For leading his team to the school's first state title since 1994, Somerville head coach Jeff Vanderbeek has been named WCTC's 2017 Coach of the Year.
The second-seeded Pioneers beat top-seed Rumson-Fair Haven - which was seeking a fifth straight championship - 20-15 in the Central Jersey Group 3 Final at Rutgers Saturday night. The Pioneers are 21-2 in Vanderbeek's two seasons as head coach.
The former owner of the NHL's Devils - which went to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012 under his ownership - took over as co-head coach at Somerville along with Chris Cassamento in 2015. Mired in a long-losing streak, the Pioneers snapped what - at the time - was the second longest losing streak in the state that first season: 26 games. They managed to win two games in total.
But in 2016, Cassamento was gone, and Vanderbeek was the head man on his own. After knocking off a defending state champ in Cranford on the road on opening night, Somerville ran the table in the regular season, before getting knocked off in the sectional semifinals by Rumson.
This season, Somerville took a regular season loss to Rahway, but reached the championship game with an opening round win over Ewing, and a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback against Monmouth Regional in the semifinals.