A year ago, the St. Peter’s Prep soccer team lost their first seven games. It was unthinkable to see one of Hudson County’s perennial powers winless as October rolled around.
But the Marauders rebounded nicely and won eight of their last 11 games, advancing all the way to the HCIAA Coviello Division title game.
According to veteran head coach John Irvine, the 2002 season is an item of ancient history.
"We actually haven’t mentioned last season at all," Irvine said. "A lot of those guys are gone. We have some new faces getting quality playing time. So it’s a new year and it hasn’t been discussed, but for my own piece of mind, I don’t want to travel down that road again."
Irvine said that he likes the makeup of his club as it enters the 2003 season this weekend with a match against North Arlington.
"We don’t have any superstars, and we don’t have one single guy to rely upon," said Irvine, who guided the Marauders to an 8-9-2 record a year ago, his only sub-.500 campaign in his 14 years as head coach. "Everyone realizes that they have to contribute. Having all the new faces also gives us depth that we really haven’t had in a while, and that’s nice, to be able to play so many kids. We have a lot of depth in the midfield, where we can go perhaps seven or eight deep. We’re also young, starting many sophomores."
Although the Marauders lost leading scorer and two-time All-Area performer Drew Buzzio to graduation (now playing at the University of Rhode Island), Irvine is convinced that he has enough talent returning to make another run at HCIAA glory come November.
Leading the way is senior defender Mike Rooney, a three-year starter at sweeper, and senior midfielder Pat Millea, who scored six goals and tallied eight assists after returning from missing some action due to a broken arm.
"Rooney is a very smooth player who is generally a quiet kid, but he barks out the right things at the right time," Irvine said. "Millea has definitely stepped it up and has been pulling kids aside to tell them the right things to do. I like the leadership coming from both kids. Pat is perhaps more defensive minded than he should be, but he’s doing the right things and he’s a workhorse."
Irvine has two goaltenders to choose from, either last year’s returning starter, Ben Tamberella, or senior Matthew Gnall, a transfer from Delbarton who is eligible to play right away.
Rooney heads a talented corps of defenders, including senior fullback Todd Schild, who started in the same position last year, junior Matt Cevallos, who started as stopper last year and gained valuable experience, and sophomore fullback Mark Tiedeman.
The midfield is anchored by Millea, but also features senior Paul Ascencio, who was a starter by the close of last season, junior Dan Hazard, and sophomore Jacob Kafka. Juniors Steve McDonald and Kevin Kronyiak and sophomore Jason Thorne will all see quality playing time in a very deep midfield contingent.
The forward line will feature junior Rich Kaminski, who played some varsity last year and scored three goals in a reserve role, and talented sophomore Ted Yager, who should be the Marauders’ player of impact this season.
"Ted has totally dedicated himself to the game of soccer and he could really reach double figures in goals," Irvine said. "He has a cannon of a shot and finds the net well."
Irvine believes that the Marauders should be right in the mix for the county playoffs.
"I would think so, although the HCIAA can always turn into a crap shoot," Irvine said. "Every year, we want to be able to play well enough to make the playoffs. But with the way the league changes, you honestly don’t know about everyone else."
But there’s last year’s unthinkable start, which is not even being thought about.
"There were bizarre circumstances last year," Irvine said. "There were injuries and we had games where we just couldn’t find the net. But the guys are excited for this year. We went to camp and that turned out to be fantastic. I think we’ll be ready."
It appears as if the Marauders will be more than ready all season long. – Jim Hague