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Nov 12, 2021

Brothers Lead the RFH Boys’ Soccer Team into Postseason

By Tim Morris

Brothers Luke and Alec Pentikis are driving forces behind the rejuvenation of the the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School boys’ soccer team, a team vying for a championship in 2021.

The Bulldogs went a lowly 1-14-1 back in 2018 when Luke, now a senior, was freshman. Disappointing as that year was, Luke knew help was on the way. His brother, Alec, a year behind him, would join the team shortly and the RFH comeback would begin. Rumson’s boys turned the tables behind the brothers in 2019, going 9-6-3. They followed that up with a 7-5-2 campaign in the 2020 season. The Bulldogs made the postseason state tournament both years.

“I knew we worked well together and that he would definitely help the team,” said Luke. “It worked out better than I thought.”

What the brothers brought to Rumson was their remarkable intuitive play. Head Coach Jeff Soares has had a front row seat to the brothers play and marvels at it.

“I’ve been coaching 14 years, and I’ve never seen a duo do what they do together,” he said. “These two always know where each other are on the field. They have an instinct on the field that you can’t teach as a coach. It’s really special.”

It’s special because, as intuitive as the brother’s play seems, it’s the product of work, hours of it.

“We’ve always trained together,” noted Luke. “We’ve done a lot of work. We’ve been soccer kids all our lives.”

The Pentikises grew up in Malibu, California before moving to Rumson in their early teens. They have played on travel teams and worked out together every off-season. Alec admits that he liked surfing as well, but when he broke his collar bone, that was the end of his days riding waves. Along with the work, the Pentikises enjoy playing together.

“We’ve always been pretty close,” said Alec, a junior at Rumson.

Luke noted that the brothers “really wanted to play together” at RFH. The brothers couldn’t be a better fit as a one-two combo on the pitch. Luke is the midfielder, the facilitator who makes everyone better with his passing, while Alec is a classic striker, a finisher who has a knack for scoring goals. Luke is awed by the way his brother finds open seams in a defense and finishes his chances.

“He has a sense of finding the [open] spot,” said Luke. “He’s athletic, really smart, and he has an innate ability to score goals, pretty and not pretty.”

Alec praised Luke’s all-around play, his ability to excel on defense, breaking up plays and winning 50/50s, and on offense with his pinpoint passing.

“His through-balls [passes] are incredible,” Alec noted. “I haven’t played with anyone else who can pass like that.”

Luke, who said he enjoys setting his teammates up, can score as well. He led the Bulldogs in goals scored last year with 12. His most memorable goal this year was his game-winner on a penalty kick that defeated Holmdel, 2-1. The Hornets had dominated the Bulldogs the previous three years, and the win was sweet for the team.

There is a method by which the Pentikises play. Luke explained that in the first few minutes of a game, he and Alec survey the pitch and look at what defense is being thrown at them. Alec knows how to find the weak spots and where to attack them, and his brother knows when and where to find him.

“Subconsciously I can find [Alec],” said Luke.

The Bulldogs are off to a 7-1-2 start and in command in the Shore Conference A Central Division sporting a 5-0-1 record.

Alec is enjoying his best season. He’s among the Shore’s top goal scorers with 11.

Luke, unfortunately, suffered an ankle injury that will sidelined him through the end of October. He will, however, be ready to return when the postseason tournaments (Shore Conference and NJSIAA) begin. He had three goals and six assists before the injury.

The fact that the Bulldogs haven’t missed a beat is a credit to how talented the players are. Antonio Santos, who has returned from injury himself, has three goals and two assists since his return. Ronan Hogg has also scored three goals, and Harrison Gibson is second to Luke in assists with three.

“When I came into the program, I saw that there were so many great players,” said Alec. Luke remarked that the biggest difference between 2018 and 2021 is “the winning culture” the program has developed. The Hornets want that winning culture to turn into a championship one as they pursue not only the division title but tournament crowns as well.

“Our focus is the division, but we want to win everything possible,” said Alec.