HADDON TWP. – One year after sustaining a gut-wrenching loss in the state Group 1 championship game, the Glassboro High School boys soccer team has earned a chance at redemption.
The Bulldogs got second-half goals from Gorkem Ozdemir and Colin Bridges en rout to a 2-0 victory over Highland Park Wednesday in the state semifinal game played at Paul VI High School.
As a result, they will play for the state title for the second straight year when they take on New Providence Saturday at 12:30 at Kean University.
Last season, Glassboro lost a 3-2 overtime championship decision to Pompton Lakes. The Bulldogs have felt since then that an official’s call on a hand-ball contributed to the loss of that game.
“It’s haunted me since last year,” said Ozdemir. “I’ve had nightmares about it. As a team, we have five or six guys returning from that team and our one goal was to come back to the state finals and take it home.”
Ozdemir went a long way toward ensuring the Bulldogs would get that chance when he scored with 20:04 remaining in the second half.
Bridges, the son of coach Mark Bridges, assured the trip back to the finals when he connected 13 minutes later for the clincher.
“It feels awesome to get this far two years in a row, with us coming from such a small town,” Bridges said. “It feels great.”
According to the coach, the Bulldogs have pointed to this moment from the first day of the season.
“Our whole goal, once we started on Aug. 13 was to get back to the state championship game,” Mark Bridges. “These guys found a way to do it.”
On the way to last year’s final, the Bulldogs also defeated Highland Park by a 2-0 score.
The games were eerily similar in that both games saw Glassboro break a scoreless tie midway through the second half and then tack on an insurance goal late.
In this game, it was Ozdimer who found a way to get the ball into the goal – although just barely after he got a foot on a ball set in by Doel Colazzo.
It appeared the ball just skidded over the goal line before it was kicked out, but it counted on the scoreboard.
“Doel did what he had to do to cross the ball and luckily it just landed at my feel,” Ozdimer said. “I just finished the job. It was huge. That gave us the momentum and luckily we got one more from Colin.”
Bridges’ goal was set up with a pass from Aaron Harrison who put the ball near the middle of the field about 15 yards from the goal.
Bridges had an open shot and a lot of the goal to shoot at, even though it was a fairly long distance.
“It was a one-time volley,” Bridges said. “It was a good cross by Aaron. I didn’t know if I had time so I just winged it, and went for the shot.
“It felt great, especially in a state semifinal game – technically shutting the game down with another goal.”
Until Glassboro broke the game open, it was a tightly played game on both sides.
The Bulldogs seemed to have the better of the play in the first half, but Highland Park appeared to recover for a strong first 10 minutes of the second half.
However, Glassboro goalie Griffin Rogers would not give into the pressure.
Among his six saves was one spectacular one near the end of the first half when he made a diving stop on a belt-high shot that appeared ticketed for the corner.
Coach Bridges later said he viewed that save as one of the keys to the Bulldogs success.
“In the first half we were dominating play and our goalie was kind of sitting back there without a lot of action,” he said. “Then their kid hit a great shot, and Grif just stepped up an made a huge save.”
After falling behind, Highland Park tested Rogers a couple of more times, but he made the stops when he needed them.
Group 1 State Semifinal
Glassboro 0 2 -2
Highland Park 0 0-0
Goals: Gorkem Ozdemir, Colin Bridges.
Goalies: Griffin Rogers G, (6 saves). Elan Isaacson, HP, (8 saves)