running 66 yards for a touchdown, breaking two tackles [along the way],” Fulham said. “Then there was [quarterback] Haziq [Daniels], who broke a 57-yard run to put us up by a touchdown (20-13) in the fourth quarter.”

Fulham said his team is anxious for the rematch with Old Bridge, not only because it’s the playoffs, but also because he felt his team played better than the final score of the first encounter.

Daniels was particularly impressive, going 16 for 31 in the passing department for 226 yards, including three touchdowns in a game Old Bridge led at the half, 17- 14. Edison’s top rusher, James Stewart, who has 961 yards on the campaign, ran for 144 yards.

Regardless of how Edison fares in the playoffs, the Eagles will visit their crosstown rival, J.P. Stevens High School (0-7 division, 0-8 overall), on Thanksgiving.

An area team which saw its playoff fortunes end abruptly was Metuchen High School (3-1 division, 6-2 overall) which dropped a 27-24 decision to Spotswood High School (5-0 division, 7-2 overall) Nov. 7.

The Bulldogs failed to qualify, while Abraham Clark High School (Roselle) and Raritan High School — two teams with 3-5 overall records — secured berths in Central Jersey Group II. To add salt to the wound, the Spotswood defeat cost Metuchen the Blue Division title. The Bulldogs’ season continues Nov. 14 when it hosts Bernards High School (5- 3) in a state crossover game and concludes on Thanksgiving when the Bulldogs host Highland Park High School (1-3 division, 3-5 overall).

In one of the more entertaining games of the season, the Spotswood vs. Metuchen affair was a see-saw battle during which the game was tied on four separate occasions. The verdict was only decided when the Chargers converted a 30-yard field goal with nine seconds left.

Soccer

In state tournament soccer action, Metuchen’s boys and girls remained in contention for the Central Jersey, Group I title, while the Bishop George Ahr High School girls were alive in South Jersey Non-Public A.

The second-seeded Bulldogs boys (15- 5) advanced to be home in a semifinal game in Central Jersey, Group I against third-seed Burlington City High School Nov. 10, while the second-seeded girls team (17-3-1) hosted third-seed Point Pleasant Beach High School in another semifinal game Nov. 9. The Metuchen girls program won a state title in 2007.

The second-seeded Trojans (18-2) hosted third-seed Notre Dame High School Nov. 9 and, if victorious, will meet the winner of top-seed Holy Cross High School vs. fifth-seed Red Bank Catholic High School Nov. 12 on the higher-seeded team’s pitch.

Gymnastics

Continuing its outstanding postseason performance, the Bishop Ahr gymnastics team captured the North Jersey II sectional title Nov. 7. The team victory comes on the heels of winning the GMC team championship Oct. 24.

As the Trojans’ Ariyana Agarwala did in the GMC, the freshman placed first allaround (38.3) to edge J.P. Stevens’ Shannon Gregory (38.25). Agarwala’s teammate, Skylar Davisson (36.775), also reached the medal stand by placing third.

In the individual events, Gregory (9.55) was first in the vault, Agarwala (9.5) placed second and Davisson (9.4) finished fourth. In the uneven bars, Agarwala (9.675) won the competition, with Gregory (9.275) placing fourth.

Agarwala (9.775) also captured the beam, while Gregory (9.7) placed second and Davisson (9.125) finished fourth. In the floor exercise, Gregory (9.725) won her second gold medal, with Agarwala (9.35) managing fifth.

Bishop Ahr is among 10 teams that will compete for the state team championship Nov. 12 at Montgomery High School. Agarwala, Davisson and Gregory also qualified for the state individual championships two days later at the same site.

Metuchen maintains its success under Albanese

VARSITY REPORT

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

 Samantha Obolsky and the Bishop Ahr High gymnastics team looks to add an NJSIAA sec tional championship to the Greater Middlesex Conference title that the squad captured Oct. 24 when the school is the host to the North Jersey II meet Nov. 7 in Edison.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN Samantha Obolsky and the Bishop Ahr High gymnastics team looks to add an NJSIAA sec tional championship to the Greater Middlesex Conference title that the squad captured Oct. 24 when the school is the host to the North Jersey II meet Nov. 7 in Edison. SCOTT FRIEDMAN Ed Albanese knew he was in a good situation as assistant to Ken Graf, the first and only coach of the Metuchen High School boys soccer team.

With 40 years at the helm, Graf stepped away from the job and was replaced by Albanese. It was a seamless transition since he had been Graf’s assistant for 11 seasons, and the Bulldogs have not lost a beat.

Metuchen (13-5) successfully defended the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division championship and was the second seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I tournament as second seed. The team began play Nov. 3 with a home match against Highland Park High School (15th seed). A victory would pave the way for the Bulldogs to host the winner of 17th-seeded Middlesex High School and 10th-seeded New Egypt High School Nov. 6. The semifinals are Nov. 10 and the finals are Nov. 13. All matches are at the higher-seeded team.

“The small-school spirit, working with Ken and coaching great athletes are what convinced me to not leave,” Albanese said. “Under Ken, I learned how to win but that it’s more important our players exhibit class, respect and sportsmanship.”

Albanese’s coaching leadership has not gone unrecognized by his peers. He was recently named Blue Division and conference coach of the year.

