The Wallkill Valley High School boys soccer program took to the pitch with pride and determination be it during practices or games-and the results were often times positive, certainly in terms of effort put forth on a regular basis.
“Coming into the season with only two seniors on our varsity team and playing in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Freedom Division, I knew we would have to make up for our lack of experience with hard work and tough play,’’ Wallkill Valley head coach Sean Neal said. “Looking back on our season, two games stand out for me and they're both wins in overtime. Being able to grind out a win in overtime is a testament to the players for not giving up and doing whatever it takes to win the game."
A number of student athletes emerged to help guide the Rangers this past season.
“As I said, we only had two seniors on our roster I knew some younger guys would have to emerge as leaders to help drive the team forward,’’ Neal said. “Players such as Ryan Keena , Sklyer Hanisch, and Henry Diribe really grew into leadership roles this year. Ryan is a natural leader and leads by example, and Sklyer always plays his hardest which then encourages his teammates to follow."
Coach Neal is prideful to recall those players who showed great progress as soccer players throughout the year.
“There were many players who showed great improvement from day one of preseason to the last day of the season,’’ Neal said. “However, just overall as a team we showed great improvement, although you may not be able to tell that from our record. We play in a very tough Division, but we like the challenge of doing so as it will only make us better.
The Rangers tallied five overall victories and advanced to the NJSIAA North 1 Group 1 Sectional Tournament this fall and finished with a 5-12-1.
“Our league, the NJAC Freedom Division is extremely competitive," Neal said. "Last year, Hackettstown won North 2 Group 2 Section Championship, and this year Jefferson won the North 1 Group 2 Section Championship. This helps us prepare for the State Tournament and the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament. This year we won our first round H/W/S game versus Lenape Valley 1-0 which was a goal of ours and we qualified for the North 1 Group 1 state tournament.’’
The Rangers will look to continue their forward progression in 2020.
“I started seven sophomores, three juniors and one senior, so I am only losing one starter,’’ Neal said. “Most of the guys returning next year are now three or four year varsity players with a ton of game experience. If they can put in the time and effort throughout the course of the offseason, we should be able to be very competitive next season.’’