Boys Soccer Wins Back to Back State Championships: Caps off Undefeated Season beating Steinert 5-1

Boys Soccer Wins Back to Back State Championships: Caps off Undefeated Season beating Steinert 5-1

Shane Rich, Editor

The Bernards boys soccer team caped off their undefeated season with a 5-1 win over Steinert in Saturday’s Championship Game. Olcott Field hosted the Central West A, Group 1-3 Regional Championship on Coach Joe LaSpada’s birthday. Saturday’s win marked Bernards second consecutive championship.

Senior captain Gilberto Ferreira scored a hat-trick and had one assist, followed by goals from JJ Zaun and Miguel Ortiz. Will Luik also added two assists. With an early 1-0 lead set up by a penalty kick for Ferreira, the Mountaineers would continue to control the tempo heading into halftime with a 2-0 lead. 

With a strategic game plan by LaSpada, Bernards would limit Steinert’s offensive attack with great hustle and defensive play from JJ Zaun, Sean Doran, Miguel Ortiz and Will Luik. Goalie Elliott Deitrich saw very little coming his way, as Bernards ended the first half strong.

As the second half began, Gilberto Ferreira received another penalty kick, this would be his third goal of the day, and increasing the deficit to 3-0. Following that score, Will Luik would set JJ Zaun up just minutes later, for yet another Bernards score. Steinhert would score their lone goal of the afternoon with just under 20 minutes to play, as Miguel Ortiz followed with a goal on an assist from Ferreira.

As the clock hit 0:00, the Bernards boys soccer team would storm the field and celebrate as they were crowned champions for the second straight season.

Aside from the big win, this season’s championship brought a much different perspective to the table. With all of the COVID-19 precautions and rules, the possibility of the season being canceled could have happened at any given moment. Forward JJ Zaun weighed in on what it meant to win a championship in a year like this:

“I would in some ways say it meant more. The day before our first game we were shut down for two weeks, and it began to feel unlikely that we would get through an entire season. LaSpada told us to treat every practice and game like it was our last, and that really helped us enjoy  every minute of the season, making it even more special. No one was sure if we would be playing in the first place.”

“You got through the regular season, dominated throughout the postseason, and made your way to the championship. What was the preparation for a game like this? Especially with the pressure of going back to back?”

“It was a different experience, because last year we were the underdogs in our final three state games, as this year we were favorites. My teammates and I took a different approach this year as we continued to stay motivated.”

In a year of so much uncertainty, this year’s win was different, but another special one for the Mountaineers – as for Coach LaSpada, the team sang “Happy Birthday” to him in victory. Saturday’s win over Steinert would mark Coach LaSpada’s 6th State Title, adding to his long list of accolades. Zaun talked about what the celebration for LaSpada was like on his birthday:

“It was a great win for LaSpada on his birthday as he’s the person who built the program from the ground up. I think I can speak for all of us when I say he’s a great leader and person. Winning on his special day gave it that extra bit of specialness.”

Along with JJ, senior captain Will Luik discussed what it meant to win back to back championships, and the feeling of winning a Championship on Olcott Field:

“It was definitely a special moment that I will never forget. Last time I played in front of such a big crowd had to have been the game against Gill last year. Since we lost that game, I looked at our fans and felt I had let them down.” Luik said. “This year I made sure that wasn’t going to happen. Playing my final game on Olcott Field meant so much to me, as it feels like a second home. Winning there specifically made it so special.”

The Bernards boys soccer team finished their season a perfect 14-0, as their title-run collected wins from teams in groups 1, 2, and 3.