“Everyone was surprised by how well senior tri-captain Ryan Josell (14 goals, six assists) has played but not me,” Albanese said. “He worked hard to improve, has been named to the all-division and all-conference first teams and is being recruited by a number of Division III colleges.”

Tri-captain Cameron O’Connell (16 goals, four assists) has been equally valuable and, along with Josell, has formed one of the best one-two punches in the GMC. Seniors Christian Nunez (six goals, three assists) and Cameron Kessler have also had a positive impact at midfield, which sets the tempo for the Metuchen attack.

Defensively, the Bulldogs have been led by sophomore Jack Bradley, seniors Liam Weeks and Mike Plunkett and junior Kyle Harry. Senior goalkeepers Tom Davis and Kieran Brennemann have commanded the net and have provided the team with consistency and reliability throughout the season.

In other state tournament games involving area boys soccer teams, Bishop George Ahr High School (10-6-1) is the sixth seed in Non-Public A South and hosted Camden Catholic High School (11th seed) Nov. 3. The winner travels to meet third-seed St. Augustine High School Nov. 6.

In the same bracket, eighth-seed St. Joseph High School of Metuchen (10-9-1) hosted ninth-seed St. John Vianney High School Nov. 3, with the winner to meet topseed Christian Brothers Academy Nov. 6.

In girls state tournament action, secondseed Bishop Ahr (16-2) had the opportunity to amend for its 3-0 loss to East Brunswick High School in the GMC Tournament semifinals by hosting the winner of the first-round match between seventh-seed St. Rose High School and 10th-seed Paul VI High School Nov. 5 in the Non-Public A South bracket.

Metuchen (15-3-1) is the second seed in Central Jersey Group I and hosted 15thseed Bound Brook High School Nov. 2.

Football

As the football regular season winds to a close, the only area team that can qualify for the postseason playoffs is Metuchen. The Bulldogs (6-1) are the seventh-ranked team in Central Jersey Group II and can secure a berth in the eight-team bracket with a victory at Spotswood High School (6-2) Nov. 7.

Also at stake is the GMC Blue Division championship. A year ago, the teams met for the division crown with Spotswood winning a tough-fought game, 10-6.

Metuchen still has one other regular-season game remaining on the schedule. The Bulldogs host Highland Park High School (1-2 division, 3-4 overall) in the renewal of a rivalry game that traditionally used to be played Thanksgiving Day.

Gymnastics

The Bishop Ahr gymnastics team — one of the parochial high school’s marquee sports programs — made a triumphant return to the top of the GMC by winning the conference meet Oct. 24.

The Trojans were led by freshman Ariyana Agarwala, who won the all-around medal, three events and placed second in another. Her performance, along with that of fellow freshman Skylar Davisson, enabled Bishop Ahr to finish with 109.95 points to capture first place.

Agarwala placed first on the bars (9.575), beam (9.7) and floor (9.65), and she finished runner-up in the vault (9.525). Davisson finished tied for third in the allaround (36.825), fifth on bars (8.9), third on beam (9.075) and tied for fourth on floor (9.3).

J.P. Stevens High School’s Shannon Gregory placed second in the all-around (37.5), first on vault (9.6), second on bars (9.475), fifth on beam (9.0) and second on floor (9.425).

Bishop Ahr also completed a perfect 7-0 record in dual meets.

SPORT SHORTS

Demons N Diamonds held off SS Poseidon to win the $25,000 New Jersey Futurity for 3-year-old trotters Oct. 23 at Freehold Raceway.

One of two fillies in the field of five in the non-wagering race, Demons N Diamonds (Muscle Hill) was a three-quarter-length winner over the colt SS Poseidon (Muscle Hill), trotting the mile in 1:58.2. Switchblade Hall (Muscles Yankee) was 18¼ lengths back in third.

Daniel Dube was the winning driver for trainer John McDermott Jr.

Demons N Diamonds races in the name of Jonathan Klee Racing of Mineola, New York; Domenic Costanzo of Westbury, New York; and Kuhen Racing LLC of Yardley, Pennsylvania. She was bred by the TLP Stable of Kearny.

This year, the filly has six wins, two seconds and two thirds from 20 starts for earnings of $60,080. Lifetime, she has finished in-the-money in 17 of 34 starts, banking $112,619.

At 2, she won the New Jersey Sire Stakes – Green Acres Final and was second in the New Jersey Futurity.

The New Jersey Futurity is sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey.

In a battle to the wire, Katies Rocker slipped up the pylons to nip pre-race favorite Ideal Rocky in the $30,000 New Jersey Futurity for 2-year-old pacers, the featured sixth race at Freehold Oct. 24.

Ideal Rocky, winner of the Lou Babic at Freehold and a division of the International Stallion Stakes at the Red Mile, took the lead from Katies Rocker before the half and was leading well into the stretch. But then Jim Marohn Jr. moved the pocket-sitting Katies Rocker up the pylons to win the tight photo finish by a nose.

It was a length and a quarter back to Don’tcallmefrancis in third.

The time of the race was 1:55.3.

The top three finishers are all sons of the late Rocknroll Hanover.

Katies Rocker, trained by Jim Campbell, posted his fifth win with two seconds in 10 starts. A winner of divisions of the Reynolds and Bluegrass, he is owned by his breeder, Fashion Farms LLC of New Hope, Pennsylvania.

The victory lifted his earnings to $134,348.

