SOMERVILLE, NJ - Millburn's Spenser Heller did what he always did for Millburn when he took a shot from 30-yards out in overtime of Wednesday's 2-1 win over Montclair: he took a shot, saw the goalie make a save, then retreated to play defense. This shot was different.
Instead of the shot ending in a save, the ball, slick with condensation from the cold weather, slipped threw the hands of the Montclair goal keeper and into the net, ending a match that once looked like 1-0 defeat into a 2-1 win for Millburn in the NJSIAA Group 4 boys' varsity soccer semi-final.
"I was surprised," Heller said. "I turned away because I thought the goalie had it. I heard the crowd cheering and saw it in the back of the net."
Dropped balls was a common theme of Wednesday night's match for Montclair. The Mounties were two minutes away from advancing to the finals in regulation, before goal keeper Brian Hartnett dropped a save on a throw-in that led to Montclair's first goal.
Miller defenseman Jack Goldberg hurled the ball towards the net from the corner. As Hartnett leaped for the save, he collided with a Millburn player, dropping the ball during the contact. Millburn's Nathan Nacheff found the ball on the turf and kicked it into the open net to tie the game with 2:02 remaining in regulation.
"The game against Scotch Plains, we were down 2-0 and we just kept fighting back and had a last minute goal," Millburn goal keeper Marc Langendorff said. "I knew we were capable of scoring a last minute goal. I was a little bit nervous. I wanted our team to get going because we struggled in the beginning. I was just hoping we could get one more late goal and get into overtime and move to the finals."
While the Millers celebrated the game-tying goal, Seamen and Montclair forward Jasper Shorter lodged extensive arguments with the referee, claiming the contact on the keeper should have resulted in a foul. Both players were booked with red cards for unsportsmanlike conduct and disqualified from the game, leaving the Mounties with only nine players on the field for the remainder of the match.
In overtime, the two-man advantage fueled Millburn into several scoring chances. With Montclair only playing three defensemen, Heller found the whole at the top of the box to score the game winning goal.
This was the third one-goal match between the two teams, with both sides getting the win on the road. Despite being behind 1-0 in the match, Millburn head coach Jason Robinson preferred being behind a goal, instead of ahead.
"I was actually kind of worried being ahead 1-0," Robinson said. "I knew whoever was up 1-0 was going to get hammered until the game ended. It wasn't so bad because I don't mind watching instead of taking. You have to fight and hope something good happens in the end."
Millburn advances to the Group 4 Final where they will face Monroe, who defeated Washington Township 1-0.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. The match will be played at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, N.J.