Heading into the 2013 season, Bishop Ahr High School girls soccer coach Jim Tavormina knew that he had a solid group on his hands. What he did not know was that he’d be at the helm of the team that would capture the school’s first state championship, using a near-1000-minute scoreless streak in the regular season to set it up.
“Our defense just seemed to gel this season; the girls just worked hard and stayed with it and we had an exceptional group this year,” Tavormina said. “The girls do all the work and they make me look good.”
Bishop Ahr (17-2-2) shut out Immaculate Heart 1-0 in the Non-Public A State Final, adding the icing to the cake of a dominant season.
Tavormina is The Home News Tribune’s Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.
“It was huge for the girls and the program itself to win that game,” Tavormina said. “We went in there with a lot of confidence and the girls weren’t scared at all. It was their time.”
One of his four-year standouts, midfielder Alexa Povelaitis, said that Tavormina was a coach she loved playing for, not only because of the results on the field.
“He’s motivational for us and helps us to get through the doubt and uncertainty,” she said. “He makes us better and he’s always there for us when we may have a rough game.”
After allowing one goal in a 1-0 loss to Old Bridge on Sept. 10, the Trojans didn’t allow another ball to cross the goal line until the Greater Middlesex Conference semifinals against East Brunswick on Halloween.
But after that defeat, Bishop Ahr refused to lose again, going on a run for the ages through the state tournament. In the first two rounds, the Trojans needed penalty kicks to beat St. John Vianney and perennial state-power Pingry, and yet another shutout over Holy Cross put them into the Non-Public A State Final against IHA. Tavormina said that playing a non-conference game before the GMCT helped in his team’s preparation for their deep postseason run.
“We played Freehold Borough on Oct. 22 and beat them 1-0, and that was a big confidence boost for us towards the end of the season,” he said. “And we did penalty kicks every single practice, when the girls were nice and tired. Let’s face it: when you go into penalty kicks, it’s after 100 minutes and you’re dead tired, so we were pretty confident in those situations and we thought we’d have a good chance of winning every one of them.”
Tavormina, who is flanked by two assistant coaches during every game and practice, said that he couldn’t have done it without their help. Ernie Tenny, who’s been with Tavormina for all seven years at Bishop Ahr, and first-year coach Scott Laulette worked with the Trojans to get them prepared for anything they’d see this season.
“I’m so happy for the girls and the coaching staff and we did everything you can do in the summer to get prepared. Every day we worked together and we saw the girls grow from the beginning of the season; they played with more confidence and we kept it positive,” Tavormina said.