WEST ORANGE, NJ — Last year's West Orange boys soccer team entered the season with high hopes off of a successful showing on the summer circuit, but things didn't pan out quite the way head coach Doug Nevins had hoped.
"Last year we were young and battled a lot of injuries," Nevins said, reflecting on the Mountaineers' 9-9-1 finish.
Hope again are high for this season, but 2020 will be like no other soccer season in memory because of the adjustments made to the schedule in response to COVID-19 guidelines. The season is starting a month late, and will not include the traditional Essex County Tournament.
Still, there are games to be played and a conference title for which the Mountaineers can vie. West Orange opens its season this Thursday, Oct. 1 at Newark Central.
"We return so many guys with varsity experience that we should be very good this year," Nevins said. "It should be a fun season."
The midfield has the potential to excel, with seniors Julien Carraha and Justin Reid leading the way.
There is strength and experience in every portion of the pitch. Senior forward Dario Carraha, a Division 1 prospect, should provide scoring punch along with junior forward Tyrese Folkes. And the defense looks outstanding, with junior stopper Ari Rosu, sophomore Mason Bashkoff--who can shift between the back line and midfield--junior defender Jeremy Green and senior defenders Bryce Hannah and Connor Hinfey.
Should any defensive breakdowns occur, the Mountaineers have a stalwart last line of defense in the person of senior goalie Nikolai Matthews.
Three seniors and two juniors will be joining the varsity with a chance to make meaningful contributions this fall: Darren Lewis (senior attacking midfielder/forward), Santi Orrico (junior center mid), Francisco Soca (junior outside back), Wilson Bermeo (senior center mid) and Nick Sotelo (senior forward).
"We have a very fast and very aggressive team. Should be able to put a lot of pressure on the other team," said, whose team defeated Montclair-Kimberley, 2-0, in a scrimmage on Thursday. "(This) could be a year of redemption after having a subpar year last year at 9-9-1."