NUTLEY, NJ – The Nutley High School varsity boys’ soccer team has many strengths this season, including team chemistry based on a strong returning group.
“We are returning eight starters from last year, so one of our strengths is the chemistry we have from playing a full year together,” said second-year head coach Tom Tolve, a 2011 NHS graduate who was a standout for the Raiders.
Leading the returnees are senior midfielder/captain Austin Sweeney, senior goalie/captain Brandon Syto, senior forward Garret Groeling, junior midfielder JP Maruri, and sophomore midfielder/defender Nick Kirby.
Sweeney and Syto provide key leadership, which is another key strength.
“They are leaders on the field, and always have the team’s best interest in mind,” said Tolve, whose team gave a good impression in the season opener against perennial power and defending Essex County Tournament champion Seton Hall Prep on Sept. 6 in West Orange, despite the 4-3 overtime loss in which Groeling scored all three goals in the first half for the Raiders. Seton Hall Prep, trailing 3-2 at half, scored the lone goal in the second half and the winner in overtime.
Groeling will be a big weapon for the Raiders.
“Having Garret Groeling up top is another strength for us,” said Tolve. “Garret came off a 10-goal season, and already has three goals in our first game against Seton Hall.”
The key newcomers are sophomore outside midfielder Charlie Contini and sophomore defender Joe Cook.
Last season the Raiders finished 9-11-2, but made an inspiring run in the state tournament. As the No. 14 seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 state tournament, Nutley upset third-seeded Somerville in the first round in a penalty-kick shootout and knocked off 11th-seeded Ferris, 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals before losing to second-seeded Hopewell Valley, 2-1, in the semifinals
“Not many people had high expectations for us last season, but we ended up making the semifinals in the state tournament,” said Tolve. “We are returning eight starters and adding some great young players, so I think these goals are absolutely in our reach.”
The three keys to success, said Tolve, are “hard work, consistency and believing in ourselves and each other.”
Sept. 6, at Cedar Grove, 4 p.m.
Sept. 8, West Side, 10 a.m.
Sept. 13, at Newark Tech, 4 p.m.
Sept. 15, Orange, 10 a.m.
Sept. 18, at Barringer, 4 p.m.
Sept. 21, Technology, 6 p.m.
Sept. 22, at West Orange, 2 p.m.
Sept. 24, Newark Academy, 4 p.m.
Sept. 27, at Payne Tech, 4 p.m.
Sept. 29, at Belleville, 10 a.m.
Oct. 3, Golda Och Academy, 4 p.m.
Oct. 6, East Orange Campus, 4 p.m.
Oct. 8, at Irvington, 4 p.m.
Oct. 10, at North Star Academy, 4 p.m.
Oct. 15, Dwight Morrow, 4 p.m.
Oct. 18, Cranford, 6 p.m.
Oct. 20, Bloomfield, 10 a.m.
Photos by Steve Ellmore: Nutley vs. Newark Tech, Sept. 13