September 5 will always be a special day in Wood-Ridge school history.
In 2014, its boys soccer program won its first-ever game – a 3-2 win over Weehawkeen at Albert Pomponio Field in Moonachie.
Five years later, on the same field against the same opponent, Wood-Ridge notched its 50th victory – a 4-0 triumph. It was Wood-Ridge’s 101st overall game and brought the program’s record to 50-45-6.
Seydou Camara scored twice, while Boubou Camara and Joey Rose added a goal apiece in the victory. Kyle Ramos made seven saves in the shutout.
“To get to 50 so quickly in a very difficult league, where wins don’t come easily for a small program like us is great,” head coach Alberico De Pierro said. “The kids knew that it meant a lot. That’s why myself and my coaching staff were so enthusiastic about the victory. It’s crazy that this happened on the same day, five years laster, against the same team on the same field. The coincidence is almost. Hopefully, we face them on the same day in a couple of years for our 100th win.”
The victory was a special one for De Pierro.
He built the program from scratch five years ago and took it from being a co-op with Hasbrouck Heights to a consistent team in the NJIC’s Meadowlands Division. Since it became an independent team in 2014, Wood-Ridge has had two seasons with over .500 records and one at .500 on the dot. Even when it finished below .500, it was by no more than five games. Last season, it won its first state tournament game – a 5-3 win over Wallkill Valley.
Not too shabby for a school with an enrollment of fewer than 400 kids.
“It’s not that easy,” De Pierro said. “I’m sure a lot of people don’t realize how difficult it can be even in our own community. To be able to get consistency year-in and year-out speaks volumes to our preparation and the work ethic of our kids. Every year, we try to engrave that blue-collar mentality and that we have grind out 80 minutes in every game because nothing is going to be handed to us.”
That philosophy was the foundation of the program even on opening day five years ago.
The 3-2 win was a dog fight with Thomas Fischkelta putting home a feed from Ariel Silva for the program’s first goal. Silva had a day for himself with two second-half goals to propel Wood-Ridge to its first-ever victory.
From that game a family on, a family was born.
“The alumni are so involved still today,” De Pierro said. “We have a group chat with just the alumni and we are always in contact. They stop by practices. There were a few alumni in attendance Thursday. I always remind Fischkelta that it’s the anniversary of his first goal ever for the program.”
While making an impact on his players is the most gratifying thing, De Pierro has taken some personal pride in the success his young program has had.
“Between and my best friend and assistant coach Stefan Kunar, it’s definitely personally satisfying,” he said. “Not to pat ourselves on the back, but it’s great to see that all of the hard work and hours that we spent – the frustration sometimes – pay off. We have consistency. We have kids that love the program. They love to work hard for each other. To get to 50 is definitely a nice accomplishment. We’re at the half-century now.”