MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The Columbia High School varsity boys’ soccer team has the makings of being a sleeper team as the Essex County Tournament looms.
“Keep an eye on this team,” said CHS head coach Josh Russotto of his squad, which had a 7-5 overall record entering the week. “They can play with any team. I suspect Columbia will receive a top 10 seed in the ECT and our aims will be high. These guys have high standards.”
The ECT seeding meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 10.
The Cougars won two games to end last week.
Joe Dente’s left-footed overtime goal lifted the Cougars to a 1-0 win over Glen Ridge at CHS Ritzer Field on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Alex Lauder had the assist on the goal. Sam Maidenberg made eight saves for CHS.
Dente and Avery Coreschi scored second-half goals as the Cougars overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Bayonne, 2-1, Friday, Oct. 6, at CHS Ritzer Field.
Maidenberg made eight saves.
Dente, a senior forward, has seven goals and three assists entering the week.
“Joe is the leading scorer on the team and one of the leading scorers in Essex County,” Russotto said. “He has stepped it up big time for Columbia, tallying four game-winning goals against Newark Academy, East Side (overtime), Glen Ridge (overtime), and Bayonne. He also recorded a first-half hat trick against Bloomfield in a 4-1 victory.”
Coreschi, another senior forward, also has been a strong contributor with four goals and three assists entering the week.
“After taking a year off from soccer, Coreschi has rejoined Columbia and is making big plays as Dente’s strike partner,” Russotto said. “He’s made highlight-reel goals or assists versus Verona, East Side, Nutley (two goals) and Bayonne.”
Maidenberg, a junior captain, has been solid in net. Entering the week, Maidenberg has posted 116 saves and three clean sheets, and allowed just 11 goals in 12 games.
“Sam’s in-game communication, decision-making, and ability to read the game have really impressed this season,” Russotto lauded. “His maturity and leadership has given all the new players in our back line, guidance and confidence. His best moments have come in the biggest games against powerhouses Seton Hall and West Orange. He’s made diving saves, daring interceptions with his feet outside the penalty box, and has launched our attack with majestic 70-plus-yard drop-kicks. Both those games were 1-0 losses to state-ranked opponents. The West Orange loss came on a penalty-kick. The Seton Hall Prep loss came on a botched corner kick clearance.”
Russotto also has praised his midfielders.
“Our tireless midfielders have provided the defensive pressure that has given our guys more scoring opportunities. Senior captains Sammy Freedson (1 g goal, 1 assist), Alex Lauder (1 assist), Cameron Donald (1 goal), Senior Steven Kattouff (2 goals, 1 assist) and junior Julian Lyons (2 goals) have been great examples of relentless effort, emotional energy, and winning attitudes. Their energy has been the life blood of this squad.”
Russotto also has been pleased with the progress of his defenders.
“Many of the players in our back line have been newcomers to the team as we’ve developed a deep rotation in our three- and four-back sets,” he said. “The most pleasant surprise has come from junior center back Frederik Hoffman, a transfer from Seton Hall Prep. His communication, size, and aggressive play have really helped us. Sophomore standout Daniel Teitelbaum has been able to earn a starting spot with his quickness and athleticism. Junior Alistair Sim’s awareness, passing, and positioning has given us stability in October. Juniors Connor Thompson, Ethan Pidgeon and Devin Rocha have all been in the mix, starting 5-7 games each. Their tackling, heading and quickness have been vital to our victories.”
The players off the bench are providing key contributions as well. “Our supporting role players have come in off the bench to give us punch and balance with key players injured and regulars tired,” Russotto said. “Luke Scafidi, Max Finnamore, Marc Alexandre, Bismark Asiedu, Jack Dossett and Finn Bascio have stepped it up with major contributions on both sides of the ball.”
The Cougars hope to keep making solid progress after going 4-2 in the past two weeks with brilliant victories over Newark East Side, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge and Bayonne.
“The team is beginning to mature,” Russotto said. “They’ve dealt with adversity and are beginning to understand the importance of a growth mindset, a winning attitude, and how to control their emotional energy. We need to be consistent and all our actions must be above the line. Columbia is 6-1 in the SEC (Super Essex Conference)-Liberty Division with one game remaining against divisional foe East Orange. They’ve stood up against the SEC-American Division foes, having beaten Newark East Side and succumbed to 1-0 defeats against powerhouses Seton Hall Prep and West Orange.”
The Cougars had a key matchup against SEC-American Division foe Millburn on Oct. 11.
NOTES: Senior midfielder Ben Olender, senior back Josh Anthony, and sophomore forward Mack Turi have been out the past month with various injuries. Junior back Connor Thompson has sustained two concussions since August and is currently making his way back through protocol, said Russotto.