LIVINGSTON, NJ — In a Friday afternoon matchup that developed into a second-half thriller between the West Orange and Livingston boys soccer teams, West Orange head coach Doug Nevins earned his 300th career win with a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
After a scoreless first half, West Orange sophomore Kalleo Mendes came out strong in the second half with two goals—putting the Mountaineers comfortably ahead of their opponents.
The Mountaineers were the dominant team for nearly 70 minutes until Livingston junior Aria Navi put one in the back of the net off an assist from Brian Kelly. The Lancers continued to pressure the West Orange defense until the end, but the Mountaineers were determined that their coach should have his win.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Nevins, who had 296 wins at the start of the season. “With the league we’re in being so difficult, I didn’t know when that one would come. And with the way the game went…I wasn’t even really thinking about it until it was over.”
Nevins, a close friend of Livingston head coach Roger Rubinetti’s, knew going into Friday’s game that it was going to be a close match.
“[Rubinetti] is one of the best coaches in the county and in the state, and he always has his team so well prepared,” said Nevins. “They knew everything that we would do and they were prepared to stop it...I could totally see the game going into overtime.”
He noted as an example that the Lancers smartly doubled up on senior Tyreke Wray, one of West Orange’s most dangerous players, every time he got the ball. Nevins also acknowledged West Orange goalie AJ Petrucci and the rest of the Moutaineers defense for playing an outstanding game.
“We’re going to need to play in these games where we build some character because we still have a lot of young guys out there,” said Nevins. “The last 10 times we played Livingston, it’s been a one-goal game; and I knew with them being really well coached and really prepared, no matter what it was going to be a close game, a hard game.”
Nevins said it was emotional to see not only his daughter, Natalie, and her West Orange girls soccer teammates storming the field after the game with “300” balloons in tow, but also to see his wife, Angie, carrying a blown-up photo of his face as well as a handful of West Orange soccer alumni who came to congratulate him.
“The coolest thing about the 300th is that it makes you think back to all the old teams because it’s 18 years,” he said. “I see some of these guys who are now in their 30s that helped us and it’s just remarkable.
“When I started coaching, I just wanted to make West Orange really competitive. I didn’t know it would get to be like this. It’s kind of surreal and it’s a little emotional, but I’m just so grateful to have had so many really great soccer players and great kids in my life.”
Nevins reminded his team that while it’s good to celebrate, it’s back to work on Saturday with a home game against Nutley.
Livingston will take the weekend off before taking on Newark Central at home on Monday.