HADDON TOWNSHIP – Throughout the entire season Sinan Tuzcu has been the most reliable scorer and arguably the best player for the Glassboro High School boys soccer team.
It was no surprise, then, that with their season hanging in the balance, the Bulldogs looked to Tuzcu to come through for them. It was even less of a surprise that he delivered.
The senior striker broke a scoreless tie with a goal 13 minutes into the second half and Glassboro went on to post a 2-0 win over Highland Park in a Group 1 state semifinal game at Paul VI High School.
The Bulldogs, who had won their first South Jersey championship since 1976, will now play for the Group 1 state championship Sunday in a matchup against Pompton Lakes at Kean University.
“Getting to the state final is a dream come true,” said Tuzcu. “Our coach believed in us, he told us we could do this yesterday at practice and we did it.”
The teams had fought to a standstill through the first 53 minutes of the game, so the first goal by either was bound to be a big one.
“Scoring the first goal (with an assist from Jon Torres) breaks out the whole team,” said Tuzcu, one of the state leaders with 30 goals this season. “If we score one goal, we don’t stop we just keep on going.”
True to Tuzcu’s word, the Bulldogs added a second crucial goal nine minutes later when Sefa Gocmez connected with an assist from Emir Gocmez.
He fired a shot that hit the cross bar and bounced down over the goal line. The game officials discussed the play for a moment than ruled it a good goal.
“It was a great goal,” Sefa Gocmez said. “I knew it went it. I was telling everybody it was a goal and then they called it. It was a great feeling. I was so excited.”
A two-goal lead, coming at that time, made the lead insurmountable.
“After that second,” Sefa Gocmez said, “we just had to defend.”
Sophomore goalie Griffin Rogers preserved the shutout with three saves for the Bulldogs.
While Tuzcu has been the focal point of the team, he is not the only one who has contributed to Glassboro’s overall success.
Coach Mark Bridges says he knew the team had something special going way back in the beginning of the season, and possibly even before that.
“The kids have played great all year,” he said. “I said coming into the season, I told everybody, this is the first time we had a team with no holes. You didn’t have to hide anybody.
“We had a solid defense coming back, a solid midfield coming back and we had two solid strikers coming back. The only thing we had new was a rookie goalie and he’s played out of his mind all year.”
Tuzcu’s goal came after he was confronted with some mild disciplinary action from Bridges. Only a couple of minutes before scoring, Tuzcu was called to the sideline for a discussion with the coach.
“He wasn’t doing what we were asking him to do,” Bridges said. “He wasn’t as active as we like him to be. And he was checking back too far.
“When he got back in there and was a little angry, and when he got in he scored right away.”
Tuzcu said he was frustrated after he was unable to break out and find some open spaces.
“After he called me off I did what the coach told me to do,” he said. “I just had a feeling after that I was going to score a goal.”
However, if there was a small conflict between coach and player, those instances have been rare this season. Generally Bridges says Tuzcu has been a good player for the team all season.
“He’s a heckuva player,” he said. “He’s probably the best striker I’ve ever had. We needed him to do what we’re asking him to do. When he does that we’re hard to beat.”
State Group 1 Semfinal
Highland Park 0 0 -0
Glassboro 0 2 -2
Goals: Sinan Tuzco, Sefa Gocmez, Goalies: Griffin Rogers, G, (3 saves), Elan Iasscson, HP (5 saves)