HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Hasbrouck Heights boys head soccer coach Bill Thorne would understand if you thought that the Aviators were going into a rebuilding year this season.  After all, they lost four New Jersey Interscholastic Conference Meadowlands Division first team, all-league players - including standout goalkeeper Justin Rinaldi and All-County midfielder Scott LiVecchi from a team that tied for first in the league a year ago, and was the number 1 seed in the North 1, Group 1 playoffs.

Their season ended a year ago with a defeat at the hands of eventual Group 1 state champion Verona in quarterfinals.   

He would understand, but disagree.  Coach Thorne is pretty pleased with the team he has coming into the 2017 season.  In fact, he thinks his team is as good as anyone in the NJIC Meadowlands Division.

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“Realistically, I think we are going to be very good this season, “ said Thorne.  “We are going to be young, but I really believe we are going to be good.  I think a lot of people are looking past us, thinking we have a bunch of sophomores out there.  

“Of those sophomores, five have experience playing varsity from last year.  We have a lot of skill.  What is going to be the key is how quickly those young players mature.  We play Wallington the second game of the season, and they are the only team I think that is capable of challenging us for a title. That is where we are going to find out how good we are.”

Thorne does return a group that includes three All-NJIC players, led by sophomore Emiland Elezaj, who was an All-NJIC first team selection at mid-field a season ago.  He is joined by another sophomore, forward Jacob Flores, who was a second team selection, and senior Joe Terreri (honorable mention).

Thorne mentioned that while his team is quite young, with 10 underclassmen listed on the varsity team’s 19-man roster, he sees the youth as somewhat of an advantage.  

“These kids all came up playing youth soccer together, “ Thorne stated.  “So while they may be young, they all know from playing together for several years growing up where they are going to be on the field. It leads to good chemistry on the field.”

Several already have seen playing time last year, so it will not be as if they are getting their first look at varsity competition. 

Here's a positional breakdown of the Aviators:

Goalkeeper:  After losing Rinaldi from a year ago, you would think that Thorne would be concerned with about this position.  But Thorne is extremely confident in his starter, senior Bharadwaj Chirravuri.

“I think we will be strong in goal,” Thorne stated.  “Bharadwaj is an outstanding goalie, he has just been stuck behind two great goalkeepers the past three years. He could have started for a lot of the teams in our league the past few years.”

Chirravuri is also respected by his teammates, chosen as one of the team’s four captains by the players.

Defense: This year’s Aviator team will be led on defense by Terreri, who was also selected as one of the captains.  He will be joined in the backfield by fellow senior co-captain Leandro Pozo, and a pair of sophomores, Justin Flores and Ryan Garden.  

Midfield:  Senior co-captain Stepjan Lucic leads the group here.  He will be joined fellow senior Matt Morretto, senior Virgilio Rodriguez junior Kareem Farag, and sophomores and Emiland Elezaj.  Elezaj was named all-NJIC a year ago as a freshman and Garden saw significant time last year as a freshman.

Forwards:  Sophomore Jacob Flores, the twin brother of defender Justin,will start at forward for the team.  

Bench:  Thorne is expecting contributions from several players off the bench this season as well. He was pleased with his depth, noting that the players had the ability to play a number of styles, allowing the team to adjust to the style of played against them.  

“I like our depth, we have several kids who we can play anywhere in the midfield, so depending on the opponent, we have plenty of options.  We don't have to play just one style."

Thorne noted sophomore Killian Turner as someone who can slot in anywhere on the defense. Junior Daniel Behrens has the “highest soccer IQ of anyone on the team” and can fit it anywhere they need someone.  He praised the versatility of sophomores Alec Escalante and Victor Barris as players who can fit in anywhere you need on the field.  Freshman Rafael Mendoza, a newcomer to Hasbrouck Heights,  can fit in at forward and in the midfield as well.  

“If there is anywhere we have depth, it is in the midfield.” Thorne stated.

Thorne is confident that his team is ready to compete not only for the league championship, but will fare will well in the states as well.  

"We know what Wallington has, we know what Verona, who knocked us out last year and won the Group I title last year has, and we feel we match up with our guys well with both of them."

The major test comes on September 12 in Wallington. 

                     2017 Boys Soccer Schedule 
4:00 PM
4:00 PM
4:00 PM
Saddle Brook
10:00 AM
North Arlington
4:00 PM
4:00 PM
9/26/2017 @Paterson Charter 4:00 PM
9/28/2017 Saint Mary's  4:00 PM
4:00 PM
4:00 PM
4:00 PM
@Saddle Brook
4:00 PM
10/16/2017 @ North Arlington 4:00 PM
4:00 PM
10/20/2017 Paterson  Charter 4:00 PM



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