Columbia HS boys’ soccer team features solid experience this season

Photo by Rich Morris/courtesy of Seton Hall Prep.
Ethan Pidgeon, right, goes for the ball vs. Seton Hall Prep last season.
Photo by Rich Morris/courtesy of Seton Hall Prep.
Devin Rocha watches as the Seton Hall Prep goalie corrralls the ball in a game last season.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The Columbia High School varsity boys’ soccer team, under fifth-year head coach Josh Russotto, returns a strong group from last year’s team that finished with a solid 10-7-1 record.

All of the eight returning players have starting experience.

The senior captains are Sam Maidenberg, Frederick Hoffman, Ethan Pidgeon, and Julian Lyons.

Maidenberg is an exceptional goalie. Last year, he made First Team on the All-Super Essex Conference.

Hoffman and Pidgeon will lead the defense from their center back positions. Hoffman has great personality and is brave, while Pidgeon is “Mr. Reliable” who will be the trusted rock of the back four, according to Russotto.

Lyons, a forward, shows passion with a relentless approach, the coach said.

The rest of the defense includes senior fullbacks Alistair Sim, Connor Thompson, and Devin Rocha, and junior fullback Daniel Teitelbaum.

Sim is known for his all-around play, consistency and decision-making; Teitelbaum is a fine athlete who will make plays; Thompson is a three-year player with good experienced and athleticism; and Rocha brings toughness, said Russotto.

The Cougars also have a good group of newcomers.

Senior midfielder Aaron Gallinger is a leader who brings consistent play and will steady the midfield, said Russotto. Senior midfielder Aidan Reeves’ resilience, versatility and two-footed play help give the team balance, grit, and play-making ability, noted Russotto.

Sophomore midfielder Ben Christmann’s penetrating passes will keep opponents on their heels; freshman midfielder Charlie Herley is technical, mature and athletic; sophomore forward Alex Cole has a knack for getting behind defenses with pace; sophomore fullback Ramiro Green is a rising star who “will take off like a rocket,” and sophomore midfielder Cameron Ripley is a “true wide man,” according to Russotto.

The Cougars have other players who will contribute in a major way and have high upside. They include sophomore midfielders Mac Krause, Charlie Hummel, and Robin Kalderen; sophomore forwards C.J. Jones, Vincent Zakian, and Owen Conway; junior goalkeeper Max Crosby; and freshman midfielder Christian DeJesus.

Russotto said the team’s strength are its depth and ability to defend, with Maidenberg receiving strong support from the back four. In addition, the Cougars have the ability to rotate without losing much quality.

Indeed, Russotto is excited about this year’s team.

“Although half of the squad are freshmen and sophomores, this team has more talent and depth than any squad in my five seasons at Columbia,” said Russotto. “I expect our seniors to lead the way with their respect, character, commitment, intelligence, work ethic, attitude, growth mindset and self control. High expectations. Our goals are to improve every week, be more consistent and beat the best teams in the county and state.”

The Cougars, who were in the SEC-Liberty Division, have moved up to the SEC-American Division, which is the highest division of the conference. The other teams in the division are Seton Hall Prep, Montclair, Millburn, West Orange, and Caldwell.

The following is the Cougars’ schedule (home games are held at CHS’ Ritzer Field, unless otherwise noted):

Sept. 6, at Caldwell, 4 p.m.

Sept. 8, Ridgefield, noon, at Underhill Field

Sept. 13, Millburn, 4 p.m.

Sept. 18, Livingston, 4 p.m.

Sept. 21, Seton Hall Prep, 4 p.m., at Underhill Field

Sept. 24, Science Park, 4 p.m.

Sept. 27, at West Orange, 4 p.m.

Sept. 29, West Essex, 11 a.m.

Oct. 2, at Bloomfield, 4 p.m.

Oct. 5, Montclair, 4 p.m.

Oct. 8, at East Side, 4 p.m.

Oct. 10, Central, 4 p.m.

Oct. 15, Montclair Kimberley Academy, 4 p.m., at Underhill Field

Oct. 16, at Glen Ridge, 10 a.m.

Oct. 22, Cranford,  6 p.m., at Underhill Field

Oct. 25, Ridge, 4 p.m.