WEST ORANGE, NJ – As the head varsity soccer coach at Seton Hall Prep, Marty Berman has experienced a number of top seasons.
The 2017 campaign will go down as one of the best for the West Orange parochial school. The Pirates won conference and county titles, and finished 21-3-1. The only disappointment was a 4-0 loss to archrival Delbarton in the state Non-Public A North finals at Passaic Tech on Nov. 9.
“We just got outplayed in that game,” said Berman, who played for legendary Columbia High coach Gene Chyzowych in the late 1960s. “But the kids really gave a great effort throughout the season. The only year we won more games was in 2007 when we went 22-1.”
For Seton Hall, which has racked up 446 wins in Berman’s 32 years at the school, the key was that so many players contributed. Perhaps the biggest spark was provided by sophomore forward Aidan Dunphy, who had 14 goals and 12 assists.
The other player on the squad with 10 or more goals was junior midfielder Jon Ned, who contributed 12 goals to go along with eight assists.
Other than the loss to Delbarton, which went on to beat Christian Brothers Academy for the state championship, the Pirates only had setbacks to powerful out-of-state schools. In September, SHP fell on the road to Hill School (Pa.), 1-0. Then in October, the Pirates lost to South Kent (Conn.) by a 2-1 score.
For SHP, which started the decade by posting an unbeaten season in 2010 (18-0-3), the key stretch of the campaign came in the early part of October.
On the afternoon of Oct. 2 at home, SHP got by a determined Columbia team, 1-0. Then on Oct. 4 in another home tilt, the Pirates defeated Millburn, 2-0. Two days later, also at home, SHP battled powerful Kearny to a 2-2 tie in double OT. Kearny, a longtime state powerhouse, would go on to win another state crown.
Finally, on Oct. 9 at West Orange High, SHP edged the Mountaineers, 1-0 in OT. That’s always a special game for Berman because he gets to coach against Doug Nevins, one of his former players.
West Orange would later fall to SHP in the ECT semifinals by a 3-0 score. Then in the title game, the Pirares edged Millburn, 2-1 in double OT. That was the most satisfying game of the year for SHP, because in the 2016 ECT final, the Pirates were stunned by East Side, 4-0.
It figured that Dunphy and Ned would be the key players in SHP’s toughest games of the campaign.
In the contest against Kearny, Dunphy had both of the SHP tallies. And in the exciting regular season victory over West Orange, Ned had the big goal. Then in the ECT semis, Dunphy, who scored 37 goals for the Pirate freshmen team in 2016, again produced two scores. And in the finals against Millburn, Ned had the game-winner off a nifty cross from Adam Silva.
Silva, a talented senior, sparkled all season long, and came up with seven goals and 21 assists. Another top senior, Nick Kriark, of West Orange, was also big on offense with two goals and 13 assists.
Junior goalie Liam Bertrand anchored the defense, coming up with five shutouts. SHP racked up 84 goals and allowed but 24.
Among other top performers for SHP this fall were Brian Zimmermann, Joe Cubero, Jason Gomes, Rocco Capozza and Max Engelbrechtsen. In truth, every player on the roster made contributions for the Pirates.
Interestingly, the state game against the Green Wave, had a distinct Columbia High connection. Delbarton head coach Dave Donovan, was a superb player for CHS in the mid 1980s.
“I don’t think all that many people know about our CHS connection,” said Berman. “Hey, anytime we meet Delbarton in sports, it’s always a real battle.”
CORNER KICKS – Delbarton ended up with a 21-0-1 record after beating CBA, 4-1… In 1986, Berman’s first year at SHP, the team went 11-10… SHP also had 20-win seasons in 2001, 2009 and 2013…
The following SHP players earned All-Super Essex Conference-American Division honors:
First Team: Adam Silva, Kriak, Engelbrechtsen, and Gomes.
Second Team: Ned and Capozza.
Honorable Mention: Dunphy and Paul Silva.