In the much-anticipated rematch between county and state boys soccer powers Millburn and Seton Hall Prep, neither team walked away as the winner.
In a bit of an anti-climactic ending, the Millers and the Pirates battled to a scoreless tie at West Essex Regional High School on Saturday in the Essex County Championship game. The squads battled through two overtimes, and in county championship play there are no penalty kicks. It was, technically speaking, Millburn’s third consecutive county crown.
“It’s like a bitter sweet,” said Miller head coach Rob Grosso. “Ideally you come to the championship looking to be the winner, and a co-championship, you know the rules are that you can’t go into (penalty kicks), so that’s what it is.
“We’re going to try to consider ourselves three-peat champs, just to look forward into the season."
The contest was played in off-and-on rain and was delayed 33 minutes by a lightning delay, stopping the game with 15:15 left in the opening half.
Both defenses played spectacularly, not leaving very many openings for the offenses to get clean looks. Millburn controlled the ball slightly more than the Pirates and certainly had more scoring opportunities, but could not cash in.
Millburn out-shot Seton Hall Prep 10 - 6. They also had six corner kick opportunities, yielding none to the Pirates, but were unable to get a ball past the Pirate keeper, Casey DeFluri. The best two chances for Millburn came on what first looked to be a rebound goal put away by James Raystin, but he was called off-sides.
“From where I was standing, it looked good, but the assistant official there had a better angle than I did,” Grosso said.
The other opportunity was on free kick by Chris Benedict just outside of the goalie box. His shot went wide, resulting in a goal kick. It was Millburn’s last really good chance at scoring.
“The effort was great on both teams. We really focused this week on defense, because they do have a nice attack. Challenge the play out wide, because they like through the middle, and both teams actually kind of focused on the same things,” Grosso said.
It seems Millburn and SHP need more than two halves to decide which team is the better. On Oct. 2, they played into overtime in Millburn, with the Pirates scoring early in the extra period to take a 2-1 win and control of the American Division.
The boys will be in West Orange on Wednesday to face the Pirates in a must-win. Currently, SHP has two conference losses to West Orange, Montclair. Millburn has two conference losses to SHP and East Side, and West Orange has one conference loss, with a tie against Millburn.
The Millers need to first beat SHP on the road Wednesday and then defeat West Orange in a make up game, yet to be announced, to win the first ever American Division championship. They also have the state playoffs where they hope to defend their Group 3 title.