Items for the Sport Shorts column may be sent to tmorris@gmnews.com. Please send items at least two weeks prior to a registration deadline or tryout date.

Bulldogs stay focused on their next football game

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

Bishop George Ahr High School’s Ariyana Agarwala captured the all-around title at the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Gymnastics Championships Oct. 24 at South Brunswick High School. Agarwala also won three of the four individual events as she helped Bishop Ahr win its 16th GMC crown. SCOTT FRIEDMAN Bishop George Ahr High School’s Ariyana Agarwala captured the all-around title at the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Gymnastics Championships Oct. 24 at South Brunswick High School. Agarwala also won three of the four individual events as she helped Bishop Ahr win its 16th GMC crown. SCOTT FRIEDMAN It’s a theme that’s often quoted by football coaches, but Bob Ulmer insists Metuchen High School’s most important game of the season is the next one.

Ulmer’s philosophy could be why the Bulldogs are on a five-game winning streak with the latest victory coming Oct. 24 when they whitewashed the Shore Conference’s Mater Dei Prep, 36-0. Metuchen owns a 3- 0 record in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division, is 6-1 overall and will enjoy a bye week before an important clash Nov. 7 at Spotswood High School (3-0 division, 5-2 overall).

The winner of that game will be the favorite to capture the Blue Division, although the Bulldogs would still have to defeat Highland Park High School (1-2 division, 3-3 overall) on Thanksgiving Day. Spotswood hosts Middlesex High School (2-1 division, 5-2 overall) Oct. 31 and also needs a victory to remain tied with Metuchen for the division lead.

MATT DENTON MATT DENTON “I have a real special team this year that only focuses on the upcoming game,” Ulmer said. “We haven’t spoken about division titles or power points. All of that will take care of [itself]. The game in front of us is always the most important.”

Senior Jake Lebovits is a seasoned quarterback with a strong arm and has run the offense with confidence. Senior Peter DiMeglio is undersized at fullback but is an effective blocker who can grind out tough yards. The leading offensive linemen have been George Decker and Alex Buzzi, while Cole Caposino has been a standout on defense at safety.

Ulmer doesn’t speak about the value of tight end and linebacker Devin Miller. The talented junior has received a scholarship offer from Rutgers University, where his older brother, Dorian, is a team member. Every time Miller touches the ball, whether he’s playing offense or defense, he is a threat to do something special.

“The one element that made our team successful is our players believe in each other [and] our system and come ready to work hard each day,” Ulmer said.

Metuchen is currently ranked fourth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II standings with 78 points and needs a win against Spotswood to secure a first-round home game.

Cross-country

Metuchen senior distance runner Rachel Suss added another GMC cross-country championship to her growing collection of accomplishments. Suss’ time was 18:52.3 for the race held Oct. 23 at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, where she holds the school record for that course.

Her team managed to finish in second place based on the performances of Suss, junior Rachel Wentnick, who placed 15th (20:33.37), and senior Kristina Lignell, who finished 21st (20:54.22).

The other regulars for a Metuchen team that captured the small school Fall Classic Oct. 10 include hardworking freshman Emma Capron; junior Elizabeth Lawson, who overcame shin splints earlier this season; and Suss’ sister, Nina, another freshman who improves each day after not running competitively before this fall.

Lignell missed most of the last two years due to injury and sickness, and Wentnick is in her first year running since suffering a concussion as an eighth-grader.

Rachel Suss, of course, has been most responsible for Metuchen’s success.

“Rachel is a true leader,” head coach Kelli Holleran said. “She not only contributes her talent to the team but has a love for her teammates that is evident every day at practice and during meets. We are fortunate to have such a hardworking, motivated, team-oriented and compassionate young lady to be associated with our program.”

In the boys championships, St. Joseph High School of Metuchen placed third in the team standings, Metuchen finished fourth and J.P. Stevens High School placed fifth.

The following area boys placed in the top 20: Dylan Tyrrell, senior, St. Joe’s (16:24.42, sixth); Jake Beacher, sophomore, Metuchen (16:29.82, eighth); Aaron John, senior, J.P. Stevens (16:44.19, 17th); Shay Mallick, sophomore, J.P. Stevens (16:46.90, 19th); and Matthew Costello, St. Joe’s (16:48.37, 20th).

Soccer

The GMC boys and girls soccer tournaments are underway with the St. Joe’s and Metuchen boys and the Bishop George Ahr High School and Metuchen girls still alive through last weekend.

In the boys bracket, the Falcons (10-8- 1) defeated the Bishop Ahr, 2-1, Oct. 24 to advance to the quarterfinals Oct. 27 with East Brunswick High School (14-3-1), while the Bulldogs (13-4) advanced to the quarterfinals on the same date against New Brunswick High School (17-0) by knocking off Spotswood High School, 3-2, Oct. 24.

In the girls tournament, the Trojans (15- 1) dispatched North Brunswick Township High School, 5-0, Oct. 23 to advance to the quarterfinals Oct. 27 against Wardlaw-Hartridge School (16-2-1). The Bulldogs (15- 2-1) earned a hard-fought, 1-0 decision over Spotswood to reach the quarterfinals, where it played East Brunswick (10-7) Oct. 27.

The semifinals will be Oct. 29 and the finals two days later at Woodbridge High School.

