Knights finally get by Cougars for state title

Nicolas Ricciardi of Gill St. Bernard's moves the ball past Montclair Kimberley Academy's Daniel Barrett (12) in the Non-Public B final at The College of New Jersey on Monday. Photo by: Robert Ward

Nicolas Ricciardi of Gill St. Bernard’s moves the ball past Montclair Kimberley Academy’s Daniel Barrett (12) in the Non-Public B final at The College of New Jersey on Monday. Photo by: Robert Ward

EWING — The third time was a charm for The Gill St. Bernard’s School boys soccer team. Behind second-half goals from Justin Durcan and James Reiner, the Knights finally got past Montclair Kimberley in the NJSIAA Non-Public B Final, 2-0, Monday evening at Lions Stadium on the campus of The College of New Jersey.

The two teams had met in this matchup in each of the last two seasons, with Montclair Kimberley winning both times, but the Gill St. Bernard’s two stars ensured it wouldn’t happen again.

“We’ve viewed it this way: for this year’s team, with so many departing seniors, it was good to get back here,” Gill St. Bernard’s head coach Tony Bednarsky said. “As a program, we needed this one. Hats off to MKA, they played great, but we’ve been bridesmaids to them the last two years and it’s finally nice to get the monkey off of our backs.”

Durcan’s goal in the 45th minute proved to be the game-winner once he ran through the Montclair Kimberley defense and finished on his right foot from inside the box. The tally was his 21st of the season, but Reiner one-upped his classmate.

With 7:50 remaining, Durcan played a free kick into the box, where Reiner worked it to his feet. The senior turned and ripped a shot past MKA goalkeeper David Kauffman to double the lead and put it out of reach. It was his 23rd goal of the season and ended any chance the Cougars had at making it three straight state titles.

“I had a couple of chances throughout the game, but I just stayed persistent throughout the entire game and I knew that it was going to come and I just took advantage of the opportunity,” Reiner said. “Losing to them two years in a row were two of the hardest things I ever had to go through, so we just kept believing that we had the squad to come back this year and take care of business. We just stayed persistent and stayed focused.”

On Nov. 3, the Knights topped Montclair Kimberley 4-1 for the Prep B title, as Durcan registered a hat trick. His goal didn’t put Gill St. Bernard’s at ease on Monday night, according to Bednarsky, but Reiner’s did.

“The first goal was very important, but I don’t know if we felt more at ease after it,” Bednarsky said. “But after the second goal, we definitely did. Reiner has been doing that on set pieces for us all year and that allowed us to breathe a lot easier.”

Montclair Kimberley turned up the pressure in the second half, using their stars Malcolm Dixon and Wesley Wade, both of whom are committed to play at the University of Virginia in two years, but goalkeeper Jordan Schreer had all the answers. The junior made seven saves to pitch the shutout, which was impressive to his coach.

“Jordan played great. He was more than stellar in goal for us tonight,” Bednarsky said.

Gill St. Bernard’s has now won two NJSIAA state titles in school history, with the first coming in 2009, when the Knights beat St. Rose.

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