Nobody expected big things from Fair Lawn’s boys varsity soccer team this year. After winning only two games in 2011, the team was just hoping for a winning season, and the playoffs were far from everyone’s mind.
“In the beginning of the season we had no set goals specifically,” said starter Moneib Nahas. “We just all knew that we wanted to be remembered for something.”
And after the team made the state semi-finals for the first time in program history, they can rest assured that they’ve made an impact.
The team went 11-6-1, going into the North 1, Group 4 tournament as a #14 seed and upsetting Belleville and Bloomfield in the first two rounds of the postseason. Goalkeeper and team anchor Cody Gross was key to moving the team past the Bloomfield game, which was decided in the end by penalty kicks.
Coach Carlyle Myrie says that defending against the penalty kick is something Gross has worked on in practice, and this gave them the competitive edge all season, even against teams they may not have beaten otherwise.
“I think it was his skill that brought us through, because they were better than us,” said Myrie, referring to the Bloomfield team. “But Cody kept making some key saves, not only in the second round game but throughout the season.”
Gross is modest about his role in the team’s breakout success this year. “Nobody really expected us to go anywhere, except the coaches. They taught us a lot and they believed in us,” he said.
But, he admits, the attention the program’s received for its historic season has been nice. “We finally got some recognition for soccer in this school,” he added.
The squad’s title hopes ended in a 7-0 blowout against West Orange in the semi-finals, but at the moment 2012 looks less like a fluke than a turn-around year. Several starters will be returning for next season, including goalkeeper Gross.
“We have a lot of skillful players left. We’re losing some great players, but as long as we work hard during the summer and all work together, we’ll be good,” Gross said.
With plenty of talent sticking around, Myrie said the key to going even further in 2013 will be maintaining the same hunger they took the field with after last year’s disappointing season.
“Although we were doing well, as a group they didn’t get big headed and we just kept saying, ‘Take it one game at a time.’ I know we did well this season and I know on paper we look great, but [we’ll have] the same philosophy,” he said.
And although reluctant to make any postseason predictions, he says as long as they can stay over .500 they’ll have a shot at bigger things. “Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen.”