The Bishop Ahr boys (10-6-1) have already clinched their first berth in the state tournament since 2001. Head coach Tommy Lacson considers the team’s success this season to be a quantum leap for the program moving forward.

“The 12th seed we received for the GMC Tournament was our highest ever and it reflects the strides our program has made,” he said. “The players who have surprised me this year are John Delagnese, a transfer from [now closed Cardinal McCarrick High School], and our goalkeepers Anthony Tirri and Danny Cardona. Danny is a junior, so we’ll be strong in the net next year.” Bishop George Ahr High School’s Lauren Jurcsek, left, brings the ball upfield as she looks to get past Edison High School’s Monica Roca during the Oct. 15 game played on Bishop Ahr’s soccer pitch in Edison. Bishop Ahr scored a 3-0 victory in the match. The information was reported incorrectly in last week’s edition.

Hawks still in search of first win of the football season

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

The winless J.P. Stevens High School football team came into its Oct. 16 homecoming game with one-win East Brunswick High School believing it had a legitimate chance to finally record the first win of the season.

The game wasn’t close, though, as the visiting Bears administered a 41-6 defeat to bring their record to 2-3, while the struggling Hawks fell to 0-6 and clearly demonstrated they are still a program seeking to build a winning attitude.

Throughout the contest, the Hawks had difficulty containing quarterback Brendan Kennedy and the two feature backs, Al Fitzpatrick and Kyle Wiggins, both of whom rushed for over 100 yards and accounted for three of the team’s six touchdowns. After a 35-7 loss to Sayreville War Memorial High School in the season opener, the Hawks have surrendered 40 or more points in the last five defeats and have lost by an average margin of 32.8 points.

Bishop George Ahr High School’s Emma Herban, right, has control of the ball as Edison High School’s Monica Roca chases her during the Oct. 15 match played in Edison on Bishop Ahr’s home pitch. Bishop Ahr won, 3-0. MATT DENTON Bishop George Ahr High School’s Emma Herban, right, has control of the ball as Edison High School’s Monica Roca chases her during the Oct. 15 match played in Edison on Bishop Ahr’s home pitch. Bishop Ahr won, 3-0. MATT DENTON In a nutshell, J.P. Stevens’ problem is a lack of team chemistry. While the Hawks have successfully moved the ball, drives have stalled due to turnovers, dropped passes and inadequate blocking. Defensively, J.P. Stevens has been outsized on the line, paving the way for opponents to score like they have. Finally, it seems like 11 individual games are taking place on the field instead of the team playing like a cohesive unit.

Unfortunately, this year is not an aberration but the continuation of a losing streak that has lasted over a decade. The Hawks have not finished with a winning record since 2003 (6-4) and have not been playoff eligible since 2006.

Head coach Joe Riggi, a member of two state sectional championship teams (1984 and 1985, when the Hawks beat none other than East Brunswick, and was a sectional finalist in 1987) is the fourth coach in four years, and this is his second stint at trying to revive the program.

“I believe wholeheartedly that winning can be contagious, but so too can losing,” he said. “We have gotten away from what worked and the mentality that when we walked on this field, we were going to win. If we lost, we took it personally and couldn’t believe somebody beat us.”

Riggi said that now when players step onto the field is, their mindset is “Maybe we can win.”

But when his team falls behind, negativity prevails and games tend to spiral out of control.

To help change this culture, Riggi has brought back a lot of what he learned, and he has former players speak to the team about why J.P. Stevens was once a winning program. Ultimately, the coach said, it gets down to earning players’ trust. “That was something I learned from my coach here, Joe Gutowski,” Riggi said. “I still talk to him, and he’s given me valuable advice.”

The Hawks, members of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division, play their next two games on the road beginning with a visit Oct. 23 at North Brunswick Township High School (1-5 division and overall). That game is followed in two weeks by a trip to Shore conference foe Marlboro High School (0-6) Nov. 7, with the regular-season finale on Thanksgiving Day at home against Edison High School (2-3 division and overall).

J.P. Stevens will also be eligible to play a state consolation game either Nov. 13 or 14.

Girls’ volleyball

The Bishop George Ahr High School girls’ volleyball team is currently 7-9 and while it appears the Trojans are experiencing a subpar season, the record is actually a major improvement over the last two years.

Two years ago, Bishop Ahr finished 1- 15 and last season, the Trojans ended the campaign with a 4-14 record.

According to head coach Arlene Jaronczyk, the reason for the team’s success is team camaraderie.

“This is a hard-working, focused group, and that includes our non-starters,” Jaronczyk said. “Everybody has a worked together to achieve our goals.”

The coach said most strides have taken place with defending and hitting the ball.

“Our hits are more powerful, and we’re defending our position better,” she said. “Our serves have improved also.”

The starting lineup includes senior captains Brittany Woodson, setter (119 service points, 220 assists, 75 digs); and Kaitlyn Knurek, right side (115 kills); seniors Jasmine Blades, middle, Melissa Pokorny, left side, and Amanda Loubnan, middle (75 kills); and juniors Cassie Ng, left side, Niara Rowe, front left side, and Sarah Franczak, libero (120 digs).

Other players who have seen action include juniors Abby Crocco, Emily King, Gabby Loftus, Jennifer Sierra, Kayla Simon and Emily Turso.

The J.P. Stevens girls’ volleyball team has been one of the winningest programs in the GMC, and this year is no exception. The Hawks are 14-5, which comes on the heels of an 18-9 record a year ago.

