Alex Jesseman fights for the ball during a game against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North on Sept. 22, 2016. North won 3-0. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)
Alex Jesseman fights for the ball during a game against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North on Sept. 22, 2016. North won 3-0. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

New Ewing High School varsity boys’ soccer coach David Waseleski took over a team that only lost two seniors to graduation.

Waseleski, who was promoted from coach of teh JV team, sees that as a good thing. “There’s a lot of returning players from the JV and the varsity level,” Waseleski said. “The more players that are there, the less spots. It creates competition among the players.”

The Blue Devils went 2-14 last year but had five one-goal losses and a two-goal loss. Waseleski has been building in-team competition that translates into tougher play in the Colonial Valley Conference. Two years ago, they won four games after opening with a 4-3 overtime loss to Notre Dame.

“They lost in double overtime,” Waseleski recalled. “If you win, you beat Notre Dame the first game of the year, that’s a completely different mindset you have. A simple game at the beginning can give you confidence. We’re looking for the players to believe that they have the abilities to beat teams that are good, because they do.”

Ewing didn’t have to wait long to believe. In this year’s season opener, they stopped Notre Dame, 1-0, to give Waseleski his first win as varsity head coach. He is trying to change the direction of the program. It begins with changing the attitude. The players have been inspired by his passion.

Senior Nick Wood jumped right to varsity as a freshman so he never had the chance to play for Waseleski at the JV level, but he’s glad he gets to play under his leadership now. “He’s always been a cool coach,” Wood said. “He’s a leader. We all look up to him. We always wanted him as a coach.”

You see his enthusiasm to win,” Wood said. “Just being out here every day, running around on the field, he’s definitely more active. He gets involved.”

Kam Clark, an all-CVC goalie last year as a sophomore, played JV for Waseleski as a freshman. “He’s trying to make us want to work harder and make everyone want to help everyone out,” Clark said. “I think he’s putting more pressure on us to do what he’s asking us to do. We’re not fooling around. He wants us to be more serious than we were on JV.”

Waseleski sees the same potential in his new varsity that he saw in his JV teams. They were improving over his four years.

“JV has been progressing,” Waseleski said. “Last year we had five wins, we had a good young core of players that came up from the middle school and so they really have a good sense of team and community. We’re trying to develop that more and take those ideas and philosophy of togetherness and build it into the seniors we have now and hopefully get some leadership from the upperclassmen to continue to push the underclassmen.”

The Blue Devils opened the season 2-2 with wins over Notre Dame and Hamilton before a high-scoring 4-3 loss to Nottingham on Sept. 19. dropped them to 2-3. Kyle Ficci and Binyam Getachew were early goal leaders for the team with three goals apiece. Getachew also has three assists. Evan Jurczynski has a goal and assist this year, and Prince Barlea has an assist. Clark has 44 saves through five games.

Waseleski is thrilled to get his chance to coach the varsity. He played soccer at Lawrence High School before choosing to play baseball at The College of New Jersey. After graduation, he saw a chance to return to soccer as a coach while also teaching math at the high school.

“I love the game of soccer,” Waseleski said. “When the opportunity came to be a part of the program, I jumped right in. I helped out with the baseball program for a couple years, and I did freshman basketball for a year. As much as I love coaching the sports, I really wanted to be able to just focus on one. That helped me make the decision to stay with soccer. I feel like it’s a better fit to be with the soccer program and try to build it up.”

Goalkeeper Kameron Clark protects the ball during a Sept. 22, 2016 game against West WIndsor-Plainsboro High School North. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)
Goalkeeper Kameron Clark protects the ball during a Sept. 22, 2016 game against West WIndsor-Plainsboro High School North. (Photo by Suzette J. Lucas.)

Waseleski has a good sense of the abilities of the Ewing players after coaching many of them before. Now he gets the chance to see them older, bigger and better at the varsity level.

“It’s exciting because I’ve either coached them on the JV or seen them play on the high school team,” he said. “I’m very familiar with the players. I think it will help. I have a relationship with them. I’ve either coached them or been at the high school with them. Any time you have a relationship not only on the soccer field but off, it creates a good atmosphere.”

Waseleski is hoping that the players can trust that how he coaches will help them reach a higher level of success.

“I think we have a lot of people that are tired of losing,” Clark said. “They want to make it up for their senior year.”

Almost a dozen seniors came out for the Ewing team, and Wood said that they have good unity and connection.

“Our seniors are strong,” Wood said. “We’ve been playing on the same travel team since we were 12-13 years old. We’re all friends. The communication is there. Hopefully they can hold us up.”

Said Waseleski: “The older guys are looking to set a good example. There’s a big difference between the varsity level and JV level. Hopefully the guys that had the experience playing on the varsity team, hopefully they can show them the hard work and attitude and buy in and if you do that and continue to work hard, good things will come.”

If the seniors believe in Waseleski’s coaching and raise their standard, it will help the rest of the Blue Devils buy into his philosophy. Pulling everyone together is a key component of the turnaround.

“We have to have teamwork,” Waseleski said. “We have to not be selfish and be willing to play for the guy who’s right next to you. Whether it’s in practice, on or off the field, we’re going to try to make sure we’re working together and picking each other up when we’re down or something is wrong and make sure the guys know we’re here for each other and we care for each other.

“Everybody has to buy in. That dedication has to be there. Without anybody buying in, there’s no use and no teamwork. We have to get everyone to buy into the program and want to change the program to a competitive winning team.”

The Ewing players are already seeing signs of improvement with a more promising start and already equaling last year’s win total. They know that they were close in half the games last year and just need to finish games stronger.

“Communicating has to be better and our conditioning has to be better,” Clark said. “We need to be able to play through the whole game, not just 60 minutes or 70, the whole 80.”

Having a strong goalie in the back is a good starting point. Clark is confident that the defense can limit teams on the scoreboard.

“We play with heart,” he said. “We play non-stop until the 80 minutes end. We play ‘til the end no matter what the score is.”

The attitude is the same at the other end, where Wood is hoping he can help the Blue Devils generate more offense. Their offense could hold the key. Last year, Ewing only scored more than two goals twice. They won both of those games. The Blue Devils have already scored three goals in a pair of games this season.

“Everyone is willing to get out there and train harder to get the results we want this season,” Wood said. “Everyone wants to win.”

Ewing is looking to their new coach to help them get there. After helping train them as younger players, David Waseleski is ready to see them grow at the varsity level.

“There’s no break in the competition around here with soccer,” he said. “Every team is very competitive. Every team, you have to bring you’re ‘A’ game if you want to win. You have to have the mindset that I’m on the same playing level as them. We have to start to acknowledge that we are good and we are competitive. Once our players realize their potential, we’ll be able to compete with any team in the CVC.”