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Warriors’ boys soccer team inspired to challenge bigger opponents

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By Wayne Witkowski

When tiny Iceland stunned England, 2-1, in one of the greatest upsets of European Championship soccer history a few weeks ago, it was a talker for many fans and the New Egypt High School boys soccer team with head coach Matt Carroll.

It also was an inspiration to the Warriors, seeing a country considered the “little guy,” like their NJSIAA Group I school, vanquish a much larger, traditional and well-accomplished opponent.

“They believed when you have the talent and the mentality, you can beat the world,” Carroll said of Iceland in the game that already has been featured on ESPN Classic. “It was indicative of the way we want to be.”

That mental approach showed in the latter part of last season when the Warriors went 5-1-1 before losing to Metuchen High School, 1-0, in the Central Jersey, Group I quarterfinals. New Egypt had gone 3-8 before that surge as players adjusted to new head coach Carroll, who moved up from an assistant position as successor to Sam Palumbo, who stepped down to devote time to his growing family. The Warriors were mastering somewhat different schemes and tactics on the field.

Carroll also has stressed his philosophy of players being flexible to move into different positions as needed. Developing chemistry remained the prevailing concern.

“Last year, it took long to jell,” Carroll said. “There were a lot of different ideas of how they should be. Then they developed team chemistry over that 5-1-1 stretch.”

That chemistry is inbred for when practices begin next month, as only three players graduated in June — but they were all good ones. Bill Frazier, who is continuing his playing career at Delaware Valley College this fall, showed flexibility playing on defense and at striker, where he tabulated six goals and 10 assists. Andrew Agostinacchio, headed to Rosemont College, cranked out 14 goals and had six assists. Bob Reichard played sweeper.

Sean O’Neill, who will be a junior in the fall, leads the captain’s practices with 18 to 20 players. They’ll participate in an 8 vs. 8 tournament at Northern Burlington County Regional High School July 30 and also in a Rider University camp.

“Leadership and workouts are going strong,” Carroll said. “Some are on club teams practicing three hours, and those players also come to our workouts for an hour that day, and I tell them they do not have to be obligated to do both if they are working out with a club team until we actually start practices. They want to be here and to be together. The start [of high school preseason] is a long way off, but there are very exciting prospects. The kids are invested in the program.”

That’s evident in Tim Blomgren, who will start in goal for the fourth season. He made 154 saves last season while allowing 47 goals and securing three shutouts — two of them at the start of the 8-10-1 season.

“It’s just watching how he’s grown the last three years, his confidence and how he’s pushed other guys and they respond,” Carroll said of his goalie.

On the other end, it’s not one or two go-to guys.

“We want to play an attack style and have three, four, five guys involved in the scoring,” Carroll said. “Having a year under their belt, they really bought into what’s going on.”

That’s indicative in the play of Collin Melazzo, who will be a senior, and Cody LaCava, who will be a junior, and their ability to play many different positions, including forward.

Assistant coaches Gabe Marquez and Glenn Knigge, who coaches the junior varsity team, return and will work through the preseason that includes scrimmages against Lawrence High School, Notre Dame High School and Middletown High School North as the team prepares for the season opener against Holy Cross High School in early September. New Egypt also is renewing its series against neighboring school Allentown High School this season.

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