The Voorhees Black Cats, a U15 travel soccer team from the Voorhees Soccer Association, advanced to and captured the SJ Cup on March 20 with a 3-2 win over Mount Laurel at Echelon Fields.
According to coach Steven Reichenberg, this year’s team was a combination of two travel squads of different levels in the Voorhees Soccer Association, which is part of the SJ Soccer League. The move came after declining roster numbers for the two teams threatened the possibility of a season at both levels.
Last fall was the first time the Black Cats played together after the unification, eventually getting to 7-1-2 for the season. The joint team’s budding chemistry resulted in win after win.
“We started without huge expectations,” said Reichenberg. “We were mostly concerned with making sure that the kids had a team to play on at all and have an opportunity for them to grow here and not look to play for another town.
“The kids’ confidence just continued to grow as the season went on and (they) kept winning more games,” he added. “It had the kids then thinking that they could win more and that they could train harder.”
The Black Cats have 19 kids mostly from Voorhees and Berlin, with a roster that is a pretty even split between the two teams that were combined. This year’s SJ Cup roster includes: CJ Barcia, Carlo Brown, Tristan Bosmediano, Joe Bovino, Logan Bundick, Noah Cwanger, Gregory Gambescia, Cole Hertz, Jason Jiang, Matthew Kalliny, Liam Keet, Owen Medina, Evan Reichenberg, Michael Stolorov, Jake Stoopler, Mark Vujic, Joey Worsham, Michael Yubaov and Michael Zong.
Reichenberg said the team’s success this season is due in large part not just to the players’ soccer ability, but also their willingness to get comfortable and acclimated with one another over the course of the season. Yet, the sudden unification of two squads was not without its complications.
“We formed a new team made up of two different teams and that can be a challenge at times,” Reichenberg said. “You’re not familiar with how one another plays or what you like or don’t like. We were starting from scratch.
“A lot of other teams get good because you’re used to playing with one another and you know each other’s moves and what to expect and what not,” he added. “… We didn’t have that, so it took a little bit of time.”
Reichenberg also recognized the contribution of trainer Billy Bryson, who joined the program after the team was formed to help coach what he saw as a talented group of young players whose ability was apparent from day one.
“This group was a heck of a lot better than I was first told,” he said. “They were competitive right out of the gate and were happy to get to work and train as hard as I could push them. I just wanted to see these guys improve week by week and they’ve done that.
“This was an incredible season by these guys,” Bryson added. “When we started the season, we were in the third flight, so we just wanted to be competitive. But they were able to play the best soccer they could and win it all.
“I’m so proud of them.”