Nothing But Success on the Pitch
Since last season’s impressive state playoff run, the boys varsity team started their season with a heartbreaking loss in overtime to Seton Hall Prep, one of the best teams in New Jersey. However, the team did not let that loss define their season. The Raiders would bounce back immediately and catch fire for the rest of the season leading them to a current record of 9-3 (4-2 in the conference) putting them in third place, but they are in a good position to overtake second. Despite the three losses, the boys soccer team is looking dominate and it appears they are on track for an incredible season that will expand from their playoff run from last year.
As a team, Nutley has proven their dominance by outscoring their opponents 41-19. The scariest part about this Nutley team is their attack. Most of Nutley’s success has come from the strike partnership presented by senior Garrett Groeling and junior John-Paul (JP) Maruri. Statistically, they have combined to contribute to 40(goals and assists) out of 41 goals. So far on the season, Garrett has 13 goals and eight assists while JP has 13 goals and seven assists. The two have a certain connection and jell that is unstoppable to play against, but very fun to watch.
The two up top obviously recognize their success and both agree that, “this duo it’s very strong and keeps helping with our offense efficiently,” says JP. The two not only connect well on the field but seem to have similar ideas and answers when interviewed. The duo, which was recently on the list of NJ.com’s top dual threat attackers, know their part of the team and are focussed on one goal, reaching the state finals. “My goals are to continue to keep scoring, win the conference, and make a long run in states and go farther than last year,” says Garrett. “The goal I want to achieve with the team is to make another run at states and hopefully reach the final this time,” explains JP. The two also feel that they have grown a lot since last season in many different areas of play but they have more to improve despite their well-performing season. Garrett and JP will continue to tear apart defenses and do whatever they can to reach their goals of the state finals.
Even with the success that Nutley has had, they have overcome multiple adversities and challenges. One of these challenges was dealing with the loss of both senior captains Austin Sweeney and Brandon Syto because of injury. Austin Sweeney has been a four-year varsity player, three years starting, and is the starting CAM (center attacking midfielder) while Brandon Syto was the starting goalkeeper for the past two years and has been a key part of the team’s backline between the sticks. The two had only played a couple games and were performing really well before getting injured. Syto is out for the rest of the season with a fractured ankle while Sweeney will be returning very shortly and will round out the offense and midfield to make the team stronger than it was before. Syto has been replaced with junior Cameron Schilp and senior Christian Torres for the remainder of season and they will do an adequate job in goal.
The man responsible for the success of boys’ season is head coach Thomas Tolve. Tolve has been the assistant head coach for many years before assuming the position of head coach last season. The first season for the head coach was a success, bringing the team all the way to the state semi-finals. Now heading into his second season, he has high expectations and has one goal in mind: winning. “The goals we set as a team were to win. Win conference, win counties, and win states,” says Tolve.
Tolve knew the potential of the team and was ready for a tough season in the SEC conference starting with an opening game against second in the state, Seton Hall Prep. “Our Seton Hall game wasn’t a surprise to me, but to everyone else from around the state seeing the result of the game i’m sure they might have been a little surprised. When we played seton hall, they were 2nd in the state, and I chose to play them first to set the tone for the season. I believed we could beat them, but most people probably didn’t. Just like last season when no one thought a 14th seed could do well in the state tournament, and we went on to prove everyone wrong,” Tolve explains. Clearly, coach Tolve is no stranger when it comes to proving people wrong and being an underdog. Tolve pushes his team and challenges them, but he knows that they will push through the challenges and strive for success.
The boys now seem more fired up than ever with state playoffs around the corner. The team is coming off a great overtime win against a very talented Cranford squad. Everyone on the team has the same mindset for every game going forward, win. Despite injuries, the team looks as strong and as passionate as ever, and are on a great path to success.