Intensity and Fun Aplenty at Pinelands Soccer Association Goalie Wars

Aug 08, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Melissa Myslinski hasn’t been a goalkeeper on the soccer pitch for long, but the 13-year-old Pinelands Regional Junior High student has enjoyed playing the position so far.

“Sometimes it’s a little too much pressure,” she said. “But I like the thrill of diving for a ball and knocking it away from the goal. I play for fun.”

Not only did she have fun on Aug. 3, she made several big saves in front of her goal during the Pinelands Soccer Association’s annual Goalie Wars competition. In fact, the soon-to-be eighth-grader made a diving punch to her right on a solid strike by Erika Kangas to preserve a 2-0, overtime win to secure the under-12/14 1-on-1 championship.

“Last year, I didn’t do too well,” said Myslinski, who won four straight matches en route to the title. “I lost most of my games. This year, I won them all. I just focused more on the ball.”

The objective in the 1-on-1 “war” is to score on the opposing goalkeeper by either kicking, punting, drop-kicking or throwing the ball into the opposite goal on a 70-foot field. Each of the two halves is two minutes, followed by a 30-second overtime if the match is tied after regulation. If the game remains tied following overtime, a penalty-kick shootout decides the winner.

After winning three round-robin matches, the six-player field was whittled down to a pair for the final contest. Myslinski took a 5-4 lead into the second half, but Kangas outscored her, 4-3, during the final two minutes to force overtime.

During the overtime period, Myslinski converted a throw to the upper-right corner while Kangas missed the goal on her throw attempt. Myslinski’s next attempt – a right-footed kick to the left side of the goal – struck the post and bounced back into her half of the field, allowing her another immediate attempt, which she again tossed into the upper corner.

As time wound down, Kangas tried to cut the lead to one with a strike to the lower-left corner, but Myslinski dove to the grass and punched the ball away. Because she sent the ball out of bounds, Kangas would have had another shot, but time ran out.

“I watched the other keepers and where they would set up in front of the goal,” Myslinski said of her strategy. “The upper corners are hard to reach for a lot of goalkeepers, so I kept going for the corners.”

As for Nate Offenberg, striking the ball with his right foot seemed to be his go-to method for scoring, and it was extremely effective, particularly against defending boys under-9/11 champ and PSA keeper Antonio Guerrero. After a 10-10 match at the end of regulation, Offenberg successfully kicked in a pair of goals to win a 12-11 contest.

“This is the first time I’ve done an outdoor goalie war competition,” said the 11-year-old from Monroe. “I like diving for the ball. This was really fun. I like winning.”

In the under-12/14 boys’ bracket, PSA and Pinelands Regional Junior High keeper Aaron Johnson didn’t win his finals contest against Danny Varela, but he wasn’t too disappointed.

“I treat this like it’s a training session, to get experience and get better,” said the 13-year-old Johnson, whose older brother, Logan, was the high school’s varsity keeper last season. “It’s a fun thing to do, but I try to take it seriously and improve my skills as well.”

After Johnson cruised into the final with an 11-3 victory in the semifinals, Varela proved to be too much to handle. Varela regularly threw the ball into the goal for his points, taking a 5-2 halftime lead and ultimately ending up with an 8-3 victory in the championship.

“I was pretty happy to get to the final,” Johnson said. “I didn’t do well last year, and my intention was to get to the final and win. But Danny’s a good keeper, and he was better today.”

Varela also won the U12/14 punt-kick-throw competition, as did Offenberg. Zachary Matlik won both the U15/17 punt-kick-throw and 1-on-1 competitions as well. Ava Schmidt was a double winner in the U9/11 girls’ bracket, and Kaydence Fischer won the U12/14 girls’ kick-punt-throw. The annual competition had nearly three dozen keepers from throughout the state.

— David Biggy

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