It was another heartbreaking end to the season for Holmdel after falling to Newton, 3-1, in the NJSIAA Group II finals at The College of New Jersey on Saturday. It's the second straight year the Hornets have come one win short of winning the group II title, after last year's 1-0 loss to Bernards.
The pace was furious from the start, and the Hornets struck first in the third minute of the game. Jack Flanagan buried a shot to the left corner of the goal off a cross from Zach Bond.
Things seemed to be going just the way head coach John Nacarlo had hoped, however Newton equalized just a minute later off a goal from Ryan Brewster. It was all downhill from there for the Hornets.
Matt Cespedes scored off a corner in the 12th minute giving Newton a 2-1 lead, and Ryan Cronin gave them a huge 3-1 cushion just before the first half came to an end.
It was a defensive lapse in the first half that proved too much to overcome for the Hornets.
"It's tough because something we have done so well this year was marking in our defensive third," Nacarlo said.
"We made some mistakes in the back today and they capitalized on it."
There was still hope for the Hornets who were up a man with 20 minutes left in the game, after a Newton player was given his second yellow card and sent off the field.
"I thought there was plenty of time left at that point, I just think we didn't do a good job of keeping our composure," Nacarlo said.
"We have games when we don't communicate on the field, and unfortunately today was one of them."
Holmdel keeper Mitch Walier, who led the Shore Conference in shutouts this year, watched his team strike first, and credited Newton for answering right back when they needed to.
"We weren't able to do some of the things we have done all year, we just lost our marks," Walier said.
"That's how you win state titles, being able to capitalize on the other team's mistakes."
Even with the loss, Walier was still grateful for his two-year campaign in net for the Hornets.
"To get to this point twice is really special," Walier said.
"We really became a team over the years, and I'm just blessed to share these experiences with all the guys."
After winning the 2010 Group III title, and reaching the Group II title the next two years, Nacarlo has watched his team put together a special run.
The sting from the loss will fade in time, but it's memories like senior Zach Bond breaking the Holmdel scoring record, or senior leader Eric Bulvid coming back from a devastating injury just a year ago that will stick with the head coach.
"To get here three years in a row and to win three sectional championships is an amazing accomplishment, and they have to be proud of that" Nacarlo said.