With Junior Bucchere Emerging as Go-To Scorer, Hun Boys’ Soccer Rolls Into MCT Semifinals
NO ORDINARY JOE: Hun School boys’ soccer player Joey Bucchere, center, races upfield against Princeton Day School last week. Junior forward Bucchere tallied a goal and an assist as Hun edged PDS 2-1 in the October 11 contest. On Saturday, Bucchere contributed a goal and an assist as second-seeded Hun defeated seventh-seeded WW/P-South 6-1 in a Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal contest. The Raiders, who improved to 10-2-2 with the victory, were slated to play third-seeded Pennington in the MCT semis on October 18 with the winner advancing to the final on October 20 at Hopewell Valley High. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Joey Bucchere was determined to become a go-to player this fall for the Hun School boys’ soccer team.
“I just want to make an impact, I want to add something to the program,” said junior forward Bucchere. “I really wanted to win this year. Coach (Pat Quirk) put me up top this year and I have really been finding my flow.”
Last week, Bucchere made a huge impact for Hun as it played at Princeton Day School, scoring a goal and assisting on another as the Raiders pulled out a 2-1 win over a scrappy Panther squad.
With PDS packing nine players in front of its goal, Hun’s high-powered offense was bottled up for much of the contest.
“It is a battle every time we play them,” said Bucchere. “It was a great competition. They played a great game and came back. We just kept our heads in it and got the last goal that we needed.”
Bucchere got the scoring started with a goal 10 minutes into the contest.
“Will [Zeng] put in a great corner, I saw the man kind of back off of me,” said Bucchere, recalling his goal. “I saw Connor [Frykholm] in front of me and I told him to leave it and just put my head right through it.”
While Hun had almost all of the possession, PDS was able to tie the game at 1-1 14 minutes into the second half. The Raiders, though, kept pressing forward.
“They sat back a little bit and we were just knocking it, just waiting for an opportunity,” said Bucchere. “We all know it was going to come eventually.”
The winning goal came as Bucchere sent the ball to Mass Verduci in the box and he slotted it home.
“I just put my head down and ran,” said Bucchere. “I picked my head up and I saw Mass in the middle. I knew if I put it in, he would finish it.”
Bucchere has been finishing well for Hun this season, having tallied a team-high 15 goals along with three assists. That output is the product of some extra effort over the offseason.
“Over the summer, I was really working on my shooting finding the back of the net,” said Bucchere. “That has definitely helped me a lot this season.”
In reflecting on the team’s success this fall, Bucchere credits a special unity with propelling the Raiders.
“It is just the chemistry with this team like I have never seen before,” said Bucchere, who contributed a goal and an assist as second-seeded Hun defeated seventh-seeded WW/P-South 6-1 in a Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal contest last Saturday to improve to 10-2-2. “The relationships on the field with everyone trusting each other, it really helps out.
Hun head coach Quirk liked the way his players kept their focus in outlasting PDS.
“There have been a couple of other games where I have talked to them about keeping our patience and just sticking to our game plan,” said Quirk. “They have really bought into that this year. In the past, we would panic and lose it sometimes. We just kept moving today and moving their defense and trying to find openings.”
Quirk acknowledged that the PDS defensive plan made things tough for Hun.
“We were expecting to have most of the ball but we weren’t expecting to have that much of the ball,” said Quirk. “This is the first time in 15 years that any team sat in like that against us. That is a tribute to these guys and how hard they played. It looked like it might come a little easy with the first goal — they definitely made us grind it out.”
When PDS made it 1-1, Quirk had some nervous moments.
“It is definitely concerning when the clock is ticking under five and it still tied,” said Quirk. “It is a game where you have most of the possession. We believe in these guys, we have been in some close games and we have pulled them out. We found a way to win and that is what good teams do and I would say these guys are a pretty good team.”
Bucchere has emerged as a very good player for Hun. “That kid is a workhorse, he is never going to give up,” said Quirk of Bucchere.
“He has got speed, he has got great vision on the field. Last year, we told him we want you be the assist guy. This year I said, ‘You have to score the goals. You are going to be the goal scorer and we are going to rely on you. You are going to get the offense going,’ and now he is doing a little bit of both.”
With Hun slated to face third-seeded Pennington in the MCT semis on October 18 with the winner advancing to the title game on October 20 at Hopewell Valley High and then starting play in the Prep A state tourney, Quirk believes the Raiders can excel if they stick to the plan.
“We need to continue to be positive with each other and continue to be patient with what we want to do,” said Quirk, whose team defeated Pennington 3-0 in a regular season contest on September 21. “We need to play our style of soccer and defend together when we can press.”
Bucchere, for his part, is very positive about the squad’s postseason prospects.
“We just need to keep working on the tactical part of the game, staying tuned to the ball, finding our rhythm in possession and being strong defensively,” said Bucchere. “I feel like we can win anything, we can beat any team. I don’t think there is anything stopping this team but us.”