Senior-laden West Orange HS boys’ soccer team has high expectations

WEST ORANGE, NJ (updated Tuesday Sept. 20, 11:08 a.m.) – For the West Orange High School boys’ soccer team, the expectations are always high.

And with 21 seniors on a roster for a team that finished 21-2 last year, it’s safe to say that the goals for this year will be even higher than normal.

“We won the Super Essex Conference-American Division, state North (Jersey Section) 1, Group 4 Championship, and made the state Group 4 final,” said WOHS head coach Doug Nevins about last year’s team. “It would be hard to improve on that, so we hope we will be as good as last year. This year we want to compete for the SEC title again, make the county finals, win the section, and then give ourselves a chance for a Group 4 championship.”

Without a doubt, experience is the biggest strength for this year’s group. Not only does West Orange have 21 seniors, 15 of them have varsity experience.

“Right now we start seniors and two juniors,” said the Mountaineer coach, whose team had a 1-1-1 record through Sept. 15. “Not only do we have 21 seniors and a lot of experience, but we also had two boys’ transfers from St Benedict’s. They will both be big contributors this year.”

The coach said that this year’s squad is led by a handful of players, starting with co-captains Andrei Rosu and Pancho Pozzoli.

“However, Diego Pedrido, Russ Hoffer, Dillon Reitberger, Bryce Millington, and Jon Banks will also serve as captains,” said the coach. “All of them were starters last year except for Jon. They are all great leaders and very good players.”

Helping Nevins this year is varsity assistant Greg Marchesi, who is in his third year working with Nevins.

“He was the (WOHS) girls’ varsity coach and then a coach at PDA, (Player Development Academy),” said Nevins. “He is excellent.”

In addition, Freddy Christian is coaching Junior Varsity for his fourth year. “He does a great job with them and also works with the boys down at PDA,” he said. “Jesse Aporta will be coaching freshman for his fourth year. He is great with them and really develops the culture we expect in our program.”

In the season opener on Sept. 10, the Mountaineers played town neighbor Seton Hall Prep to a scoreless tie in a SEC-American Division game. Nevins said Pedrido was excellent in goal and Rosu had a standout game in the back.

The Mountaineers dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to East Side on Sept. 13 in a divisional game at home. Kevin Zeligson scored on an assist by Ricardo Carias in the first half for WOHS. Pedrido made six saves.

Nevins, noting that East Side is ranked in the state’s top 10, said the he hoped his team learned a lot from that hard-fought game.

Brent Llewellyn scored on an assist by Millington, and Paul Shuler made five saves as the Mountaineers earned their first win of the season with a 1-0 victory at Verona on Sept. 15 in a SEC non-division game.

Nevins said his team’s No. 3 ranking in the state to start the season was “a little bit high for us at first.” He also said playing SHP and East Side in the first two games was very difficult, but remains optimistic that his team will start to gel.

“We do have a very good group of players, but right now we are still figuring out which combination of players works best together,” he said.

Nevins also has praised his defense. “The defense has been very good,” said Nevins, highlighting seniors Hoffer, Reitberger, and Rosu and junior Maurice Williams.

In addition, Nevins has been pleased with his midfielders and attackers.  “Bryce Millington and Malik St Felix have been very good in the midfield, and Pancho Pozzoli and Brent Llewellyn have been very good in the attack,” said Nevins, whose team will host Newark Academy on Sept. 22 and host Millburn on Sept. 27, both at 4 p.m.

The Mountaineers are ranked in the following polls: New Jersey: No. 9. East Region: No. 9.

USA Today/NSCAA: Region III: No. 7. Ledger: No. 9.