Hopewell Valley goalkeeper Robby Dorsett goes down to stop a shot in HoVal’s 2-1 win over Middletown North in the North 2 Group 3 final
played at Hopewell Valley Central High School on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Mike Schwartz Photography/mikeschwartz.photo.)

Rob Dorsett is an avid angler, and he was a big catch for the Hopewell Valley Central High School boys’ soccer team.

The senior was named the Colonial Valley Conference Goalkeeper of the Year after helping the Bulldogs go 20-5, win the North Jersey Section 2 Group III state championship and reach the Group III state semifinals.

“It’s a great honor,” Dorsett said. “There’s a lot of good teams. There’s a lot of good keepers in the CVC. We always have a lot of competition every year. To be named the Goalie of the Year was quite special and it was a real honor. I was happy.”

Dorsett has another soccer honor coming his way. On Jan. 8, 2017, he is among the invitees to the All-State Team banquet, but just being recognized in the league that witnessed his dominance game after game was a special way to finish his career.

“I think that’s one of my greatest honors in my life,” Dorsett said. “It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication I put into my soccer career over many years. It showed all the hard work has paid off.”

After almost a decade in goal, Dorsett is hanging up his cleats and goalie gear. It will give him more spare time for another passion: fishing.

“If I have free time, I typically go fishing — if I’m not playing soccer or doing something like that,” he said.

Locally, Dorsett has been hauling in bass, crappies and sunfish at Honey Lake by Elm Ridge Park, where his grandmother has a house, and he’s hooked trout in Stony Brook. Farther from home, his uncle takes him out on a boat in Rhode Island to fish in the ocean. His biggest catch, though, came in Alaska on a charter set up by his grandfather.

“I caught this massive 50-pound salmon,” Dorsett said. “I was little and I was trying to hold it up and I couldn’t. The captain had to come over and assist me. It was fun. It was a good fight. We later ate the fish, and it was delicious.”

Fishing and playing goal don’t have a lot of crossover. Fishing takes patience, and being a goalie means being on your toes all game.

“There’s some games where you can definitely sit back a bit,” Dorsett said. “Other games, like the state semifinal game, that was nonstop. The defense played great in that game. I have to attribute a lot of holding that team—I saw they were ranked 17th nationally or something like that—for 86 minutes at 0-0, I have to give it to the guys who are playing in the back. I did my part, and they did their part. We held them.”

The season ended on a controversial goal, with unbeaten Ramapo scoring after an apparent handball wasn’t seen by the officials.

“The guy had his back to the ref so he couldn’t see it,” Dorsett said. “Even with that, I’m still proud of the guys for how they played in that game.”

Just as the memories of his biggest catches won’t be forgotten, Dorsett is flooded with warm feelings about this soccer season. Dorsett was the final line of defense for a Hopewell team that made history with its first sectional crown since 2005. Along the way, Dorsett made 124 saves in his first year starting.

Dorsett started playing soccer when he was 4 or 5 years old, and at 10 he gave goalkeeping a chance. A coach, Mark Storton, put him in net one day, and he’s been there ever since.

“Everyone wants to be the big goal scorer, but as we started to get into more intense games, I started to realize that goalie is actually a really important position and you need to have a strong goalkeeper. Goalie became part of me. I just loved it,” he said.

Storton, who was once a goalkeeper with Leeds United, coached Dorsett with Kevin Cooke from U11 to U13 on the Hopewell Valley Cosmos for Hopewell Valley Soccer Association.

“He was strong, one of the strongest kids on the team,” said Cooke, whose son Justin also played on this year’s high school team. “He wasn’t afraid of anything.”

Dorsett, who was known then as Bobby, looked more comfortable in goal than in the field when he was still splitting time as a field player. Cooke has seen Dorsett evolve into a top notch goalie. He is more mobile than he was as a young goalie, yet as fearless as ever.

“It’s fantastic to see him and see him grow over the years,” Cooke said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the way he’s played on the field and as a friend to the players off the field. We’re happy for his success.”

Dorsett moved to the Pennington United Piranhas after 2012, where he was coached by Scott Markulec, whose son Dylan also played on this year’s Hopewell Valley team.

“Technically, as a goalie, he wasn’t there (yet), but he was and has always been really good at stopping shots,” Markulec said. “The reaction on the line to stop shots was special about him. When you think you had him beat, you didn’t. What separated him this year—he’s good in the air, coming off the line—was that his ability to stop shots on the line was quite impressive.”

Dorsett concentrated on playing goalie with Pennington, and his focus paid off. He began to improve in the little things that goalies need. “He was very quick to get left to right on a shot,” Markulec said. “Once he got his technique and angles and approach in the air, I knew he was going to be special.”

Backing his efforts was his family. His mother, Christine, who works in alumni relations and development at The Lawrenceville School, his father, Tom, who played soccer for Hopewell Valley and brother, Tommy, who is now at Bucknell University, all supported him.

Tom Dorsett started his son with soccer early on because of his own background in the sport.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t always motivated and sometimes I’d rather go do something else rather than play soccer, but they always made me go,” Dorsett admitted. “I eventually developed a deep strong love for the game and that just helped propel me to become a better player. I have to thank my parents for sticking with it and always assisting me in it.”

Dorsett didn’t just play. He also spent two years as a ref for HVSA, officiating the next generation of players. At each step in his playing career, the support has been there to give Dorsett the chance to develop. During his high school career, it’s been assistant coach Dan Balog with the Hopewell Valley team that worked closely with Dorsett in the final steps of his growth.

“On the teams I’ve played on, there’s almost always been a coach who’s experienced playing goalie who’s done drills with me during practice specifically related to goalkeeping,” Dorsett said. “That really helped me develop. Outside of that, I started going to the gym and working out to get stronger. And I have an older brother who would shoot on me. The combination of those things helped me develop into the player I became.”

Now, the AP and Honors student is ready to walk away from soccer. He plans to study biochemistry in college, and of course, find more time for fishing.

While he’s waiting for the fish to bite, he’ll have time to think back on what it was like to be goalie of the year for the sectional champs.

“With the chemistry that we had on this team, I don’t think it would be the same to play with any other group outside of this group at Hopewell,” he said. “I feel like if I would go anywhere else, it’d be a step down almost. I’d much rather end my career playing that last semifinal game with all the guys than go on and find a new team and try to do something else. This was a really special year and a special game and a great way to go out.”