J.P. Stevens has depended on an experienced lineup with 10 seniors and only one junior on the roster.

However, that lone underclassman, Sidney Lin, is a powerful server and leads the team in assists with 528 assists. The other returning starters include outside hitter Kayla Smith, who has 140 digs, and middle blockers Jamina Morris and Nina Carlsen, who have 132 and 107 kills, respectively.

Newcomers to the lineup include Rebecca DiSerio, opposite; Michelle Qiou, libero; Echo Wang, outside hitter; Kassy Valbrun, outside hitter; Jessica Xu, libero; and Sarah Farhan, opposite.

Carroo’s return not enough for Rutgers to avoid defeat

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

 Rutgers Unversity wide receiver Leonte Carroo looks to pick up yardage when the Scarlet Knights played Michigan State University Oct. 10 at High Point Solutions Stadium. Rutgers fell to the Spartans, 31-24, and is 2-3 overall this season.  BEN SOLOMON/RUTGERS ATHLETICS Rutgers Unversity wide receiver Leonte Carroo looks to pick up yardage when the Scarlet Knights played Michigan State University Oct. 10 at High Point Solutions Stadium. Rutgers fell to the Spartans, 31-24, and is 2-3 overall this season. BEN SOLOMON/RUTGERS ATHLETICS RUTGERS UNIVERSITY

R utgers University star receiver Leonte

Carroo should have been elated after his sparkling performance Oct. 10 against Michigan State University.

Instead, the Edison native, team player that he is, could only express disappointment because the Spartans, who were ranked fourth, were able to find the end zone with 43 seconds remaining to escape with a 31-24 victory in front of over 50,000 at High Point Solutions Stadium.

It was yet another last-minute, heartbreaking defeat (the Scarlet Knights lost to Washington State University, 37-34 Sept. 12, when the Cougars scored with 13 seconds left), and Carroo tried to put on his best face in front of a mob of reporters seeking his reaction.

“It was exciting to go out [there] and play today for my team,” Carroo said about returning to the field after being suspended following the Washington State game. “Unfortunately we lost, but I was very excited all day. I had a lot of momentum going into this game.”

The senior captain added three touchdown catches and now has a team career record of 25. It was the fourth time Carroo caught a trio of touchdown passes in one game.

Because of Michigan State’s lofty national ranking, a victory would have arguably been the most significant in program history had Rutgers prevailed

Still, Carroo took no comfort in what should be labeled a moral victory because to his way of thinking, a loss now drops his team to 2-3 as it prepares for a vicious stretch of Big Ten Conference (BIG) games.

The ominous journey begins Oct. 17 with a visit to Indiana University (4-2). On Oct. 24, the nation’s top team, Ohio State University (6-0), comes to Piscataway.

Rutgers has road games at Wisconsin

University (4-2) Oct. 31 and at 12th-ranked

University of Michigan (5-1) Nov. 7, before returning home Nov. 14 to host the University of Nebraska (2-4). Next is a visit to

Army West Point (1-5) Nov. 21, and the regular season ends with a home game against the University of Maryland (2-4) Nov. 28.

The Scarlet Knights need to win a minimum of four games to reach the mandatory six and qualify for a postseason bowl game.

These thoughts were percolating in Carroo’s mind as he patiently responded to reporters’ questions about his own performance.

One wanted to know the content of a short conversation between former Michigan State and New York Giants star receiver Plaxico Burress, who watched on the Spartans’ sideline.

“He told me I’m a great player and [my performance] was one of the best he personally ever saw,” Carroo said. “ ‘You’re a baller. Just keep your head up.’ ”

His seven catches for 134 yards came just four days after Carroo was reinstated. Because the suspension lasted three games, Carroo has played just 10 quarters this season, but he has registered six touchdown receptions. For his career, he is averaging a touchdown catch every 3.88 receptions.

BISHOP AHR

The Bishop George Ahr High School girls soccer team is making a strong case for being the best in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) and will have the chance to prove it.

The Trojans are 11-1 overall with an unblemished 11-0 record in White Division games, and they have already clinched the regular-season title. However, Bishop Ahr has more ambitious goals like winning the GMC and NJSIAA Non-Public B tournaments.

“We have a nice mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores this year,” coach Jim Tavormina said. “Everyone worked hard during the offseason and when we came together this fall, we came ready to play.”

Bishop Ahr’s only defeat has been to perennial out-of-conference power Bridgewater Raritan High School (9-3). Two years ago, the Trojans captured the Non-Public B title by defeating Immaculate Heart Academy. Barring upsets, the teams appear headed for another clash in the finals.

Bishop Ahr benefits from balanced scoring, but one player, Jillian Vassallo, who committed to the University of Delaware, is the best on the team and one of the top players in New Jersey. The senior has registered 24 goals and 11 assists — both team bests — and is clearly the catalyst for the Trojans’ high-powered attack.

Depending on how far Bishop Ahr goes in the GMC and sectional tournaments, Vassallo, who has 80 career goals, has a shot at topping the 100-goal mark for her career.

Seniors Stephanie Spada (five goals, eight assists), Erica Balsamo (five goals, two assists), Lauren Jurcsek (four goals, one assist) and Reilly Mullin (two goals, eight assists) have also contributed to the point production.

