The Cherry Hill West High School boys’ soccer team has not only moved into the Courier-Post Top 15, but the Lions vaulted all the way up to No. 7 with their first appearance.
“The potential has been there,” coach Dan Butler said. “On paper it looks like we got off to a bad start and we did at 2-3, but we lost to (top-ranked) Washington Township, (No. 2) Cherokee and (No. 10) Eastern. And they were all very competitive games.
“Since the 2-3 start, we have been playing the same but getting better results.”
The Lions (7-3) have won five straight, including impressive wins over Eastern and No. 9 Shawnee.
Senior goalie Dave Rochford admits the Lions noticed the omission from the rankings.
“It put a chip on our shoulder,” Rochford said. “I feel with the start, we’re getting better and becoming closer every game.”
Rochford also said the season-ending loss to Ocean City in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals last year left a bitter taste.
“I felt we played better,” Rochford said. “We honestly feel if we played at home we would’ve won.”
Rochford and junior Andrew Robertson were splitting time in the net until Robertson injured his hip on Sept. 19.
“They both have been playing very well,” said Butler, who’s in his ninth season.
Butler is pleased with his team’s overall play. Senior Nick Krake, who had 14 goals last season, leads the Lions with 11 this year.
“We are pretty balanced,” Butler said.
The Lions will be tested again by a top team when they play at Shawnee on Tuesday night. Then, they could have the opportunity to play Washington Township or Cherokee again in the upcoming South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Tournament. Or maybe both teams.
First, though, as the luck of the draw would have it, West is matched up against Shawnee in the first round at 3:45 on Thursday — meaning back-to-back battles with the Renegades.
“People want to see it,” Butler said about the popular in-season tourney. “People want to see all four groups play against each other and the parochials. It’s fun.”
“The Coaches Cup has been on our radar all year,” Rochford said.
Rochford is also looking forward to college. Right now he lists Maryland, North Carolina State, Texas A&M and Virginia as his top choices.
“I’m looking to study aerospace engineering,” said Rochford, who has a weighted GPA of 6.14. “I took physics last year and all the concepts and ideas really intrigued me.”
The Lions are certainly an intriguing team to watch as tournament time approaches.
Coaches Tournament: First- round games for the Coaches Tournament begin Thursday.
Sixteen teams were selected for the tourney. Washington Township is the two-time defending champion and top seed. The Minutemen open at home against No 16 West Deptford Saturday at noon.
The 8-9 game is certainly interesting with Burlington Township playing at home against Cinnaminson. The Falcons beat the Pirates 3-1 three weeks ago.
The semifinals are Oct. 25 at Paul VI and the championship is Oct. 31, also at Paul VI.
Looking ahead: Before the Coaches Tournament there’s a heavyweight bout in the Olympic Conference on Thursday as No. 1 Washington Township plays at No. 2 Cherokee. The two rivals played to a 1-1 tie on opening day.
Last season, the Minutemen beat the Chiefs four times, including in the playoffs and Coaches Tournament.
Kevin Callahan; (856) 486-2424; email@example.com