WEST ORANGE, NJ – At Seton Hall Prep, the bar is set very high each year in sports like basketball and baseball. Under the direction of Finn Tracey, Bob Farrell and Kevin Williams in hoops, and Mike Sheppard Jr. on the diamond, the Pirates have been perennial state powers.
In the 21st century, another sport – soccer – has joined that special group. With Marty Berman at the helm, the SHP soccer squad has averaged 18 wins per season since the 2001 campaign. The Pirates won state championships in 2007 and 2009, and have picked up numerous sectional, conference and county titles.
This fall, SHP should again be one of the top teams in the Garden State. Senior goalie Liam Bertrand will anchor the defense, junior Aidan Dunphy and senior Jon Ned will lead the attack, and other players like senior Skyler Storms and senior Brian Zimmermann will also play key roles for the West Orange parochial school.
“We’re somewhat inexperienced in the back, but we have kids with good potential,” said Berman, who has a record of 446-186-56 in 32 years at the helm. “The other concern I have is that we play a very tough schedule. Heck, in our conference alone, teams like West Orange, Montclair, Millburn and East Side could be among the best in the state.”
The first big conference test will come Sept. 6, at home against Montclair. SHP will host East Side on Sept. 18, play at town neighbor West Orange on Oct. 5, and play host to Millburn on Oct. 8.
Other big tilts include games against Westfield on Saturday, Sept. 8, Delran on Sept. 16, South Kent (Conn.) on Sept. 29, Monroe on Oct. 13 and Kearny on Oct. 22, three days before the 45th ECT championship game. All are on the road.
Berman, who played for legendary Columbia High coach Gene Chyzowych in the late 1960s, thinks his team will always have the ability to score goals at key points in particular games.
A year ago, Ned had 12 goals and eight assists while Dunphy contributed 14 goals and 12 assists. In a clutch 1-0 overtime win over West Orange, Ned had the game winner. And he also scored the decisive goal in double OT as SHP topped Millburn, 2-1, in the ECT final.
Dunphy showed his stuff when he had both SHP tallies in a thrilling 2-2 tie against Kearny, a perennial state power.
“Jon is tough to stop because he has great speed on the field to go along with his size,” said Berman, who is also an assistant coach in hoops. “Aidan is a very determined kid on the pitch, and he sees the field so well. He really has great touch on the ball, and can make plays at any time during the course of a game.”
Sophomore forward Lucas Ross, who scored 37 goals for the Pirate freshman squad in 2017, will be another dangerous man on offense. And Storms, who had three goals and eight assists a year ago, will also give opposing teams fits.
In the midfield, Zimmermann, who had four goals and four asssits a year ago, also has the ability to produce on offense. And senior Joe Kearns will be another key in the midfield. Nate Dean and Rafael de la Torre will also be players to watch in the midfield.
In the back, Owen Stahl and Bob Smallman will be two of the leaders. Jason Pereira and Alex Trestka will also contribute for SHP.
“We just have great depth all-around,” said Berman. “Every player on our roster can help out, believe me. The kids take a lot of pride in our soccer team because we’ve established a tradition of excellence.”
Even if the offense does sputter at times, Bertrand has the ability to lift the team from his goalie spot. The youngster is very steady in the nets, and plays at his best in the bigger games.
In the big tie against Kearny in 2017, the talented youngster came up with several key saves.
“I’m excited about this season,” said Berman. “We’ll be challenged at times, but these kids want to be successful. Hey, we play at a great facility, and that gives us extra incentive to do well.”
CORNER KICKS – In the classroom, Berman is a well-respected teacher of English and creative writing. At one time, he worked as a sports writer…
As a coach, Berman has learned a lot from people like Farrell and Sheppard Jr. …
In 2001 SHP burst on to the state soccer map witih a record of 20-3-1, winning the Iron Division title in the Iron Hills Conference…
One of the smaller players on the team, junior Christopher Angermund, has great skills and could emerge as a leader in the back.