GLEN RIDGE--As October begins, the Glen Ridge High boys' soccer team is beginning to wind down the regular season, but first-year head coach Austin Alvarado knows the big games are also coming up.
The Ridgers were 6-5-1 after a scoreless tie with Livingston on Oct. 7, at Watsessing Park. The team will be back in action on Oct. 10, at home, i the first round of the Essex County Tournament, against Verona. The Ridgers are seeded sixth in the ECT. A win there would move it into the county quarters, on Oct. 12, most likely at third-seeded Montclair.
In addition, Glen Ridge should be the top seed for the NJSIAA state sectional tournament, which begins in the last week of October.
Alvarado has succeeded long-time head coach Stephen Reitberger at Glen Ridge. Reitberger was the team's coach from 1981-2018, before retiring.
"It's never easy replacing someone like Steve," said Alvarado. "He did such a great job, both as a coach and teacher, at Glen Ridge. The kids have been great to work with, and it's been a nice transition."
Alvarado was a standout player at West Orange High, where was a team captain in 2006. As a coach, he's been an assistant at his alma mater, as well as West Essex before serving as a head coach at the Ranney School, in Tinton Falls, from 2016-2017.
"As a player, and later as an assistant coach in Essex County, I always knew how well coached and disciplined the Glen Ridge teams were," said Alvarado. "And the team I'm coaching now is the same way. They're hard-working kids, who are enjoyable to coach. I'm very happy here."
Glen Ridge opened the Alvarado era with a 1-0 win, ironically over West Orange, on Sept. 4. Victories over Cedar Grove, Nutley and Montclair followed, with the most recent wins against Newark Academy and Bloomfield. The losses have come to strong schools in Seton Hall Prep, Montclair Kimberley, Millburn, Verona and Newark East Side, all in close games.
"At this point, we're really looking forward to seeing what we can do in the county tournament," said Alvarado. "As a Group 1 school, we're usually playing bigger schools, but our kids battle. And the schedule we face can only help us when it comes to the state tournament."
Because it plays a strong schedule, with a lot of power points, the Ridgers seemingly have locked up the top seed in North 2, Group 1.
"Obviously, the state tournament is also a huge part of what we hope to accomplish," the coach said.
The team captains are seniors Grant Conte and Gavin Robertson, along with junior Drew Hiner, who was just named a captain before the Oct. 7 game with Livingston.
"They're all great kids and excellent leaders," said Alvarado. "I felt Drew was deserving of a captain's role, even as a junior. He's one of those kids who just grinds it out, in practice and games. He's a very good athlete."
Robertson scored twice and Hiner had a goal in a 3-2 win over Bloomfield, on Oct. 1 while GR goaltender Segun Wallace turned back four shots. Lucas Costa and Nicholas Garcia scored for the Ridgers in a 2-0 win over Newark Academy, on Sept. 20. Wallace had six saves to secure the shutout.
In a huge overtime win over Montclair on Sept. 14, Grantham Ghaemi and Costa scored for the Ridgers and Logan Kotronis sparkled in goal, with 10 saves.