The boys’ and girls’ soccer teams at Haddonfield Memorial High School may only be two games into their respective seasons, but each took a big step towards to defending their Colonial Conference championships Monday night.
And they did so by defeating one of their biggest rivals.
The Haddonfield boys’ soccer team opened the day with a 2-1 win over West Deptford and the Bulldawgs girls capped things off with a 1-0 win over the Eagles as each team improved to 2-0. Sure, the calendar says it is early September, but each game had a playoff atmosphere to it.
“That was a November game,” said Haddonfield girls’ soccer coach Glenn Gess. “I have been thinking about this game since we got the schedule. I don’t like it that early. I had a lot of young sophomores playing tonight and even though we are getting that ‘deer in the headlights’ look out of them, tonight they grew up.”
The Haddonfield boys’ hosted West Deptford at Scout Field and pulled out a victory thanks to a goal from last year’s leading scorer, Alex Johnston. With 16 minutes left in regulation and the score tied 1-1, Haddonfield sweeper Isaac Anderson floated in a high arcing free kick from 30 yards out that bounced around the box before Johnston fired it home.
“I hadn’t been really kicking it the way I wanted to the entire game and then I finally got up to the last one and knew I had to put it in,” said Anderson. “I put all my power into it, got it into the box where I wanted it to be, we got a scrum and got the goal.”
Anderson’s ability to deliver a ball in a desired area from long distances is a major weapon that Haddonfield boys’ soccer coach Joe Falana is happy to have at his disposal.
“He has a nice long kick that we have been getting a high trajectory on as opposed to the low kick a lot of kids send in,” said Falana. “He’s a skill player and he is really important to our team because we have guys down the other end of that kick that can put the ball in the net.”
Haddonfield has made a habit of winning close games against West Deptford, winning 2-0 and 1-0 last year.
“This is the game where we always want it the most,” Anderson said. “We are always really competitive because they are a good team, but this is the game we really want to win and we usually find a way.”
“We just work that much harder to make the plays and find a way to win, because victory is so much sweeter when you beat your rival,” said Johnston. “I think that every time we beat them we go home happy because we feel like we deserved the win.”
On the girls’ side it was Nikki Gavranish who provided the game’s only offense when she fired in a goal that was set up by a free kick in the 11th minute. That proved to be more than enough offense as the Bulldawgs defense allowed just two shots on goal, which were easily handled by freshman keeper Juliana Kadar.
“Our philosophy has always been, for the nine years I have been here, bend don’t break,” said Gess. “We don’t take chances. If we are going to give up something, you are going to earn it. That’s how we have always played it. We try to keep things tight, force play to the outsides and see if we can pop it over the top and send some forwards on the attack.”