BLOOMFIELD, NJ (updated Tuesday Sept. 20, 12:19 p.m.) – Coming off a 10-5-4 season which included winning the Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division title, the Bloomfield High School boys’ varsity soccer team is faced with new challenges this season, according to head coach Mike Aiello.
Aiello, whose team made the move up to the American Division of the SEC, said the Bengals graduated 20 seniors from last year’s team and also had a couple of players join academy teams.
“Sophomores David Quinatoa and Jason Ricca are the only returning starters from last year’s squad,” said Aiello. “We’re going to be a very young team this year, made up of mainly sophomores, but are very excited to be a part of what is probably the best division in the entire state.”
The Bengals were off to a tough 0-3-1 start through Sept. 15.
Considering the team’s age and inexperience, Aiello has tempered expectations.
“Our two biggest goals for this season are to outwork our opponents and improve everyday,” he said. “With such a young but very talented group, I am excited for how much better we’re going to get just from having the experience of playing against some of the best teams in the state.”
Despite having a youthful group, Aiello knows his Bengals could have success if they can play to their strengths.
“Our biggest strength is how hard we work,” he said. “Our sessions, since Day 1, have been fantastic because of the work ethic. Couple that with our skill and our drive to improve each day, I think we will be a strong team, not only this season, but for the next couple of years, as well.”
The BHS coach said several players will lead the team.
“We expect sophomore Jason Ricca to play a big role for us this season. He started every game in the middle of the field for us last season,” Aiello said. “Senior Keijon Davis is starting at center back for us this season and had been fantastic all preseason. He is a great athlete and we’re really excited to have him starting in the back after playing and growing tremendously as a player over the past couple of years. I have been impressed with the leadership roles Keijon and Jason have assumed on their own. Senior Michael Wills is another player we expect big things from. Mikey was pulled up to varsity last season as a junior and in his first match against Millburn, he scored a goal. He ended with five or six goals for us after spending a third of the season with JV.
“Sophomore Jean Pereya is starting next to Keijon in the back,” Aiello added. “He is a very skilled, strong player that can see time at almost any position. Along with Jason in the middle of the field, we are looking to sophomore John Fabiano, senior Ogechi Chikezie, and freshman Anthony Rizzi to step up for us. We’re going to be extremely young this season, but if we can defend well, stay organized, and play quick, we like our chances to compete this season. I don’t like to use the word ‘weakness’ so I will say that our biggest area of growth will be lack of experience at this level. But I expect our guys to get acclimated very quickly.”
Helping Aiello this season are returning coaches Rich Adams, who will continue to coach the freshman team; and Steve Griffith, who coaches the JV team. Kevin Rennie, who graduated from BHS in 2014 after spending four years as a member of the varsity team, will serve as the varsity assistant.
“I was the assistant during two of those seasons before taking over for varsity last year,” Aiello said. “As a player, Kevin was a coach on the field – extremely intelligent and also extremely hard working. He’s been a great addition to the program.”
BHS lost to Montclair, 4-0, at home on Sept. 13 in a SEC-American Division game.
Nick Kovach had a goal on an assist by Ricca in the 2-1 loss at Columbia in Maplewood on Sept. 15 in a SEC non-division game. Matthew Vitella made four saves for the Bengals.