Strikers End First Season with a Win

The 2015 Hamilton SC Strikers began their existence on June 19th 2023 when the final try-out callbacks took place at Mercer County Park.  Hamilton Soccer Club was lucky to have enough interest at the U-9 level that they would be forming two teams.  The HSC Inferno had a very successful first season and with enough talented and interested players a new team was going to be created.  Eleven boys came out and showed their stuff going through drills, showcasing their skills, and executing what the coaches asked of them.  It would be another 6 weeks until practices officially started but the stage was set.

In July two additional players came forward with interest and were given a chance.  They showed enough to push the final player count to thirteen, one a dedicated goalie.  In July optional group practices started with the Infernos sharpening their skills and this new, not yet named team, starting to take shape.  Over the course of July practices took place and the players started to get to know each other.  A poll was given to choose a name; Strikers it is.  Some players went on vacation, others continued to practice.

As the hot August sun shone overheard, the Strikers plied their trade on the practice fields.  Two practices a week, unless it was too hot.  The young Strikers squad showed up and honed their skills.  The first game would be in September and there was still so much that needed to be figured out.  What is an offsides?  How do I do a throw-in?  What is this built-out line?  What is a mid-fielder?  Why do I have to stay away from the ball?  Can I punt the ball?  Why can’t I do a head ball?  The Strikers players practiced, their coaches instructed, questions started to get answered, and the boys started to get to know each other.  The nervous excited was as plentiful as the hot weather.

Finally, after only weeks of practice the first game was afoot.  An away match in Old Bridge, in the rain, on a very high grass field.  The Strikers ran, and kicked, and ran, and got very wet.  When it was all said and done their first match ended in a 1-1 draw.  No one was upset, this was our first organized game and leaving an opponent’s field with points was a positive.  Through the next few weeks September showed how wet it can be.  Games were rescheduled, weeknight games, mixed in with weekend games were a given now.  How would the boys react?

The team went into the Mt. Laurel Columbus Day Tournament with a 1-1-1 league record.  They were going to be playing three games in two days against teams they knew nothing about.  The left the tournament with a 2-1-0 record and a second-place trophy.  They boys were playing more as a team and their early practices were starting to show on the field.

They hit some road bumps with an early exit from the MOSA Curci Cup; that could be forgiven being an away game the day after the tournament.  Over the next three weeks the boys went 2-0-1.  Multiple players were making huge strides in their game.  In the early season the team was carried by players who had more experience.  By the end of October, they were getting contributions from the entire line-up.  Their league record stood at 3-1-3 in a tie for second place with a Lawrence team that they already beat twice.  They had three games left and a very good chance of finishing in the top two of their flight.

November did not start how the Strikers would have liked it.  They ran into the league leaders at the Strikers home field and left with an enigmatic 2-5 loss.  They controlled large portions of the game and did not deserve the final score.  They had two games left and had fallen to third in their flight.  They needed to win the last two games and hope that the strong Lacey team that had beaten them twice would also take care of Lawrence.  The Strikers traveled to Howell, a team they had tied at home, and took care of business with a convincing 4-1 drubbing.  Their last game was against Old Bridge, their very first league opponent, at home.  They needed to win and hope that Lawrence lost to bring them even on points while holding the tiebreaker, head-to-head record.

The Strikers took to the field and grabbed an early 1-0 lead from a free kick just outside the penalty area.  The first half was an end-to-end game with both teams having chances.  The half ended with the Strikers still leading 1-0.  The second half was a different story.  From the first whistle, the Strikers took it to the Old Bridge team.  They scored a beautiful goal when the outside left mid-fielder led the striker into the penalty area to raise the score to 2-0.  The Strikers kept the pressure up living on the Old Bridge side of the field.  A steal just outside of the penalty area with 10 minutes left and a clean finish to the far post raised the score to 3-0.  The Strikers transitioned to a high press and deep defense to maintain the lead.  Old Bridge did not have any punches left and the final whistle ensured the Strikers did their best to finish second.  In a bit of good luck, Lacey was able to finish off Lawrence to ensure that the Strikers first league season would end with them in second place.

Strikers team picture in front of a soccer goal with the players standing in front of three coaches

Jett Aviles, Yaw Barwuah, Axel Chichay-Yarigsicha, Jaxson Such-Cavallaro, Colton Duino, Reno Furlough, Lucas Persichilli, Franck Mendez, Colin Todd, Owen Bliefernich, Bennett Moore, Brayden Jannell. Coaches pictured in back, Obed Aviles, Eric Todd, Kurt Bliefernich

The Fall 2023 season was a solid start for a new team.  They came very close to some top finishes but still collected a tournament trophy and a league second place finish in their flight.  The boys developed new friendships and grew their skills significantly.  They get to look forward to some time away from the pitch before they head indoors for winter training and a winter indoor league.  It is not known what will happen from here, but we can be certain that they will show up with the same excitement and desire that they first showed when they came to try-outs in June just looking for a chance to play.