The NJCAA Men's Soccer Coaches Association named six inductees Thursday to the NJCAA Men's Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame's 2018 class.
For the first time in the Men's Soccer Hall of Fame's history, teams will now be permanently enshrined. In addition, a long-time Mercer County assistant coach and a defender who won two national championships during his time at Tyler are honored, too.
John Pietrowski began his career with Mercer County Community College in 1994 and is still actively coaching at age 83. During his tenure at the Trenton, New Jersey school, he has been associated with close to 400 victories including 18 region titles, 14 district titles, reaching the national tournament 14 times, finishing ten times in the top three in the country, including three NJCAA national championships. He has worked with four different head coaches including NJCAA Hall of Famers Charlie Inverso and Larry Povia.
"John [Pietrowski] is well respected by in the program," said Mercer County athletic director John Simone. "He is allowed to direct practices and in-game decisions due to his extensive knowledge of the sport."
The NJCAA honor marks the fifth Hall of Fame he has been inducted as a member to. Previously, he was inducted in the Mercer County Community College Hall of Fame in 2008 and in 2014, selected to the Northern Highlands Regional High School Hall of Fame where he coached for 27 years. In 1989, John was named to the New Jersey Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame and in 2000, into the Bergen County Boys Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
"John is a true expert when it comes to soccer strategy," said Simone. "They say you become an expert when you've put 10,000 hours into something, and John certainly has done that."
Pietrowski becomes the 11th contributor to be inducted to the NJCAA Men's Soccer Hall of Fame.
Brenton Griffiths was a stellar performer on defense leading Tyler Junior College to back-to-back national titles in 2009 and 2010. Brenton was an NJCAA and NSCAA All-Region and All-American in 2010. He was also named to the NJCAA All-Tournament team in 2010.
"Brenton was an outstanding player for us at Tyler Junior College," said Tyler men's soccer head coach Steve Clements. "His leadership and ability were key on the back lines helping Tyler to its first two national championships in men's soccer."
After graduating at the Texas school, he played at the University of South Florida and participated in two NCAA Tournaments advancing to the Elite 8 in 2011. During his time in Tampa, Griffiths made 40 appearances for the Bulls. Although a defender, Griffiths was no stranger to joining in the attack, scoring four goals and recording five assists during the second half of his collegiate soccer career.
He was drafted by the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer in the second round of the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. Griffiths would spend two seasons with the Rapids before making the move to Orange County FC, the United Soccer League affiliate of MLS side Los Angeles FC, where he made 61 appearances. In 2017, Griffiths moved to Reno, Nevada and is currently playing for Reno FC of the USL.
Griffiths is the seventh player from Tyler to be enshrined in the NJCAA Men's Soccer Hall of Fame, following most recent inductee Oniel Fisher (2016).
Four undefeated national championship squads become the teams to be inducted into the NJCAA Men's Soccer Hall of Fame.
1991 Mercer County Community College (23-0-0) from Trenton, New Jersey defeated Yavapai College 1-0 for the national championship. It marked the first time two teams were 22-0-0 entering a title match. That year, NJCAA Hall of Fame Head Coach Charlie Inverso led the Vikings to their fifth national title in their storied history dating back to 1961.
"The 1991 [men's soccer] team was one of the greatest in Mercer County history," said athletic director John Simone. "That says something, as there have been many great teams come through our program's storied history."
After their national title in 1991, the Viking men's program would go on to win three more national titles in 1995, 1996, and 2004. With 31 appearances, the Vikings have been in more national tournaments than any other NJCAA men's soccer program-- yet the 1991 team still remains the pinnacle of such a successful program and very much worthy of their induction in the 2018 Hall of Fame class.
1994 Herkimer County Community College (25-0-0) soccer team from New York won the first-ever NJCAA Division III national championship in a 1-0 win over Nassau County Community College. NJCAA Hall of Fame Head Coach Perry Nizzi was at the helm for the Generals.
Prior to the newly formed two-division NJCAA soccer structure in 1994, Herkimer had yet to appear in a national championship game. After the 1994 team's resounding success, the Herkimer men's soccer program would go on to unprecedented 15 title game appearances in 20 years. The Generals would win 10 national championships in that span include twice winning three consecutive titles in 1994-96 and again from 2011-13.
The 1994 team will always be looked at in Herkimer's history as the team that started their program's championship legacy.
2009 Tyler Junior College (21-0-0) won their first of six national championships after defeating Georgia Perimeter College in a shootout in the 2009 NJCAA Division I championship game after both teams battled to a 0-0 double overtime tie. NJCAA Hall of Fame Head Coach Steve Clements has guided all six-title teams for the Apaches.
"The 2009 team played in arguably the best final we've ever been a part of," recalled Tyler men's head coach Steve Clements. "After playing through two overtimes followed by winning the shootout against an outstanding Georgia Perimeter team made for a dramatic finish to an undefeated season."
This team is arguably one of the most talented in NJCAA history. The roster featured three future professional players, including MLS All-Star Dom Dwyer and 2018 Hall of Fame player inductee Brenton Griffiths. Dwyer currently sits on Orlando City SC's roster.
16 players from the 2009 team would go on to play at NCAA Division I programs. A few would enjoy captainships on those teams, with Joe Setchell (Rutgers), Martin Seiler (Penn State), Jack Bennett (St. John's), and both Kyle Nicholls and Dom Dwyer (South Florida) exhibiting their leadership abilities. Nicholls currently serves on the coaching staff of NCAA Division I NC State.
The team ushered in an era that can only be described as dominance from the Tyler men's program. The Apaches have been in all but one national championship game since 2009, winning their program's six titles in the process.
2008 Yavapai College (26-0-0) from Prescott, Arizona soccer team established a national intercollegiate record with 26 wins in one season, the most of any men's team at any level. The Roughriders completed a perfect season and captured their seventh national championship with a 1-0 victory over San Jacinto College. NJCAA Hall of Famer Michael Pantalione has coached all 702 matches in the program's history.
The 2008 Yavapai men's soccer team is unique from Tyler and Herkimer in this year's NJCAA Men's Soccer Hall of Fame team inductee class. The Roughriders didn't start a tradition, but rather excelled at one that was already set. By the time the 2008 team was in competition, Yavapai had already played in 12 national title contests, winning seven of them.
It was the dominance of the 2008 team that set them apart. The '08 Roughriders shutout 15 opponents and never allowed more than one goal per game all season finishing with a final average of 4.6 goals scored per game while on conceeding an average of just 0.4 goals per game en route to their eighth national championship.