Jesse Corben didn’t mind waiting a few extra days to earn his first win as Hewlett’s boys’ soccer coach following 14 seasons as an assistant to Nick Lacetera.
The Bulldogs defeated neighboring rival Lawrence, 4-2, on the road in the Conference A-Central opener Sept. 12, a little more than 24 hours after squandering a two-goal second-half lead at Plainedge in a non-league game. Hewlett then followed the victory over Lawrence with an impressive 3-0 win over South Side in its home opener Sept. 14.
“Lawrence and South Side have been two of the best teams in the county for years,” Corben said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster for our guys to open the conference schedule this way. Now we feel we can play with anyone. We just have to keep up the intensity because there are no easy games.”
Senior goalkeeper Matteo Preziosi, a returning starter, made 8 saves in the shutout win over South Side. “Matteo gives us a chance to win every game,” Corben said. “He’s a tall kid who does a solid job and leads by example. He’s aggressive to the ball and has a strong leg.”
Senior Ori Assaf opened the scoring and then drew a foul in the box that led to junior Matthew Lamour’s penalty kick goal as Hewlett built a 2-0 halftime lead. Senior Ryan Goodman headed home the final goal.
“South Side is historically one of the strongest programs in Nassau,” Corben said. “We haven’t had much success against them over the years. Even though the score was 3-0, we didn’t dominate. We capitalized on our opportunities and did a great job in the back moving the ball out quickly.”
In the conference opener, the Bulldogs spotted Lawrence an early 1-0 lead and also trailed 2-1 in the second half before scoring three unanswered goals Lamour had a hat trick and senior Eric Riftin notched a goal and an assist.
“It was great how the kids responded,” Corben said. “We had two tough non-league results. We tied Division 3-3 and lost 3-2 to Plainedge after leading 2-0. Looking back, the Plainedge game could be a blessing in disguise. We learned a lesson and it wasn’t a conference opponent.”
In addition to Preziosi, the Bulldogs returned a bunch of starters from last season when they fell short of qualifying for the Nassau Class A playoffs. Senior Max Mariasch is the lone returnee to the starting defense and brings a physical presence and leadership. He’s been joined by senior speedsters Dylan Joseph and Rafael Iraheta, as well as sophomore Kfir Halfon, who has impressed Corben thus far after starring at the JV level last fall.
The all-senior midfield features Riftin as the attacker, Goodman and Dylan Rave as workhorses battling for 50-50 balls, and Assaf, Matthew Mata and Sergio Zumba, a converted defender, on the outside. Lamour also sees some time in the midfield but is the team’s primary forward. “Matthew can dribble at full speed and is our counter-attack weapon,” Corben said of Lamour, who is a captain along with Mariasch, Goodman and Rave.