HARRISON – Turning a losing program into a winning program can be extremely complicated. And even when positive changes are made, it doesn’t always show up in the results.
Harrison boys soccer has had its share of struggles in recent years, including a dismal three-win campaign in 2015.
Outside expectations remained relatively low for 2016, but so far, the Huskies look like an entirely new team. Their latest triumph came on Thursday in a 3-2 win over Rye, marking their first win over their archrival since 2011.
“We just got tired of losing,” senior goalkeeper Noah Bender said. “We wanted to win so bad, and we went all in, all of the time. We were done with losing, so now it’s time to win.”
At the halfway point of the regular season, Harrison has already doubled its win total from last season. The Huskies are 6-1-1 thanks in large part to a relentless offensive attack.
It’s been led by seniors Gabe Pereira (nine goals and three assists) and Kevin Aguirre (four goals and nine assists), but Harrison showed its depth on Thursday. Neither Pereira nor Aguirre scored or assisted, but Darion Arango, Ryo Kakihara and Rintaro Ishiguro picked up the slack.
“I feel like we’ve learned how to play as a unit and trust each other,” Pereira said. “That’s our strongest thing right now and that’s why we’re doing so well. … We’re just trying to put as many as we can in the back of the net.”
Player of the game: Ryan Homem, Harrison — Huskies coach Matt Pringle called the win a “team effort,” but noted that Homem was “captain courageous.” The senior center back provided a steady influence on defense and was vocal throughout the game.
Turning point: Harrison refused to let the Garnets, who were playing their third game in three days, have a moment to feel good about themselves. Rye’s Carl Friedrich equalized with a booming goal from the top of the box in the 11th minute, but Kakihara, a freshman, put the Huskies back on top 2-1 with a goal less than five minutes later.
Stat line: Harrison (6-1-1) — Arango and Kakihara scored on rebounds and Ishiguro scored on an assist from Sam Glaser. Bender made eight saves and the Huskies took 12 shots. Rye (3-2-1) — Friedrich scored on an assist from Sean Traynor, who later scored on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute. William Courtney made five saves and the Garnets took 15 shots.
Quotable: “I think what’s special about this year is that we have such a wide range of age groups on our team,” Aguirre said. “We have younger kids playing well and coming into the game, and the chemistry that we have, we built it really fast. I think that last year we didn’t really do a good job with that. We’re succeeding because we click as a team and we have trust.”