Danny Bensch is Notre Dame's leading scorer through seven games, and the senior notched his 100th career point in a win over Hopewell Sept. 28 Rich Fisher photo
Danny Bensch is Notre Dame's leading scorer through seven games, and the senior notched his 100th career point in a win over Hopewell Sept. 28 Rich Fisher photo
" We’ve been preaching team soccer and how everybody plays a role. We’re getting to know where these guys play, and how they play. We’re watching them cheer for their teammates. It’s been a great first month of the season.  "

When the Notre Dame High boys’ soccer team defeated Hopewell Valley Sept. 28 to give coach Bryan Fisher his 100th career victory, the milestone came as a surprise to his players. 

“The guys were all congratulating me, saying ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’” Fisher said. “And I told them ‘Hey it’s not about me, it’s about you guys. I already had my time.’” 

This year truly is about the Irish players who, if anything, are adaptable. Fisher is the fourth head coach in as many years for the Lawrenceville school’s program, meaning the seniors have never had the same leader twice. That could pay a heavy toll – but sometimes passion overcomes burden, as witnessed by ND’s 7-0 start.  

“These guys love the game, it’s a testament to them,” said Fisher, who spent the previous 21 years at West Windsor-Plainsboro South as an assistant and head coach. “They just love playing soccer. They love being at Notre Dame and they love being on this team. So, for me, it was coming in and embracing all of them and saying ‘Hey, let’s go to work, let’s do this thing together.’”  

And while the Irish players have a zeal for the game, they are equally passionate about their faith. Many visit Notre Dame’s Grotto – a place of worship within the confines of the athletic field – prior to home games.  

“I’ll see guys run over there and spend some time there,” Fisher said. “They believe in what’s going on at Notre Dame. Their faith in it is a big part of this. We say the Lord’s Prayer before every game, and it means something to these guys. You can tell. It’s a moment of reflection … that brings us together before we have to go out there.” 

Once they get on the field, the Irish have been unstoppable as they have outscored opponents by a whopping 52-4. The 4-1 win over Hopewell was their closest contest of the year, and they scored six or more goals in the other six.  

“It’s obviously been a dream start for us,” Fisher said. “Being able to come out of the gate like that and score goals like that is giving me an opportunity to see all our guys play. That’s been the best part about it.    

“We’ve been preaching team soccer and how everybody plays a role. We’re getting to know where these guys play, and how they play. We’re watching them cheer for their teammates. It’s been a great first month of the season. I’m lucky to have a staff that has been here for a while. We know we’re a good team; now it’s our job as a staff to make them great.”  

One of the first major changes incorporated came after a quad-scrimmage prior to the season. Taking note of each player’s skills, the coaches moved senior defender Aiden Hoenisch from defender to forward in hopes of becoming an attacking team. 

There’s no question how that move turned out.    

The numbers speak for themselves, as Hoenisch has 11 goals and 12 assists, and is second on the team in scoring to senior Danny Bensch, who has 13 goals and eight assists. For his career, Bensch has 43 goals and 14 assists for 100 points, getting his 100th in the same game Fisher got his 100th win. Rounding out the attack is senior Kyle Allen with eight goals and five assists.  

“It’s kind of a three-headed monster up top, and that’s what everybody reads about; those guys have been fantastic,” Fisher said. “But when you talk about our seniors, you have to look at our guys in the middle – Chris Hines, Owen Barlow and [junior] James Ferraro. Those guys have been awesome in the midfield for us; they’re kind of like the engine.” 

Fisher also feels his team is “stout in the back,” with seniors James Watson and Myles Ryan as his central defenders, with junior Pablo Argueta at right outside back and sophomore Ryan Watson, James’ brother, at left outside.  

Senior Ethan Bazydola has stepped in as the starting goaltender, while senior Michael DiCandia is also seeing time. Notre Dame’s domination in the attacking end of the field combined with its solid defenders have meant the keepers have only had to make an average of three saves per game.  

“We get stretched out at times a little bit, and those guys in the back have answered the bell,” Fisher said. “But we’re putting more pressure on other teams’ backs than we’re getting put on our backs.” 

Seniors Anthony Balbuena and junior George Walter are also returnees who are among the first off the bench, although every player has eventually gotten time each game.  

Fisher knows that depth will be important as the season moves along and the games become tougher and more important. But for now, his team is only looking ahead to its Oct. 2 game with Manchester as it embraces each moment after last year’s COVID-plagued season. 

And if there was ever any question the Irish players could adapt to yet another new coach, it has been answered quickly as Fisher set an early foundation. 

“From day one I said, ‘I’m an over-believer guy, I’m gonna have 100 percent belief in all of you, we’re gonna do this thing as a team, we’re gonna do it together,’” he said. “I’ve just been preaching that message since the first day. I’m happy with the results thus far, we are playing team soccer. Guys aren’t just scoring goals, they have assists. It’s been celebrating each other’s successes, which is a big part of high school sports.”