LVRHS boys soccer team looks to the future

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  • The Lenape Valley Regional HS boys soccer team finished fourth in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division.

By Josh Lashley

— Ready, willing and able is a common phrase and yes it can be used in a positive manner to describe the 2017 version of the Lenape Valley Regional High School boy’s soccer program.

The Patriots were ready to compete as soon as each match began, willing to face the toughest opposition without backing down and able to earn some key victories on the pitch.

Lenape Valley tallied six overall wins, placed fourth in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division and advanced to the NJSIAA North 1 Group 2 Sectional Tournament as the No. 15 seed where they were defeated, 2-1, by No. 2 seed Pascack Hills.

“The team's early victory over High Point (2-1 on September 12) stands out because over the last few years High Point has either played us to a draw or beaten us,’’ Lenape Valley head coach Eric Schuman said. “It was important for the boys to start the season with two wins knowing there was tough competition ahead. It also proved a critical victory for qualification for the State tourney. The two goals in the High Point match by Juan Lopez and Matt Cestone were also shots taken from outside the penalty box. The Kittatinny game (on October 6) stands out because it showed our growth over the season. Freshmen Zach Goncalves, Connor Duffy, Dakota Krug and Gabe Hernandez were big contributors in the 3-0 win. Luke Chozick scored off a header and junior Anthony Oliveri scored his first goal of the season in the closing moments of the match. James Parrish and Matt Smith anchored the defense for the shut-out.

“Certainly the most impressive win of the season was a 1-0 road victory against Vernon (on October 19) to keep hopes alive for qualifying for the State Tournament. Ian Hall scored the game winner and goalkeeper Matt Smith had to make a stand-alone save late in the game to preserve the victory. Assistant Coach Justin Meeth did a tremendous job managing the game, and the entire team had an incredible energy about them throughout the contest.’’

Coach Schuman mentioned Chozick, Lopez and Smith as being among the team leaders this season.

“The leadership from the captains-Chozick, Lopez and Smith-really showed through their commitment to the team, playing virtually every minute of each match with the exception of a quick break in one or two matches late in the season, setting the standard for focus in training and setting the example for sportsmanship on the field and scholarship in the classroom,’’ Schuman said. “Juan was the vocal leader on the field. Luke was the workman and Matt was always reliable in the net. Junior James Parrish was another player whose commitment and level of play served as an example to teammates.

“Three seniors who led by example were Brad Beckert, Josh Gavinho and Mike Fricke. Brad plays 100% all the time in practices and games and everyone on the team recognizes that. Josh has a keen sense of the game, is an accurate passer and is also a versatile player. He stepped into some key midfield and forward roles depending on the need of the game. Mike Fricke was a workhorse as an outside fullback who was expected to perform demanding runs out of the backfield. Mike improved daily and was part of a defense that had 6 shut-outs.’’

There were plenty of student-athletes on the roster who showed the ability to improve and make forward progress throughout the fall.

“Goncalves demonstrated a strong desire to make the varsity squad,’’ Schuman said. “He demonstrated a constant desire to get better. He was consistently prepared, often the first one laced up at practice with a ball at his feet working on touches or free kicks or his shot. Already possessing strong technical skills, Zach worked on his defensive game and positioning. He was always hungry for feedback, which coaches notice. Fricke improved his first touch, became more vocal and earned the role of taking restarts by season's end. Mike's progress stood out to players and he really earned their respect.

“Junior Ian Hall took the concept of high pressure defense and incorporated it into his style of play as an outside midfielder. The effort he put forth was incredible to watch and it was rewarding seeing him apply the pressing technique in key areas of the field to create turnovers. He also was deliberate about setting goals, most of which he reached.’’

The fall of 2018 is a time about which the Patriots are very much optimistic.

“I am looking forward to working with the returning freshmen and juniors, as well as the new Division alignment,’’ Schuman said. “It is a first for me to have team leadership return for a second season, so I am looking forward to some goal-setting sessions with the captains as we map out how to achieve those goals. Having Luke Chozick back for a 4th season is also cause for optimism. He and his teammates really give their best every day, which makes me look forward to daily training.’’

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