MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The Columbia High School boys soccer team enjoyed a great season.
The Cougars, under head coach Ryan Muirhead, finished with an 11-7 overall record, including winning the Super Essex Conference–Liberty Division championship with a 6-1 division record.
As a result, the Cougars next season will be promoted to the SEC–American Division, which is the top division in the conference. It is the second straight year that CHS has been promoted in the conference.
“This is one of the best seasons that we’ve had in probably the past five years,” Muirhead said.
Muirhead cited several players who made significant contributions throughout the season.
“We were led offensively this year by senior (captain) Charlie Herley, who was named to the first team in the Liberty Division and likely destined for some all-county and/or all-state honors as well,” Muirhead stated. “He had 15 goals and three assists this year. Our midfield was anchored by a handful of seniors, notably (captain) Christian DeJesus, who also earned first team honors in the Liberty Division and is arguably one of the best central defensive midfielders in the county in the eyes of many. RJ Benn earned second team honors in the Liberty Division and his eight assists led the division. He was a crucial offensive piece in making things go for our offense this year.
“Defensively we had many contributors this season, including steady and reliable play from junior captain Malachy Meyer and fellow junior defender James Van Varick. We also got some strong play from seniors Gavin Swanson, Benno Broncel and Oren Van Allen. Lastly, we couldn’t have made it nearly as far as we did without the tremendous efforts of senior goalie Cole Strupp, who had literally never played a game in goal prior to the beginning of this season and ended up being a tremendous player for us.”
Muirhead was also encouraged by the play of several other players who will be back next year.
“A pleasant surprise for us this year from the underclassmen ranks was sophomore Roan Sullivan and freshman Alejandro Valenzuela, who both played meaningful minutes for us down the stretch,” Muirhead stated. “This senior class has done a great job of resetting the bar for our entire program.”
Muirhead said the Cougars will be hungry for more success next season.
“Despite all the success we had this season, I think a lot of people, myself included, probably still felt a little unsatisfied overall, and that’s something we will look forward to building on going into next year. As far as next year goes, we are in a much better position as far as returning players goes. Last year we only had five returning players with varsity experience. We should have at least 15 players with various amounts of varsity experience returning. We’re certainly going to need it, as we have reached the top division in Essex County, and we will be playing a lot of the best teams that New Jersey has to offer, day in and day out. These guys are going to have a lot of work to do during the offseason to continue to build on what we’ve accomplished so far.”