Columbia HS boys’ soccer team kicks up successful season

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MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The Columbia High School varsity boys’ soccer team enjoyed a successful 10-7-1 season.

It marked the Cougars’ best season in head coach Josh Russotto’s four-year tenure and the first 10-win season since 2012.

Columbia posted eight victories against Essex County opponents, defeating Super Essex Conference-American Division rivals Millburn, East Side and West Essex.  They lost to powerhouse Seton Hall Prep, twice, including in the Essex County Tournament, West Orange, and Millburn in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 state tournament, and to Liberty Division winner Caldwell.

Other victories came against Newark Academy, 3-0; Verona, 1-0; Nutley, 3-2; Bloomfield, 4-1; and Glen Ridge, 1-0.  The Cougars also tied East Orange Campus,2-2, in the final regular-season game. Columbia never got a chance to play Montclair, Montclair Kimberley Academy, and Livingston, noted Russotto.

The Cougars scored 34 goals in 19 games, a significant improvement when they scored 21 goals over the same amount of matches in 2016. Columbia featured two players – Joe Dente (11 goals ) and Coreschi (8 goals) – to score more goals than any other Columbia player since 2012.

The Cougars’ best stretch came over a three-week period, Sept. 25 to Oct. 19, when they went 6-2, defeating Newark East Side, which advanced to the North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 state tournament final, and had a four-game winning streak against Glen Ridge, Bayonne, state-ranked American Division rival Millburn, and American Division opponent West Essex. Columbia had not won more than two games in a row from 2014-2016.

“Our 1-3-5-2 press system created a tremendous amount of turnovers that led to increased scoring opportunities and many more goals,” Russotto said. “The key players were the relentless and aggressive midfielders. They ran and pressed like ravenous lions and tigers and bears for 80-plus minutes all season long.”

The other key offensive contributors were Sammy Freedson (1 goal, 2 assists), Alex Lauder (2 goals, 1 assist), Julian Lyons (2 goals,  assist), Cameron Donald (1 goal, 2 assists) and Steven Kattouf (2 goals, 1 assist).

The defense also was stellar.

“The back line was bolstered by a rotation of quick and athletic backs, led by junior Seton Hall Prep transfer Frederik Hoffman,” Russotto said. “Juniors Alistair Sim, Connor Thompson, Devin Rocha and Ethan Pidgeon stepped up well this season.  Sophomore Daniel Teitelbaum surprised this season with his ball-winning and play-making skills.”

“Junior captain goalkeeper Sam Maidenberg distinguished himself this season as one of the best keepers in Essex County,” continued Russotto. “His decision-making, communication and distribution separate him from his peers. His mindset and leadership gives his team confidence in every game; he makes his teammates better. He has also come up with some really big saves this season.  He has a major impact for us.”

Russotto also lauded the play of Dente and Coreschi.

“I’ve known Dente and Coreschi for four years as they both were on the team as freshmen,” said Russotto. “Coreschi didn’t play soccer as a junior though, as he wanted to focus on cross country. So when I got an email from him the day before tryouts, saying he was going to join us, I knew he was going to give us a big lift. And he did, scoring goals in our biggest games of the year – two brilliant goals against Seton Hall Prep, one against Millburn, one against West Essex, one against East Side, and a highlight-reel assist in the first home game of the year versus Verona, beating three defenders in the corner before sliding across to Julian Lyons for the game-winner. (It was) such a good season from him, a major impact player.

“His strike partner, Dente, was also quite productive with 11 goals on the season,” Russotto continued. “He was often the target of man-marking assignments and double teams, attracting defenders with his pace and ability to get behind back lines. He showed improvement in his mindset, maturity, self-control, effort, and consistency. A fine season from Joe, (with ) seven game-winning goals, and the team was undefeated in games that he scored.”

Russotto is looking forward to next season with a young, promising group.

“Next year, I sense a major youth movement for the team as we anticipate a serious group of rising sophomores who are looking to prove themselves. They will look to an experienced group led by goalie Sam Maidenberg and midfielder Julian Lyons who have been starters since their sophomore campaigns. The back line group of defenders will give us much-needed depth, athleticism, and toughness as Columbia will be competing in the American Division next season. Frederik Hoffman started every game and will likely be in the same situation next season. Alistair Sim and Ethan Pidgeon, along with two-sport stars Connor Thompson (basketball), Devin Rocha (wrestling), and Daniel Teitelbaum (lacrosse) will solidify the group.”

The following CHS players earned SEC-Liberty Division honors:

First Team

  • Senior forward Joe Dente. 11 goals, 6 assists. Seven game-winning goals. Four-year letterwinner.
  • Junior captain and goalkeeper Sam Maidenberg. 161 saves. 4 clean sheets.

Second Team

  • Senior forward Avery Coreschi: 8 goals, 4 assists.
  • Senior captain and  midfielder Alex Lauder: 2 goals, 1 assist.

Honorable Mention

  • Senior captain and midfielder Cameron Donald: 1 goal, 2 assists
  • Junior midfielder Julian Lyons: 2 goals, 1 assist.
  • Junior defender Frederik Hoffman

The following players have earned Essex County honors and will be invited to the State Banquet and honored by the State Section:

First Team: Sam Maidenberg

Second Team: Joe Dente

Third Team: Avery Coreschi