Hillsborough boys soccer team cements its legacy


courtesy of Kyle Bogado

The boys soccer team poses after their well deserved senior night win over Montgomery.

Ty Kang and Alex Lasin

As the old idiom goes, “All good things must come to an end,” and the boys soccer team’s historic season came to a conclusion, but not before altering the record book. The team was the first in school history to go undefeated in a regular season; it also finished with 16 wins, two ties, one loss en route to securing the conference championship and winning the county championship.

Stacked with 18 seniors, all of who gave several years of varsity experience, the team developed tremendous chemistry. The seniors had high expectations for their season; almost all of the seniors have been playing soccer together on both  middle school and travel teams.

“We’ve all been playing with each other since middle school so the bond was already built,” senior Justin Dominique said. “This season was just about renewing those old bonds, and once that was done we knew we had something special.”

Despite each win being a total team effort, there were several standout players who elevated the intensity on the pitch. Dominique was the leading scorer with 15 goals followed by senior, and four-year varsity player Zuka Bedoshvili, who netted eight goals. Dominique and Senior Alfredo Gonzalez each lead the team in assists with seven apiece. Senior goalkeeper Nick Burd was consistent all season long having a career-high 57 saves this year, followed by senior keeper Jack Renz who contributed 19 between the sticks.

At the start of the season, the team was basically off the radars of the NJ.com sports analysts due to their .500 record last year of 7-7-1. At the end of the season, however, the team was able to gain state-wide recognition as the eighth best team in New Jersey. Dominique proved to be a top-tier player in the state by earning a spot for the First Team All-State roster. Head coach Eric Puma was also recognized as one of the best coaches in the state. The team proved to be one of the best this school has ever seen; the connection each and every player had with one another could not be replicated.

The 27 players on the roster not only made an impact on the field but also left their mark on the younger players of the program and town. For years, soccer games have had poor attendance, but this year a packed fan section on home and away games became the norm. They hope their presence will be something that will impact and influence the players of the whole program now, and in the years to come.

“This year’s team will serve as a model and provide motivation for future teams,” Puma said. “Underclassmen have seen not only how talented this team was but also the great personal qualities they possessed. It was this team’s character, not titles or wins and losses, that should be the model for future teams. I believe the younger players have it in them to develop some of the same qualities.”

Despite their heartbreaking loss in the first round of the state tournament, the team proved over and over again that good teams find a way to win. That became their motto, which was fortified by earning tough victories in hostile environments, against chippy opponents, and unsteady officials.

“This year’s team worked very hard for a long time to get where they are,” Puma said. “They have great chemistry, were unbelievably selfless and stayed connected and positive. They were a family that stuck together the entire season.  Every team is different but this one seemed like they had a special bond that could not be broken, no matter the circumstances.”

Although the 18 seniors are leaving, and the same 27 players will not be on the same team anymore, their banners will forever hang among the school’s other title-winning teams. This team and family not only increased the town’s passion for soccer, but sealed its legacy in school history.