It was a short trip in the state tournament last season and the Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge boys soccer team wants to make it a lot longer this fall.
The Aviators were knocked out by Newton, 2-0, in the opening game of the 2011 Group 2 North state playoffs.
What is so unusual is that it was the only loss for the season by two goals. In the 9-8 record in 2011, seven of the eight losses were by one goal.
For this season Hasbrouck Heights head coach Vinny Marchese needs to replace the goal-scoring that he lost with the graduation like Dylan Colombo who was All North Jersey Interscholastic Conference first team forward.
But Marchese and Heights/Wood-Ridge do have 10 seniors on the roster so they have the background to win. "We're a balanced team with 10 seniors with a lot of experience," said Marchese who though added that the depth is a little suspect. "We have to stay healthy."
In terms of goals, Heights is looking to get back to the Bergen County Tournament and win a game while also getting a victory in the state tournament.
While the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference realigned, the Aviators/Blue Devils are still in the same division with powerhouse Wallington, who Marchese said are the prohibitive favorites in the new Meadowlands division. The new Meadowlands is combination of the former Meadowlands A and B divisions except for Queen of Peace, Harrison and Secaucus.
For the division Marchese believes that Heights will compete against the likes of Becton and North Arlington for second place behind the Panthers.
Hasbrouck Heights does have its starting goalie back in senior goalie Roland Gamez who allowed only a goal a game last season. "He's looked great," said Marchese about Gamez who was also first All North Jersey Interscholastic Conference in track and field. "His confidence is definitely up and he's a natural athlete."
The Hasbrouck Heights head coach added that Gamez's 'spatial awareness' has improved to make more stops this season.
The top returning player in terms of scoring is senior Gabe Toledo, who had seven goals and nine assists in 2011, will be at the outside midfield. "He plays outside midfield and you have to be more conditioned," said Marchese.
Along with Toledo there is the center midfield duo of senior Chris Bini and senior Tyler Nascimento. Nascimento joined Toledo on the NJIC first team last season. Bini was part of the NJIC second team.
"He's got a quiet confidence and is usually at the right place at the right time," said Marchese about Nascimento. "They (Bini and Nascimento) work very well together."
The outside midfielder is Timmy Dutchak who is a first year starter.
In the front the Aviators are led by the brother duo of juniors Angle and Rich Rodriguez along with senior Thomas Blo.
The backfield is led by a pair of center backs who are returning in senior Thomas Hughes and Michael Bak. Hughes was a All NJIC second team defender in 2011. The other defenders are senior Kevin O'Leary and Giovanni Lombardi.
The Aviators will get their first test to see where they are at in the new NJIC Meadowlands when they host North Arlington on Friday.
Hasbrouck Heights Boys Soccer Schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)
Sept. 7 North Arlington
Sept. 11 Saddle Brook
Sept. 15 Elmwood Park, 10 a.m.
Sept. 19 Becton
Sept. 21 Wallington
Sept. 24 at New Milford
Sept. 25 at Weehawken
Sept. 27 at St. Mary
Oct. 1 at North Arlington
Oct. 3 at Saddle Brook
Oct. 5 New Milford
Oct. 8 Cranford
Oct. 11 at Becton
Oct. 17 Weehawken
Oct. 19 Cresskill
Oct. 23 St. Mary
Oct. 25 at Wallington