It didn’t take long for the Somerville High School boys soccer team to show how much better it wants to be than it was last season.
With defending Skyland Conference Raritan Division champion Voorhees in town, the hosts took command from the game’s onset. They played a fast and aggressive style of soccer we haven’t been accustomed to seeing, and they overcame a lull in the second half. It gave Somerville, ranked 10th in the Courier News Top 10, a 2-0 victory in the season opener at Brooks Field.
“It’s something that we’ve been focusing on — getting that high pressure up there,” said Somerville coach Bryan Smith. “We have a lot more speed than we’ve had in the past so we wanted to use it to our advantage. Today was a really good test for us, and it looked good.”
Junior forward Alex Alarcon opened the scoring in the 11th minute, and the goal was a beauty. Alarcon chipped the ball with his opposite (left) foot over the head of Vikings’ keeper Will Passera from 25 yards out, and it took two hops into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Junior midfielder Justin Heins (two assists) generated the scoring chance by hitting Alarcon on the run, an early indication of what loomed.
The devastating blow, however, came with under two minutes left in the first half. Junior midfielder Pablo Benegas inserted a corner kick high into the box where sophomore forward Chris DiCostanza was waiting to head it home for the commanding two-goal lead.
“Letting up a goal with less than a minute to go in the half is always tough,” Voorhees coach Chase Barbieri said.
Voorhees would make a run at things early after the break, though. It had several quality scoring opportunities during the first 12 minutes of the second half.
In the 51st minute, Vikes’ Riley Parnham got behind the Pioneers’ defenders for a good look at net, but keeper Nick Nugent shut off Parnham’s chance by meeting him at the 15-yard line for an aggressive save. Nugent turned aside eight shots for his first career shutout.
By weathering the storm, Somerville flashed some signs of improvement in a department it was weak in a year ago.
“Coach has been talking to us about “the wall,” Nugent said. “Last year we always seemed to hit the later in games, and this year our goal is to run hard and give it our all for the entire game.”
“They took it to us physically, and we were able to fight through that wall,” added Smith. “It was a slow start for us in the second half, and were were able to fight through it. That’s a great sign for us.”
Although Pioneers’ senior midfielder Alex Noriega’s name didn’t show in the box score, his impact was felt. Noriega, who left the program last year to play academy ball, flashed his immense talent by hitting the bar with a strike from over 30 yards out.
“It’s invaluable to have a player like him,” Smith said. “We missed him last year, and chose to come back and play for us. He’s a presence in whatever he does out there.”