Tavormina said Reilly is the glue that keeps the middle solid and can go for 80- plus minutes if necessary. Another senior, Alyssa Corea, is back in full form after losing her junior year due to injury and has been an effective defender.

Junior Stephanie Corea can be counted on up front or in the middle, while sophomores Sarah Glazewski (eight goals, one assist), and Emma Herban (five goals, two assists), have continued to give the team a boast when needed.

Sophomore back-liners who have been rock solid on defense are Sara Decker, Julianna Pastore, Ryleigh Greenwald and Dayna Dobkowski.

Sophomore goalkeepers Anetha Jenkins, Kelley Harmon and freshman keeper Sachi Negri have combined for 31 saves and eight shutouts.

Correction

In last week’s varsity report, it was stated the Metuchen High School girls’ soccer team had never won a state championship. The Bulldogs captured the 2007 Group I championship by defeating Glen Ridge High School, 1-0.

Metuchen is poised to make another deep postseason run

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

 A J.P. Stevens High School runner races around the Thompson Park cross country course during the Central Jersey Shootout on Sept. 27. Runners will be back at Jamesburg’s Thompson Park for the Fall Classic on Oct. 10.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN A J.P. Stevens High School runner races around the Thompson Park cross country course during the Central Jersey Shootout on Sept. 27. Runners will be back at Jamesburg’s Thompson Park for the Fall Classic on Oct. 10. SCOTT FRIEDMAN METUCHEN

O ne of these seasons, the soccer ball is going to take all the right bounces, the rest of pieces are going to fall into place, and the Metuchen High School girls are going to win a state championship.

The Bulldogs have come close on a number of occasions, winning multiple sectional titles and reaching the NJSIAA Group I championship game as well, but they have yet to capture the grand prize.

“We have a returning crew who has been part of our deep postseason run the last three seasons,” said Val Gazda, veteran coach and architect of Metuchen’s accomplishments on the pitch. “This group would love to leave with a championship under their belts.”

No doubt the Bulldogs will be in the mix again when the state tournament begins the first week of November, but until then they will keep focused, especially this week, on a number of upcoming Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) matches, which will give one of three teams the upper hand in the Blue Division race.

The Bulldogs (7-1 division, 8-1 overall) suffered their only loss to a division foe, Wardlaw-Hartridge School (6-1 division, 7- 1 overall) but had a chance to redeem themselves with a visit to the Rams Oct. 5. Two days later, Metuchen is home to Spotswood High School (8-0 division, 8-1 overall) the current first-place team. Victories in those games would significantly increase Metuchen’s chances of winning the division.

Regardless of that race, Gazda has always scheduled late-season matches against larger non-division schools in order to prepare her team for the state tournament. The Bulldogs face North Brunswick High School (Oct. 15) and South Plainfield High School (Oct. 17) and if they advance in the GMC Tournament, which starts in two weeks, they will undoubtedly face additional large school opponents.

Metuchen is led by seniors Alexa Craft- Zaletel (goalkeeper, six shutouts) who is playing in place of Emily Buchanan, out with a concussion, Carly Taylor (defense), Emily Costello (defense/forward), Taylor Heuston (midfield, three goals, two assists), Katharine Chura (forward, 11 goals, three assists), Hannah Santus (forward, three goals, two assists), Alison Davideit (midfield/ forward), and Julia Rocker (defense/ midfield).

Juniors Alana Benderly and Tracy Michalski play defense, while sophomores Molly Walters (midfield/defense, five goals, four assists), Rory Josell (forward, seven goals, three assists), Drew Schuchman (defense), Hope Kenny (midfield), Skye Nowicki (midfield) and Kendall Schuchman (midfield, three assists) have been effective contributors. Freshman Mya Stolarski (midfield, two goals, four assists) also sees playing time.

“In addition to our quality goalkeeping,” said Gazda, “our defense has come up big and we’ve received scoring from a number of players. Our midfield is also doing a great job connecting the defense with the forwards.”

EDISON

The Edison High School girls’ soccer team is currently 5-5 (division and overall) and wedged in the middle of the White Division standings.

“We have a great team that plays well together,” said coach Leanne Rubiano.

“The division is very competitive with evenly matched teams, and most of our games have been close.”

The top goal scorer is junior forward

Felicia Forsythe (14 goals). The defense has been led by three seniors, Gabrielle da

Silva, Julia Hoover, and Gayathri Vijayakumar. The goaltender is freshman

Kendra Candido (58 saves).

Junior Elena Elias (three goals, two assists), freshman Gabrielle Moreno (three goals), and sophomore Monica Roca

(three assists) have also contributed to the scoring. Others seeing playing time are senior Martina Sota, sophomore Rachel Weber and freshman Maathanki Vijayakumar.

“The key for the rest of the season,” said Rubiano, “is to finish offensively and stay tough defensively. We need to play our game, communicate, be hungry for the ball, and win.”

JP STEVENS

The J.P. Stevens High School girls soccer team has encountered some real tough teams in the Red Division. In six losses, the Hawks have been outscored 27-1, and their overall record is 2-7.

Head coach Lisa Dato says the goal this season is to mold a large group of youthful talent into confident, skilled players, who can lead the Hawks to better success in future seasons.

“Our objective is to continue working hard in every game and practice,” she said. “That’s how we’ll improve as the season progresses.”

