No. 6 Cherry Hill East Boys Soccer defeats No. 11 Rancocas Valley in Round One of the South West Group 4 Playoffs.


Courtesy of Tyler Leomporra (‘21).

The Cherry Hill East Boys Soccer team comes off a great victory in a game against Rancocas Valley.

On Saturday, goalkeeper Matt Mueller (‘21) was as cool as the frigid November air walking towards the net he had practiced on for years. Hundreds of eyes were on him as he took his stance, ready to lead East to a victory in what was the most intense game all season. After a draw brought the teams through two overtime periods, it all came down to the ten players and two goalies who would define this game.

Matt Mueller (‘21) is all smiles behind that mask after his performance in net after round one of the playoffs. (Courtesy of Lin Asari (’21)).

And Mueller would prevail. He would shift left and catch the initial shot from Rancocas Valley’s first penalty taker. Drew Luehrs (‘21), Adam Blumenthal (‘23), Robbie Awaida (‘21) and Jakub Samelko (‘23) would convert the penalties for East, but it was Mueller who clinched the game. It took a dive to the left that blocked an RV penalty, giving East a monumental victory in this year’s playoffs.

The crowd was decked out in red gear, cheering for the Cougars all game long, an electric atmosphere that has been lacking during the pandemic. Rancocas Valley entered the game with a record of 2-4, but has had many games cancelled due to COVID-19, and East entered the game 6-4-3.

Yet for all of the cheers all game long, it was eerily quiet for a span of 7 minutes.

“I just kept a clear mind,” said Mueller, as if it was simply another day on the job. He would record over 3 saves on the game, and protected the net from all but one of RV’s 14 shots on goal this game. The team and fans mobbed the field, but there were 100 minutes of game that led to the key moment.

Rancocas Valley began the game with lots of pressure on the East back line. The game would see 15 corner kicks, and several took place early on. Ten minutes into the game, the momentum shifted and East began to press RV with play from Semelko and Hank Feudtner (‘21). Luke Luehrs (‘21) would get involved early on as well, using his signature shielding to hold up play and set up his fellow attackers.

East would nearly convert two more chances before halftime, but the back-and-forth action ended with a 0-0 draw heading into the second period. Rei O’brien (‘21) had a rip from twenty yards out saved, while Blumenthal danced between defenders before having his own chance saved.

The second half began with lots of pressure from Samelko as he made moves down the left sideline. Pierce Atkins (‘22), Hugo Campoverde (‘21) and Awaida would run the midfield this half as Blumenthal and Pfeiffenberger (‘23) supported as well. Luke Luehrs hit the crossbar with 15 minutes remaining, and Mueller came up with two key saves as the game entered crunch time.
Rancocas Valley would get on the score sheet first with 10 minutes remaining, though, as Jack Orendac scored with an assist from Anthony Yarabinee in the middle. After that goal, though, it was all Cougars.

Luke Luehrs celebrates after a Samelko goal late in the second half. (Courtesy of Tyler Leomporra (‘21)).

Samelko continued to work down the sideline until he saw an opportunity to cut back, firing at the net from distance. The ball would skip by several defenders and take slight deflections to get past the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. The crowd would go crazy as the Cougars flashed their way back into the game, taking it to overtime after the goal in the 35th minute. As Drew Luehrs ran down the pitch, it seemed like it would be the last chance of regular time, but it ended with a shot being blocked.

The first and second overtime periods saw some great goalkeeping and lots of flare from both sides. East would nearly miss on two headers by Samelko, while RV sent three shots wide. Blumenthal would get past four defenders, but missed a near-post chance late in the second overtime, though, while Mueller came up with a fantastic save, floating to his left and tipping the ball over the net.

The game was sent to penalty kicks, and the rest is history.

Coach Mike Melograna said after the game “there was a reason we were supposed to win that game.”

“Some things you can’t control, but this team played very hard against a good club. I lost my mom one year ago to Alzheimers, and it was her birthday yesterday. That goal seemed like a gift from her.”

Mike Melograna poses for the camera after a hard-fought win by the Cougars. (Courtesy of Lin Asari (‘21)).


The Cougars take on No. 14 Vineland, who did not play in the first round due to Covid complications, for No. 3 Kingsway. The game will be at Decou on Tuesday. ROLL COUGS.