By Brian Deakyne
RUMSON – Even Schuyler DeBree admits it.
As the only senior on a team filled with youth and inexperience, no serious goals were set for the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School girls’ soccer team this fall.
But that same team wound up being the best Group 2 team in New Jersey behind DeBree’s leadership and a big season from freshman Grace Forsyth.
“To be honest, my main goal wasn’t to motivate them to be good. My main motivation was to make sure that they had fun this season and to make sure that I had a fun last senior year,” DeBree said. “As long as we were working hard, that’s all that I cared about. I had very low expectations for this season, of course, you look at how we lost nine starting seniors and I was coming in as the only senior, so I set my expectations low and then I saw our potential about midway through the year and got very excited.”
“Coming in, I wasn’t even sure that I would make the team, honestly,” Forsyth said. “When I started playing, my team really came together and they just helped me a lot. In the end, we won.”
RFH didn’t get going until late in the season. The Bulldogs were eliminated from the Shore Conference Tournament in the second round, and entered the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 state sectional tournament as a seven-seed with lofty expectations to win.
But Rumson did just that, eventually beating four-seeded Delran, 3-1, in the final.
“No way. I thought maybe we could get close to the sectional title; I didn’t even think we could win a sectional title,” DeBree said. “In our first week of tryouts, there’s no way I would have thought we could win.”
And Rumson’s success didn’t stop there. It went on to win the overall Group 2 title over Bernards, 2-1. In the Group 2 semifinal, Rumson beat West Deptford, 1-0, in overtime behind Forsyth’s game-winning goal.
“Honestly, I just went out there hoping to do whatever I could to make my team win,” Forsyth said. “If scoring goals was how I could do that, then that’s what I was going to do. I didn’t really expect to have this big of an impact, but I knew that I was going to try as hard as I could to help the team win.”
The win was RFH’s first overall Group 2 title since 2006, and with one senior, it was arguably one of the youngest teams to ever win a state championship.
“At the beginning, it was a little weird, but I think it benefitted us at the end, just because there were no grade lines and it contributed to the chemistry of the team and that helped us succeed in the end,” DeBree said.
“It’s really insane and I didn’t really expect it at all,” Forsyth said of the team’s success. “I just went in knowing I would work as hard as I could and play as well as I could and it all came together in the end.”
Forsyth, who attends the Academy of Allied Health and Sciences in Neptune, led the team in goals with 15. She plays for RFH because Allied has no sports program.
DeBree, who will continue her career at Duke University next fall, was second on the team with 12 goals.
“I really wanted to have fun my senior year, but of course, you have more fun when you’re winning,” DeBree said. “To be able to win so many hard-fought games and to win as an underdog and to win my last game as a senior in high school was really incredible. I don’t have enough words to describe the feeling that I had once we had won the final game. It was the best senior year I could have asked for.”
“I didn’t expect it in the beginning of the season,” Forsyth said. “Going in, I didn’t really know a lot about high school soccer because I’d never played before, but I didn’t expect to win because we were such a young team and usually teams with a lot of seniors win big titles. But, we really came together as a team and had a lot of chemistry.”
As for Forsyth and the rest of the younger players, this past fall will set the bar high for the future.
“We have high hopes for next year,” Forsyth said.