By Josh Lashley
So many positive terms can be used to describe the journey undertaken by the Mendham High School boys’ soccer program during the 2017 season.
The team displayed adaptability, competitiveness, desire, energy, fierceness, inspiration, maturity, resilience, sportsmanship and tenacity.
To boil it all down to one word, the Minutemen can be called champions. They won the NJSIAA Group 3 State Championship with a 2-1 victory over Mainland on Nov. 19 at Kean University in Union. In the State Group 3 semifinal round, they defeated Old Tappan, 1-0.
Calvin Ryan scored both goals in the win against Mainland. In the triumph over Old Tappan, Hans Gallagher tallied the winning goal on an assist from James Worth. Ryan Carkhuff was the shutout winner in goal for Mendham.
Mendham won the North 2 Group 3 Sectional title with a 2-1 triumph over Hopewell Valley. Gallagher had both goals in that contest.
Russ Raffay, the head coach for the Minutemen, recalls some vital moments on the pitch this fall.
“The Delbarton matches (on September 26, October 21 and October 27) gave the team confidence,’’ Raffay said. “To play them tight in the County final was a turning point for our State run. The Morris Knolls semifinal game (a 4-0 Morris County Tournament win) in October let us know we could compete against quality public school teams.
“The first Montville game, our only overtime game (3-2 win on September 18), showed that we could deal with adversity and pressure. All of the State games stand out especially the last three against Hopewell Valley, Old Tappan and Mainland Regional. They were all one goal games and showed the strength of our defense.’’
Leadership, not surprisingly, was a great asset for Mendham this year.
“My captains Stephen Ryan, Ryan Vispoli, Jake Nugent and Sean McDonald were great leaders on and off the field and good kids all around,’’ Raffay said. “They included the whole team in everything and really made the year enjoyable for all.
“Ryan Carkhuff, goalie, showed amazing improvement throughout the year. He battled injury and came up huge in many of our State games.’’
The 2018 season should prove to be yet another successful one for the Minutemen, but there is still plenty of time for student-athletes, coaches, fans, friends and family involved with the Mendham program to bask in the accomplishments of this recently concluded season.
“A great group of boys to coach-never lost to a public school-only losses were to Delbarton,’’ Raffay said. “Mendham was ranked 31st nationally by TopDrawerSoccer.com and number five in the state by NJ.com
“We are returning seven players who started for us this season.’’