By Jim Hague
The Kearny High School boys’ soccer team, the defending Hudson County Tournament champions, is prepared to make another run at the county’s top prize this season.
“I’m very happy with the way we have looked in practice and scrimmages,” said Kearny boys’ head coach Bill Galka, now in his fifth season as the head coach. “We did pretty well in scrimmages against good opponents (Pingry, Ramapo and Clifton) and we’re looking to see how well we do when we start for real.”
Galka knows that the Kardinals lost some quality performers from the team that defeated Bayonne in the county title game last year.
“We’re looking for our returning kids to step it up,” Galka said. “We have some kids this year that had smaller roles last year and they’re good players. We’re hopeful that they can step into bigger roles this year and do well.”
Leading the way is senior forward Junior Batista, who had a county-best 24 goals last season.
Batista was such the leading scorer for the Kards last year that the runner-up had seven goals.
“We know he’s going to be a marked man this year,” Galka said. “We know he’s no longer a secret to the other teams any more. But we have a nice balanced team behind him.”
Batista has an outside chance to become the school’s all-time leading goal scorer with a great season.
“We don’t want to put pressure on him,” Galka said of Batista. “But he has a big target on his back. He’s become a good leader and we’re counting on his solid leadership.”
Sophomore Andres Pescantez is another forward who saw some varsity action. Seniors Nick Coelho, Kevin Ortiz and Kevin Campos are all forwards that Galka can call upon.
“They’re all getting time until we can figure things out,” Galka said. “Right now, we’re going with them as a committee.”
Senior Renato Vigo heads the midfielders. Vigo had five goals and four assists last season.
“We’re looking for him to improve and be more of a leader there,” Galka said.
Seniors Abdellah Bouzidi, Robert Ferreira and Chris Misdea and the Cruz twins, seniors Thiago and Thomas, are also all quality midfielders.
The backline is headed by returning senior starter Ryan Wilson, who had nine assists last year. Wilson is the prototypical Kearny defender with a strong leg and good size who can make plays from the backline.
Senior Eric Castellanos is another returnee at defender. Juniors Joao Parreiras and Gabriel Freitas are also main cogs in the Kearny defense.
The starting goalkeeper is senior Tyler Anderson, who was the Kards’ net minder last season. Sebastian Ferreira is a capable backup to the lanky and rangy Anderson.
Senior Alejandro Dianes is the Kards’ jack-of-all-trades, the versatile player who can play either as a back or as a forward, depending on the situation.
Galka likes the makeup of his team.
“We have a good nucleus back from last year, guys who got some good playing time,” Galka said. “We also have some good newcomers. We have a good hard-working group who don’t mind working hard. And we have to work hard if we want to get where we want to be, which is contending for the county and then the state. It’s a well-balanced team and I’m really happy with that.”
Galka was also pleased to hear that the Kearny-Harrison game is on and will be played Oct. 8 at Red Bull Arena, after it was originally cancelled last week.
“I think we’re all looking forward to be playing at Red Bull Arena,” Galka said. “It’s going to be exciting. I think there was already that built-up excitement that comes with Kearny-Harrison, but now, having the game there is great. It’s exciting for everyone, the players, the coaches, the fans alike. It’s a great thing.”
And the Kardinals look poised to have a great season.