Westfield’s Alyssa Martinez is NJ.com Soccer Player of the Year for 2021

The seconds on the clock were evaporating, but time stood still for Westfield when junior Alyssa martinez lined up his shot and let it tear in the dying moments of the Group 4 title match.

Rutgers’ commitment has played out in many big games, especially at club level where his team have competed for the national championships. It was different though.

It was perfect luck. A chance to leave a lasting legacy in Westfield.

Martinez hit his shot high and watched the keeper flip the ball and catch it while falling back into the net. At first, everyone froze, wondering what exactly had happened when there were only eight seconds left in the rules. When Westfield realized it was a goal, the Blue Devils lost it.

It was the only goal the Union County team needed to win their first state title since 1989.

Martinez was the hero that night and she is this year NJ.com Player of the year.

“It was an incredible moment to score the winning goal for the Group 4 title,” said Martinez. “It took me a while to figure out what really happened because of how quickly it happened. Come to think of it, it was pretty special to get big for the team and score that winning goal. I really wanted it because I knew what it would mean to end the season with a win. “

Westfield was putting pressure on Freehold Township during the final 20 minutes of the Group 4 final, but the Blue Devils were unable to connect. Blow after blow he headed for the net and Westfield continued to rack up plays that made the Kean University crowd hold their breath.

Air was removed from the stadium one last time on Martinez’s shot.

The cheers from the Westfield crowd afterwards were something special.

With less than a minute to go, it looked like the Group 4 final would end in extra time as two undefeated teams refused to budge in the biggest game of the season. Then Stetson commit Izzy Gauthier sent a ball into the field from the back line and everything changed.

Rutgers pledges Gabby Gil picked up the ball in midfield and took off.

The junior suffered a foul but withdrew the ball just before it fell to the ground. Officials put Westfield in the lead and play continued as the ball found its way to Martinez, who then passed it to junior Chiara Cosenza. Soon the ball was back at Martinez’s feet.

The junior rocked her defender with a big swing and there was an opening to shoot. Martinez didn’t hesitate when the opportunity presented itself and scored his 31st goal of the year.

“Alyssa has had a dream season,” said Westfield coach Alex Schmidt. “She is only the third player in Westfield history to score more than 30 goals in one season and the first player to achieve it since 1990. For our most dangerous forward to score her 31st goal of the season with eight seconds to play in Group 4 finals just proves why she’s the player of the year. Alyssa’s goal is arguably one of the greatest moments in our program’s history, if not the history of the Group 4 state tournament. ”

Martinez came out with a score against Summit in the season opener.

That first weekend, the junior scored three goals against a team from Eastern Brunswick who later won the Greater Middlesex Conference tournament. Martinez scored two goals against champion Hunterdon / Warren / Sussex Hunterdon Central in the sectional quarterfinals and an assist against Bergen County champion Ridgewood in the Group 4 semifinals.

She also knocked out the game winner against Governor Livingston in the Union County semifinals. A week later, Martinez and her teammates celebrated Westfield’s first all-time county title in 20 years.

“Of the many good things about Alyssa, the one that resonates the most with the coaching staff is that she always plays with something to prove,” Schmidt said. “Alyssa never stops working in the field. On the ball, her self-confidence allows her to be creative at shaking things up by dribbling, shooting or finding dangerous seam passes. Her memory is short, and she rarely hangs on the wrong pieces for too long. Off the ball, Alyssa relentlessly shuts down her opponents to win back the ball for the team, and her ability to time her runs behind defense is the best I have ever trained. Its success this season is not a “flash in a bottle” season. I expect next year she will want to match what she has done this year, proving to herself, her teammates and her opponents how dangerous she is around goal.

The only team that kept Martinez off the board this fall was Scotch Plains-Fanwood.

The junior, however, helped distract her teammates’ defensive attention in those games, which helped Westfield look open and deliver as they were 3-0-1 against their rivals. The Blue Devils beat this team in both the Union County Final and the North 2, Group 4 title game.

After losing the chance to win a county championship and a regional title a year ago due to a late-season COVID stoppage, this year was special for Westfield. The Blue Devils finished 21-0-1 and filled the trophy case for a year no one will ever forget.

“It was really special because we didn’t have the season we wanted to have last year and no one really got a chance to see how much potential we had,” said Martinez. “This year we definitely played for the seniors from last year. We also wanted to show how hard we worked last year to improve and we wanted to leave everything on the pitch.

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Brandon Gould can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @BrandonGouldHS.