As evidenced by the goal differential in Red Division matches, scoring has been a problem. The team leader in goals is senior forward Samantha Dzema with three. The remaining goals have come from four others: freshman forward Ava Dul, sophomore forward Mikhayla Sabo, junior midfielder Kinjal Shah, and sophomore defender Serena Zilli.

Senior Prachi Sinha has not scored; Dato says she has become a crucial part of the defense while Zilli has transitioned from forward to also solidify the backline. The coach also says Shah returned from an injury riddled 2014 to become the Hawks’ center midfielder and has helped control the offensive flow.

Both Edison and Stevens participate in the Skills and Drills clinic, which has become one of the township’s top-drawing events for children who play soccer for the Edison United Soccer Association.

Surging Trojans look to keep early success going

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

 Metuchen High School’s Rachel Suss displayed superb early season form while winning the Central Jersey Shootout at Jamesburg’s Thompson Park. The Metuchen senior clocked 18:50.70 for the 5K race hosted by Old Bridge High School.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN Metuchen High School’s Rachel Suss displayed superb early season form while winning the Central Jersey Shootout at Jamesburg’s Thompson Park. The Metuchen senior clocked 18:50.70 for the 5K race hosted by Old Bridge High School. SCOTT FRIEDMAN BISHOP AHR

Bishop George Ahr High School boys soccer coach Tommy Lacson believes this fall’s team is the best in his 13 years directing the program, and the record certainly prove that.

The Trojans are currently 3-1-1 in Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division matches and 4-1-1 overall. If they finish .500 or better, it will be the first time that has happened since 2001 — also the last time they qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs.

What bodes well for Bishop Ahr is this year’s success is not likely to be an aberration. The Trojans are a half-game behind South River High School (4-1-1, 5-2-1 overall) for first place in the Blue Division, and their 4-0 victory over the Rams in early September could be the tiebreaker that determines the division champion.

“We have a senior class that’s experienced, and they are driving the team,” said Lacson. “But the freshman class is the strongest we’ve had since I’ve been here, so I’m confident our success will continue.”

Among the difference-makers are several seniors. Midfielder/forward Patrick Harman leads in scoring with six goals and two assists, and forward Angelo Napoli has netted five goals. Central defender Luke Roche has three goals and five assists, and central defender/ midfielder Fitzgerald Flores has one goal and four assists. Others making their marks are goalkeeper Anthony Tirri (51 saves), defenders Kyle Veltre and Collin Lombardo and midfielder Diego Gambotto. Sophomore central midfielder John Dallegnese has also been a strong presence.

Notable backups include senior midfielders Martin Verendia and Josh Reilly, junior goalkeeper Daniel Cardona and sophomore midfielder/forward Jude Roche.

“We’ve worked hard in practice, and that will need to continue,” Lacson said. “The coaching staff has done a great job preparing for our opponents, and that has helped with our execution and communication with each other when we play them.”

Unlike most public high school programs, Bishop Ahr doesn’t benefit from a township grassroots feeder program, but Lacson says Catholic school middle school teams have fueled the Trojans with prospects in recent years.

METUCHEN

This fall marks a new season for the Metuchen High School boys soccer team with Ed Albanese taking over as coach for Ken Graf, who retired after 32 years on the sidelines. Thus far, the Bulldogs are 2-2 in the Blue Division and 3-2 overall.

“It will be important to trust the team concept we’ve embraced as a strategy,” Albanese said. “We’re a team that relies on executing the technical aspects of soccer and that is how we have won.”

Senior forward Cameron O’Connell leads the Bulldogs with four goals, but the rest of the scoring is balanced with four seniors who have scored two goals each. They include midfielders Ryan Josell, Cameron Kessler and Ayush Sood and senior forward Greg Pondl.

Other contributions have come from returning senior starters Mike Plunkett (defense), Christian Nunex (midfielder), Tom Davis (goalkeeper) and Keiran Brenneman (goalkeeper), junior Kyle Harry (defense) and sophomore Jack Bradley (defense).

Newcomers to the lineup include seniors Liam Weeks and Geo Cordova and freshman Mike Cyran.

The team has also distinguished itself in the classroom. Last year, the combined GPA was 3.3, and Albanese said the team is committed to equaling that accomplishment this year.

On Sept. 30, the Bulldogs host Middlesex High School, which will be Senior and Metuchen Town Soccer night.

EDISON

“We’re just staying humble, hungry and hope to improve every day,” Edison High School boys soccer coach Brian Murtagh said. “We need to approach every practice as an opportunity to be better than the day before.”

That formula has worked for the Eagles in recent games. Following a 1-4 start, they have won two of their last three. Following a visit to Perth Amboy High School (3-3-1 division and overall) Sept. 29, Edison hosts South Plainfield High School (6-1 division, 6-3-1 overall) Oct. 1.

The Eagles are a team with a mixture of experience and youth. Starting seniors include defensemen Kohki Hasegawa, Ken Kore, Kendall Campos Campos and Oscar Cleaver, while the midfield features seniors Andreas Zambas and Justin Reutsch, sophomore Jason Salazar and freshman Benito Rojas. The forwards are juniors Nabil Boto and Schneider Fernandes, and the goalkeeper is freshman Juan Perlaza.

“Nabil has really come alive,” Murtagh said. “He has five assists, and Schneider has made a successful jump to the varsity with two goals.”

