Nutley HS boys’ soccer team seeks successful season with new head coach and Raider alum Tom Tolve

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NUTLEY, NJ (updated Friday Sept. 8, 10:34 a.m.) – Under new head coach Tom Tolve, the Nutley High School boys’ varsity soccer team hopes to have a successful season.

Tolve, a former NHS boys’ soccer player who was an assistant coach for the team last year, is thrilled at becoming the new coach, succeeding longtime head coach and mentor Marcellino Marra, who is now the athletic director at Belleville HS.

“Becoming the coach for the Nutley soccer team is an honor, and something I have dreamed of doing for a long time, starting when I was a player for this team,” Tolve said in an email to The Nutley Journal/ “When I had the opportunity to return to Nutley last year as the assistant coach, I was eager and ready to help grow this program. Now that I am the head coach, I can’t even begin to explain how excited and ready I am to take this program to the next level.

“The program is built on teaching these young adults the game of soccer, as well as life skills they can take with them and use going forward in their lives,” continued Tolve. “I am happy to be here, and can’t even begin to express how proud I am of all the guys in this program. The dedication, work ethic, and discipline I have observed from the players is great, and just shows how far we have come as a program.”

The Raiders, indeed, are determined to improve on last year’s 7-13 record. NHS will host Bloomfield in the season opener Sept. 7 at 4 p.m.

“This season we have a lot of new faces on the team, and players who are ready to make their mark on the field,” Tolve said. “Austin Sweeney is a junior captain who is ready to take on a bigger role this season. This is his second year on the varsity team. He is a versatile player who has been playing the outside midfield position, but can fill multiple positions on the field. It’s always great to have a guy like that, and that’s going to be key for us this season.”

Senior captain Matt Scorsone is in his third year on the varsity team. “Matt plays the center back position, and brings the height and strength we need on the defensive end,” Tolve said. “He is great at winning the ball in the air, and distributing from the back. He’s key for us on corner kicks and set pieces on both offense and defense. Matt has been a great leader, and has taken a few up-and-coming guys under his wing.”

Senior captain Ilya Udalov also provides experience as a four-year letterwinner. “Ilya is an extremely skillful outside midfielder,” Tolve said. “He has the pace and foot skills to get by any defender he faces. He is extremely dangerous in front of goal, and can be a handful for opposing teams to deal with.”

JP Maruri is an impressive sophomore newcomer who has made an impact in preseason games at the center attacking mid position. “JP has a great first touch, and is able to use his skills to take on and get by multiple opposing players at once,” Tolve said. “He is great with both the right and left foot, which is difficult to find in a player. He controls the middle of the field, and is able to effectively distribute the ball to our outside mids and forwards when on the offensive end. He has a very bright future here at Nutley and is definitely a name people will start to become familiar with.”

Make no mistake, the Raiders want to make some noise this season, including winning the Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division. They also are looking to qualify for the state tournament and make a deep run.

“We are in a very competitive conference, but I am confident if we stay focused, disciplined, and play hard every game, that we will do very well in the conference,” Tolve said. “Getting to the state tournament is another goal of ours. The state tournament is a different story, records don’t matter there. The best team will advance, so we need to be ready for any team we face. I constantly tell the team that we need to take it one game at a time. We have to win one, before we can win two. We have a game plan for each game, and every team we face.”

Soccer has always been an important part of Tolve’s life. He grew up playing for teams like Ironbound SC and Pasco Stallions in competitive leagues and tournaments. In high school,  Tolve was a three-year varsity player for Coach Marra. Tolve considers Marra a mentor.

Marra is “someone who I have learned a great amount from,” Tolve said. “He was always a support system for me during my high school career, college career, and now in my coaching career. As a senior captain for the Raiders in 2010, Tolve finished with 15 goals and 14 assists to earn first team all-conference, first team all-county, and second team all-state accolades.

Tolve attended Drew University where he was a three-year starter as an outside mid/forward. He was an all-Landmark Conference award winner.

Following his playing career, Tolve chose to pursue coaching. His first coaching opportunity was at Morristown-Beard High School where he led the junior varsity girls’ team to an undefeated season. “After one season, there was an opening at Nutley, and I did not hesitate to return to the program, now as a coach,” Tolve said. “I spent the season as the assistant varsity coach, before becoming this season’s head coach.”

Raiders win season opener

Junior captain Austin Sweeney found the back of the net, with an assist from senior John Hickey, as the Raiders defeated Bloomfield, 1-0, in the season opener Sept. 7. Junior goalie Brandon Syto posted nine saves for the shutout.