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West Orange's Zach Ames (8) and Seton Hall Prep's Brett Rojas (13, right) get after the ball during Monday's action at Kelly Athletic Complex. (Photos by Erika Bakirtzis)
West Orange's Dan Romain (9) is aggressively in pursuit of ball vs. Seton Hall Prep as the Pirates' Shawn Zimmermann pursues Mountaineer in Monday's important match.
West Orange's Kamsi Udodi (14), who had both his team's goals vs. The Prep, races for ball in open field as Mountaineers stayed on the attack vs. Pirates. Looking to slow down the speedy Udodi are Achim Younker (8) and Shawn Zimmermann (4).
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Rojas, the outstanding Tufts-bound Madison resident, had given SHP a 1-0 lead with 19:40 left in the first half with assists from junior striker Mason Toye, who was playing his first game as a Pirate following his transfer from Morristown-Beard, and senior midfielder Achim Younker.
West Orange answered to tie matters 1-1 with 1:59 left before the intermission when Udodi, a swift senior forward, netted a goal in close with an assist from senior “Poncho” Bana.
Just over two minutes into the second half, West Orange’s outstanding senior goalkeeper Diego Pedrido made a stop of a point blank shot off Younker’s foot, and he did the same in stopping Rojas in close with 14:38 remaining.
Meanwhile, the fleet-footed Udodi remained dangerous on the right wing and in the match’s closing minutes, with junior back Russell Hoffer delivering a fine cross, both Dan Romain and Pierre got their feet on the ball before Udoli finished off the play for the game-winner.
“I made sure I was tied with their last defender and I knew the ball was coming inside the box after Russell’s cross,” said Udodi, who now has eight goals on the season. “Then Dan got a foot on the ball and next thing I knew the all hit off the keeper’s (Greg Irwin) finger and I was able to be sure the ball into the goal.”
Berman was also certain that his Pirates could have done a better job on the critical series in front of his team’s net.
“That’s a ball we have to clear, and even if our kids thought he was off sides, we have to clear it out of there,” said the longtime SHP head mentor. “We have to play better and we also have to do a better job of scoring because we should have put another one in.
“We didn’t play well together out there today and we didn’t get a good flow, allowing them to dictate the action.”
West Orange vs. SHP is always a soccer battle and the Mountaineers have done a decent job against the Pirates, especially at their cozy confines off Pleasant Valley Way.
“They beat us at their place last year and always play us tough as a crosstown rival,” said Rojas. “They’re big, athletic and tough and with Mason (Toye) and (senior midfielder) Mike (Gallo) just beginning to play we haven’t really gotten used to playing with each other yet and we’re still a work in progress.
“It’s difficult to lose a conference game like this, but at the end of the day the counties and states are where it matters most and we’ll play better the next time out.”
Toye, who entered a game for SHP for the first time with 28:00 left in the first half, just became eligible after sitting out the mandatory 30 days in accordance with NJSIAA transfer rules after earning a varsity letter as a sophomore sensastion (32 goals, 15 assists) for Non-Public, North B runner-up Morristown-Beard last fall.
The Indiana University commit and New York Red Bulls U-15 Academy product, joined Gallo, who had to wait six practice days before being eligible this past week, as two key additions to the Pirate lineup moving forward.
“We still need a little more time to get adjusted to each other,” said Toye. “They beat us on that second goal and we’ll learn from that, and I think it’s better to get a loss like this out of the way now and then hopefully play much better the next time.
“West Orange has some really good athletes and I don’t think our team has gone up against that high a level of athleticism yet this season.”
What is likely is that West Orange and SHP will meet in the Essex County Tournament final on Saturday, Oct. 31, at Belleville. There is still a lot more soccer to be played before that could happen, but that rematch is certainly a distinct possibility.
“Seton Hall Prep has some great talent and playing against them again in a county final would be great and that would be very exciting, but we know that you can’t take anything for granted in this sport and especially in our county,” said Brown, the Mountaineers’ standout center midfielder who is being courted by Temple, Drexel and Loyola. “We’re rolling right now and we’ve matured as a group with many of the same players as last year who have simply grown up as players and we’ve meshed well together this fall.
“Still, this is a very difficult game, and every opponent is dangerous especially if you don’t continue to play at the top of your game so we have to stay consistent moving forward.”
Meanwhile, while the talent is certainly there up top with finishers like Udoli, the underrated strength for West Orange could be in the back where Pedrido is a superb net minder and the four players in front of him, Hoffer, Ryan Rosa, right back Dillon Reitberger and center back Andrei Rosu, are superb defenders.
Rosu, a tough competitor, is wearing a full cast due to a broken wrist, yet he remains relentless and did a very good job marking Toye all match long. Plus Pedrido makes the key saves when they are needed most.
“If Diego was 5-11 instead of 5-7 he would be an Academy player and he’d have colleges all over him, but in truth he’s big-time and is just an amazing keeper,” said Nevins. “He makes people shoot inside the net and over the net and that shot (from Rojas) he stopped from six yards away was huge.”
Most of all, West Orange, a definite threat in Group 4, can compete with anyone, including SHP.
“Straight up we can play them and not just try to defend 13 (Rojas), 8 (Younker) and 19 (Toye),” said Nevins. “In the past we would just drop and counter, but now we are able to react well when they press us in our end.
“We’re a much better team at home so this is a real nice road win for us, but we also know that they are a tremendous team and we’ll have to continue to play very well in order to accomplish what we want to this season.”
Super Essex Conference-American Division boys soccer:
WEST ORANGE (10-0, 8-0) 1 1 -2
SETON HALL PREP (9-1-2, 4-1-1) 1 0 -1
SHP- Goal: Brett Rojas (19:40 left 1 st Half) Assists: Mason Toye/Achim Younker
WO- Kasmi Udodi (1:59 left 1 st Half) Assist: Poncho Bana
WO- Udodi (2:55 left 2 nd Half) Assists: Dan Romain/Nikendy Pierre
Shots: West Orange- 5 SHP-4
Saves: WO Diego Pedrido 3 SHP Greg Irwin 3
Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister
Seton Hall Prep's Brian Tevlin (12) closes in as West Orange's Zach Ames directs ball upfield against the Pirates during Monday's entertaining SEC-American soccer action.
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