Unlike many public school teams that rely on a close association with the town’s recreation program, Murtagh has taken an independent approach of preparing future team members by utilizing his current players to train those interested in improving their skills.

Another initiative by the soccer team is a special role by the captains during which each has taken a learning-disabled student under their wings and made them honorary members of the team.

“Justin Reustch, Kendall Campos Campos and Andreas Zambas take a little time out of their practice routines and work with the students,” Murtagh said. “The idea is to have fun, and it’s been a very worthwhile experience for everybody.”

J.P. Stevens boys soccer encouraged by parents’ support

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

 Metuchen High School’s Hayley Daniels, middle, drives through the South Brunswick High School defense and backs Sarah Carlson, left, and Alyssa Ryan on her way to scoring a goal during the Sept. 18 field hockey game played in Metuchen. The Bulldogs topped the Vikings, 2-0.  MATT DENTON Metuchen High School’s Hayley Daniels, middle, drives through the South Brunswick High School defense and backs Sarah Carlson, left, and Alyssa Ryan on her way to scoring a goal during the Sept. 18 field hockey game played in Metuchen. The Bulldogs topped the Vikings, 2-0. MATT DENTON J.P. STEVENS

There is nothing innovative about the support provided by the J.P. Stevens

High School boys soccer parent group, but head coach Bill McMullen contends their work is indispensable.

“The parents help maintain a positive and supportive environment,” McMullen said. “They do that very well. We’re fortunate to have parents as active as they are.”

Positive reinforcement is certainly what J.P. Stevens needs because of how this season is unwinding. The Hawks are 1-5 in Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division play, with the lone win coming against North Brunswick Township High School. This follows three seasons during which J.P. Stevens finished .500 or better, including a 14-3 record in 2013. The Hawks are next home to Old Bridge High School Sept. 24, and at North Brunswick Sept. 26.

Senior Alex Corrigan is the leading scorer with six goals and two assists, and junior Sayak Ghosh has two goals. Junior center midfielder Ryan Minor is the assist leader with six to go along with one goal.

Junior Paul Trevidic and senior Anthony Castelo play important roles as central defenders, and freshman Austin John has shown enough skill to earn the start at midfield. Max Glinn has registered 57 saves as goaltender.

The parents’ support group is named Back of the Net and has performed numerous behind-the-scenes projects for nearly as long as J.P. Stevens has played soccer. President

Angela Corrigan said the club’s mission has always remained the same.

“We have about 60 families involved in multiple activities, and we’re guided by the principle that soccer should be fun, on and off the field,” Corrigan said.

Alex Corrigan’s mother points out the support of Board of Education members and the coaches have been essential in helping Back of the Net complete its work.

The group sponsors projects such as collecting canned goods in front of grocery stores that are donated to area food banks and organizing fundraisers like selling chocolate bars, sponsoring the always-popular car wash and running a snack bar during games.

Money raised offset expenses so players can attend the postseason awards banquet, see a Major League Soccer Red Bulls game including a pregame barbecue with players and their families, contribute college scholarship money for seniors and finance pizza parties after games.

Back of the Net also organizes EATS, a series of team meals hosted by parents the night before games. Another important event is arranging a township recreationsponsored soccer clinic for 200-plus youngsters at the Spencer Rockman Complex, where players provide instruction.

ST. JOSEPH

The St. Joseph of Metuchen High School boys soccer team is 1-3 in the Red Division and 1-3-1 overall, but that’s pretty much par for the course with the Falcons. With few exceptions, St. Joe’s has a history of starting slow and finishing strong because the lineup features so many new faces.

An example is last year when the Falcons ended September with a 5-3-2 record but completed the rest of the regular GMC season unbeaten and made the conference tournament championship game before dropping a 2-1 decision to Monroe Township High School.

The seniors on the roster are center middle Chris Taraska; defenders Kyle Duggan, Tom Summers and Colm Sullivan; forward Michael Echeverria; and midfielder Mark Kim. The juniors are goalkeepers Gurjivan Kalkat and Christian Pomponio and midfielder Owen Donnelly. The sophomores are defenders Matt Pinho and Ryan Brede, midfielders Tour’e Reaves and Zack Riviere and forward Nick Cruz.

St. Joe’s could receive a boost to the lineup if standout basketball player Breein Tyree joins the team later in the season. According to head coach Brian Jenkins, if Tyree makes a college commitment to play basketball before the soccer season ends, he may use his athletic skills to help the Falcons.

Jenkins said he has been particularly pleased with the overall play of Kim, who was thought to be a role player coming into the season but has played significant minutes.

How the Falcons fare in their next four matches will determine whether they can contend for the Red Division crown. St. Joe’s visited East Brunswick High School (4-1 division, 4-1 overall) Sept. 21 and travel to Monroe Township (5-0 division, 6- 0 overall) Sept. 24. They are home to Old Bridge (4-0 division, 5-1 overall) Sept. 26 and South Brunswick High School (3-2 division, 4-2 overall) Sept. 29.

SPORT SHORTS

The First Tee of Raritan Valley is sending Sayaka Carpenter to compete in the 2015 Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, an official Champions Tour event that will be held Sept. 25-27 and televised internationally on Golf Channel.

Carpenter will join 80 other participants from The First Tee chapters for the event, which is in its 12th year.