VERONA, NJ - Coming off of a disappointing 2018 season where the squad went 5-9-4 the Verona boys soccer team is looking to grow from its experiences and become a more visible threat for a State Title in 2019.

    “I think this is the year where we say that those young guys are now juniors and seniors and we’re able to start to get into the mix a little bit,” said Head Coach Jack Weber. 

    For the Hillbillies, the goals have not changed from previous years. With sights set on the Liberty Division and State Tournament the group will work to turn back the page to the past history of success for the squad.

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    “Win the Liberty Division has to be up there with goals and why can’t we make a run at Group 2 State Playoffs? I think that should be a part of it,” said Weber. 

    The squad’s strategy toward achieving their goals is simple ‘get after it’, according to Weber.

    “It’s just their attitude of ‘getting after it’ and I think they are comfortable doing that,” said Weber. 

    Verona’s attack this season will be their key focus. As opposed to years past with one key scorer, there will be a collective unit of scorers that features Aidan Murphy, Liam Patel, Graham Weber, and Ben Batson. The quartet combined for just three goals and one assist last year, but are expected to take a big leap forward.

    “I think the combination of guys that we have up front will be a little more productive than what we had last year.  We might not get eight goals and five assists out of one guy, but we might get six goals and five assists out of three guys,” said Weber.

    Weber went on to cite the chemistry of the unit as a key factor for the teams growth.

    “The way they play off each other they are interchangeable parts in this system and the goals can come from any place,” said Weber. 

    In the midfield the Hillbillies will utilize a mix of players whose ages range from senior to sophomore. Senior Niko Pilauri, junior Peter Hoogterp, and sophomore Andrew Della Ferra all come into 2019 with varsity experience on their respective resumes.

    “There’s a couple of different guys who have the ability to connect and swing the ball from side to side and with a great understanding of how we want to attack,” said Weber.

    In net Verona returns solid goaltender Jerry Strippoli as their starter. Strippoli as a junior was solid with 79 saves on the year with a pair of shutouts to his name. Michael Lipesky who has also had a strong preseason for Verona will back up Strippoli.

    “Both of the varsity goaltenders have had a great preseason and great work with their feet over the summer in terms of distribution of the ball which allows us to do things a little bit better than we did last year…it will be an addition to our attack,” said Weber. 

    In front of the goaltenders will be a quartet of defenders still coming together as a unit. Junior Declan Maisano and senior Nick Napoli will band together with Max and Nick Handler to make up the back wall for the Hillbillies. 

    “We don’t have it all figured out just yet, there’s a lot of interchangeable parts, but I think they all can play in those roles,” said Weber. 

    Currently the Hillbillies are scrimmaging other squads and have impressed their coach. In two scrimmages to date the squad has outscored their opponents eight to zero. 

    “The attitude to get after somebody regardless of who it is, just get goals in, create chances,  that has probably been the theme of what we’ve done so far,” said Weber.

    Verona will look to translate their preseason success into the regular season as they open on September 4 against Caldwell.

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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