WEST ORANGE, NJ – Since 2000, when Doug Nevins became the head coach, the West Orange High School boys soccer program arguably has been one of the best in the county, if not the state.
The Mountaineers have produced countless collegiate players who have helped the program achieve numerous championships on the conference, county and state levels.
If this summer is any indication, the Mountaineers are poised to continue their dominance.
WOHS simply was unstoppable in winning the Livingston Summer League championship. In fact, opposing coaches approached Nevins to tell him how “loaded” his team is.
And to think, the team has just four seniors.
The Mountaineers, who went 11-5-2 last fall, boast formidable sophomore and junior classes, which means the team will remain strong for the next few years.
“Some of the guys who started or even played last year, have gotten bigger, stronger, more experienced,” said Nevins in a phone interview with The West Orange Chronicle. “Usually when you’re a 15-year-old sophomore and you look good on varsity, that means your junior and senior year you’re going to be really good.
“Some of these guys on the freshman team, have grown a lot physically and mentally. They come to my camp and I saw how good they were doing, and I brought them to summer league and there are probably three or four of them that will start, if not play varsity, which is great.”
Nevins has been impressed by the leadership of the seniors. Yasin Aly, a defender, has been a starter since his sophomore year and is being recruited by a few “very good academic schools.”
Oscar Vasquez and Lloyd Guyton, reserves last year, have stepped up to take on bigger roles this summer. Aleks Cardoza came to WOHS last year after transferring from Orange and eventually became a starter. He also has looked good in the summer and is a dangerous attacking player, Nevin said.
The team’s best player last season is rising junior Kalleo Mendes, who already is being heavily recruited by colleges. “He’s terrific,” said Nevins of Mendes, a junior. “I am probably going to move him from forward to the midfield. He is a big, strong kid. When he is focused and really trying, he is the best player on the field. He’s so good.”
The other juniors are brothers Julien and Dario Carraha, both midfielders, Connor Hinfie, Justin Reid, Louie Mignone, Bryce Hannah and junior Nikolai Matthews.
Leading the sophomore group is Ari Rosu. Last year on the freshman team, Rosu scored close to 40 goals before moving up to varsity.
Jeremy Green is a tough defender, while James Palaguachi, Santi Orrico and Tyrese Folkes are also talented.
Junior goalkeeper Nikolai Matthews also excelled in the summer.
Freshmen Mason Bashkoff and Andrew Hinfie, Connor’s brother, also gained quality time in the summer.
Nevins, who won his 300th game last fall and enters this season with 307 victories, has had some special teams in his tenure. He guided WOHS to the state Group 4 titles in 2006 and 2013 and led the team to the 2015 state final.
This year’s team has the makings of making a strong run.
“My young guys were competing with everybody’s varsity starters,” said Nevins of the summer competition which included opponents in the top two divisions of the Super Essex Conference. “We haven’t had that since maybe 2015 on that real good team that went to the state finals.”
Interesting, the Mountaineers will kick off the season Sept. 4 at Glen Ridge, led by new head coach Austin Alvarado, a 2007 WOHS graduate who was a star player on the 2006 state championship squad. Alvardo also was Nevins’ assistant coach at WOHS when the team won the 2013 state title. Nevins said it will be really special to face his former player in the season opener.
Nevins said this year’s WOHS team has the most college-caliber players he has ever had.
“If we’re really good this year, we could be scary good next year,” Nevins said. “This is the first team I’ve had where every single player on my team, except for maybe my goalie, is a college player. In 2015, it was close; there were probably two kids on the team who either didn’t play (in college) or didn’t have offers to play. If you have eight guys on your starting lineup that are college players, you got a really good team, and I think this year, my whole starting 10 will be college players, and I can’t remember ever having that.”
Photos Courtesy of Buzz 1441