Alex Bravo has been teaching at South Brunswick High School since 2014-15 and coaching in the girls’ soccer program since 2015.
For the 28 year old, the Monmouth Junction school has become her professional home.
So when Beth Barrio stepped down as South Brunswick’s girls’ soccer coach after the 2018 campaign, it was a no brainer for Bravo, who had served as an assistant coach, to apply for the head job. The South Brunswick Board of Education approved Bravo’s hiring in the offseason.
The 2008 Robbinsville High School graduate played at Robbinsville and in college at Montclair State University and Mercer County Community College. Then she coached under Barrio from 2015-2018.
On Sept. 3 at South Brunswick, the Vikings will open their season against Edison High School. Opening tap is set for 4 p.m. and once the referee’s whistle blows, Bravo will be fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I always wanted to be a head coach in my heart,” Bravo said. “I’ve loved soccer from a young age.”
“When I went into education, I felt like being a head coach would happen,” she added. “And when our head coach left, it felt right. It made sense.”
South Brunswick went 5-13 last fall, but the team was riddled with injuries. If it stays healthy, it has a chance to be much better in 2019.
The Vikings have five starters back, and they are scattered across the field.
Seniors Megan Hallihan and Edith Gonzalez anchor the back line. Sophomore Dafina Simon-Ponte plays in the midfield. Seniors Madison Butler and Adriana DeBari start up front.
“We’re definitely optimistic,” Bravo said. “It’s a veteran group, which will help. A lot of leadership and experience.”
They have a fair amount of talent, too.
Hallihan is a fast and aggressive sweeper who can challenge creators and clear out the ball. Gonzalez played outside back last year and excelled at stopping the ball, so Bravo is moving her to center back.
Simon-Ponte can “run for days” in the midfield, Bravo said. The sophomore is also capable of tracking ball carriers and making runs with the ball herself. She is a two way midfielder.
Butler and DeBari are close friends off the field, and that chemistry carries over to the pitch. Both players have the speed to make runs past defenders and to create passing lanes for each other.
They combined for nine goals a year ago, with Butler netting five and DeBari scoring four. But Bravo will need even more production from them in 2019. They have looked capable of going up a level in practices and scrimmages.
“They look really good,” Bravo said.
Four of those returning starters will graduate in the spring of 2020. But the Vikings’ other key players, like Simon-Ponte, a sophomore, will help Bravo build for the future. That younger group also includes freshman midfielder Kaitlyn Born and junior goalkeeper Tess Boyler.
In 2019, the Vikings will try to improve on their 2018 record and work toward future playoff appearances.
“I’m hoping we’re able to bring in new people and be a team that other teams respect,” Bravo said. “I also hope we can do well with the record and be the best team we can be.”