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S.J. boys' soccer player of the year: Matt Fahey, Williamstown

The success of the Williamstown boys' soccer team's defense this year was akin to a pitcher's throwing a no-hitter in baseball.

The success of the Williamstown boys' soccer team's defense this year was akin to a pitcher's throwing a no-hitter in baseball.

When a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, it goes unspoken in the dugout. No one wants to be the one to jinx the pitcher's success.

There were points this season when the Braves defense was playing so well that it almost seemed no mention should be made of it.

But that wasn't the team's approach.

"We loved that shutout streak. We talked about shutouts all the time," said senior defender Matt Fahey, this year's Inquirer South Jersey boys' soccer player of the year. "Our defense never wanted to get scored on. Our keeper [Jason Sass] hated giving goals up. That was our mind-set: No one was going to score on us."

Fahey led a defense that allowed just 10 goals in 25 games this season.

The Braves ended the season having allowed just two goals over their final 14 games.

They didn't allow a goal in three postseason games, including the match they lost in penalty kicks to Rancocas Valley in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals.

They allowed just one goal in the three Coaches Tournament games - a miracle score off a 40-yard free kick by Cherry Hill West in the championship game.

In total, Williamstown posted 18 shutouts this season.

"We had great team chemistry, we all knew each other from outside the team, we all grew up with each other," Fahey said. "We all had the same goal in mind."

What made the season truly special for Fahey was that his defense's success translated into team success.

This was arguably the best season in the history of Williamstown boys' soccer.

The Braves' 19 wins were a single-season school record.

Their trip to the Coaches Tournament final wasn't just a first for Williamstown. It was a first for any team in the Tri-County Royal Division - a division that the Braves won this year for the third consecutive season.

And no other Williamstown team has ever allowed just 10 goals in a season.

"That's actually the one thing we were kind of disappointed about," Fahey said. "We were trying to keep it to single digits."

The statement speaks to what Fahey brought to his team this year.

Physically - at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds - he was the most imposing defender in South Jersey. He was fast, tough. He was unstoppable in the air, an aggressive tackler, and a strong one-on-one defender.

"He was consistently dominant from the beginning of the year, he was the total package.," said coach Dave Geyer. "It wasn't Matt alone, but he was the anchor to what we did."

And as much as his play stood out, he was just as integral in his ability to keep his team focused and centered and enormously consistent.

Fahey was a four-year starter for the Braves, and Geyer said he became like another coach on the field.

"He's vocal, he has a great soccer IQ," Geyer said. "We brought Matt up to varsity in the middle of his freshman year and he hasn't missed a game since. He just had a very good understanding of what we were trying to do on the field and what everybody's roles were."

For Fahey, it was his pleasure. He considers his teammates his best friends. And when asked what he'll remember most, he said it was the players.

"I'll never forget any player on this team. Just like I remember all the records and the wins, I can name you every single player on our roster," Fahey said. "Everyone played a huge role - if they weren't playing in the games, they were still helping us out in practice. We all just worked for each other. And that was the best part."