CHATHAM Jack Herb wasn’t totally unknown to the Mendham soccer team when he showed up at the first captains’ practice back in July. Herb was just getting back to Chester after spending almost four years in California. But he’d grown up there and played soccer with many of the other seniors on the Minutemen roster.
Herb had relocated back to New Jersey after his junior year, driving across the country with his older brother James. The family had moved out west shortly after James Herb graduated from Mendham — and Jack finished eighth grade — in June 2012.
Herb thought he would make the team and had planned to try to take a leadership role on the senior-heavy lineup. But he’d never imagined himself stepping up to the penalty spot in an NJAC-United match against Chatham.
Herb “was ready for it” and had a goal and an assist as Mendham defeated the host Cougars, 2-0, on Wednesday afternoon. He has scored two of the Minutemen’s three goals this season.
Senior Zach Bible made 10 saves — seven of them in an aggressive second half — for his second shutout of the season. Both Mendham’s victories have been clean sheets, the season opener against Parsippany Hills and on Wednesday.
The Minutemen also doubled their goal total for the season on Wednesday.
“Everyone was tired of losing,” said Bible, whose most dramatic stop came less than three minutes into the match on a dive to his left.
“We got into a new zone and started playing the ball on the floor more. (On Tuesday) we had a good practice, and it got us pumped to play.”
The Minutemen earned the penalty kick when a Chatham player was called for a handball in the box midway through the first half. Herb didn’t expect to be called upon but had practiced PKs. He read Cougars goalkeeper Alex Wilson’s body language, “sitting a little to his right,” and shot the opposite way — low into the right corner.
Senior Thomas Nobes gave Mendham what proved to be an insurance goal to a similar spot, low from the left side to the right corner, just past Wilson’s outstretched hand.
Young Chatham is still trying to find its way after significant graduation losses and injuries to starters including All Daily Record first-team goalkeeper Henry Stusnick. The Cougars switched up their formation in the second half, pushing three forwards up and playing three in the back. But Mendham countered by sitting back on defense, trying to withstand a renewed Chatham attack.
Peter DeMaria also stepped up in the Cougars’ net for five second-half saves, including one off a tricky restart where Mendham used multiple dummy players and strung several passes together.
“The intensity level was much higher,” Chatham junior midfielder Matt Raiola said. “We went out there and wanted it more. We didn’t let up a goal, and we had more chances in the second half. Every single guy’s got to want it. We definitely brought it in the second half.”