Last year’s Class A South race came down to the wire with three teams vying for the title before Toms River North won the championship over Jackson Memorial by the slimmest of margins. This year should be more of the same, with a lot of scoring talent graduating from the top teams and some of the teams in the bottom half of the standings bringing back a significant amount of talent.

Toms River South expected to contend last year, and while the Indians were certainly competitive against the top teams on the schedule, inconsistency kept them from staying in the race for first. Nine of the starters from that team are back, which has made them the consensus favorite over Toms River North and Jackson Memorial. Brick Memorial is the wild card with all of its offense, while Southern could be a dark horse if healthy. No division offers the top-to-bottom parity of Class A South, and that should play out in a wild season.

Brick Memorial senior Kevin Simek is the leading returning scorer in Class A South and leads a host of returning starters who will look to continue the Mustangs' turnaround. (Photo by Matt Manley)

 

Toms River South

Head Coach: Ed Leibe, 12th season
Last Year’s Record: 8-8-2 (7-6-1, fourth in A South)
Returning: Jordan Urbaczek (Sr., Midfield/Forward); Kieran Murphy (Sr., Defense); Kollin White (Sr., Goalkeeper); Jared Knowles (Sr., Midfield); Ryan Shiffer (Sr., Midfield); Michael Braun (Sr., Defense); Owen Lee (Sr., Midfield); J.T. Timmes (Sr., Midfield); Dylan Dannelson (So., Forward)
Departed: Trevor Geerinck (Defense); Ryan Wrockledge (Forward); Junior Villamizar (Midfield); Kevin Voll (Defense) Dino Vitale (Midfield)
Newcomers: Tyler Egnatuk (So., Midfield); Cameron Geerinck (Jr., Midfield); Val Munkacsi (Sr., Forward); Tyler Froriep (Sr., Defense); Mike Tapp (Jr., Midfield/Defense)

The Indians were hoping to ride a deep, talented junior class to a division title last year, but a lack of scoring was too much to overcome. Fresh off a .500 season, Toms River South is the most experienced team in Class A South with nine starters back. While scoring remains a question, the Indians should also be even better at what they did well last year, which was keeping opponents out of the net.

Although the Indians must replace all-division defender Trevor Geerinck, the rest of the defense returns, led by senior sweeper Kieran Murphy, stopper Ryan Shiffer and outside back Michael Braun. Coach Ed Liebe has also toyed with the idea of putting senior Jared Knowles – a striker during his earlier years in the program – in the back of the formation. Knowles is potentially a top goal-scorer for the Indians, as are senior Jordan Urbaczek, sophomore Dylan Dannelson and senior Owen Lee.

Urbaczek will most likely settle in at attacking center midfielder, although he could play some striker or even defensive midfielder. Dannelson showed promise up top last year as a freshman, while Lee has impressed the coaching staff in the midfield this year.

Senior goalkeeper Kollin White returns to captain the back of the formation after an all-division season in the net last year. White and his defense allowed 23 goals in 18 games last year, a number that stands to decrease this season with a more experienced team. For Toms River South to take over the division with its senior-laden squad, it will have to greatly improve on its 22 goals during the 2013 season. With some more offensive punch, the Indians could become an instant Shore Conference Tournament contender, and even with a mild offensive improvement, they are the A South favorite.

 

Brick Memorial

Head Coach: Steve Ferullo Jr., third season
Last Year’s Record: 10-11-0 (7-7-0, fifth in A South)
Returning: Kevin Simek (Sr., Midfield); Bryan Malerba (Sr., Forward); Tom Hernandez (Sr., Defense); Kevin Duffy (Sr., Midfield); Matt Clayton (Sr., Defense); Kurt Reber (Sr., Goalkeeper); Eddie Seamen (Jr., Midfield); Mike Raccugalia (Sr., Defense); Alejandro Fernandez (Jr., Defense); Alejandro Cisneros (Jr., Midfield)
Departed: Dan Sprouls (Midfield); Garrett Garcia (Midfield); Brian Swider (Goalkeeper); Logan Zalinsky (Defense); David Wieszczek (Midfield); Vin Caravella (Midfield)
Newcomers: Jake DeGennero (So., Midfield); James McCombs (Fr., Midfield)

From the early part of last season, Brick Memorial proved that no longer would it be relegated to the bottom of the A South standings. By the end of the year, the Mustangs had qualified for the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments, finished the A South season 7-7 with wins over Toms River East and two over Toms River South, and led all A South teams in scoring with 42 goals. Now they return their top three scorers from last year in a division full of teams with goal-scoring questions, which could be a recipe for a big season for the Mustangs.

Seniors Kevin Simek and Bryan Malerba are both coming off breakout seasons as juniors, with Simek tying for the division lead in total scoring (10 goals and eight assists) and Malerba adding eight goals of his own. Senior Kevin Duffy also falls in that breakout category after registering six goals and four assists last year, giving Brick Memorial three accomplished goal-scorers in their lineup heading into the season. Juniors Ed Seaman and Alejandro Cisneros also played key roles last year and will join Simek and Duffy in the midfield.

The Mustangs should also be more solid on their back line with the return of Tom Hernandez, Matt Clayton and junior Alejandro Fernandez. Senior Mike Raccuglia also returns after losing his entire junior season to injury and his comeback should help offset the loss of Logan Zalinsky to graduation. Senior Kurt Reber will move from the field to the goal as the Mustangs try to replace standout goalkeeper Brian Swider.

Reber had three goals and four assists last season, and with so many returning players back, Brick Memorial’s greatest need from Reber is in goal. If the gloves fit and the Mustangs make strides in protecting the keeper and winning the midfield, Brick Memorial could be in line to chase down an elusive division title.

 

Jackson Memorial

Head Coach: Steve Bado, 10th season
Last Year’s Record: 13-6-3 (9-3-2, second in A South)
Returning: Jarrett DiGiantomasso (Sr. Defense); Joe Mamola (Jr., Defense); Andrew Jozwicki (Jr., Forward); Joey Stoltenberg (Jr., Midfield); Will Kaminskas (Sr., Defense); Nick Schlageter (Jr., Midfield); Anthony Nappi (Jr., Midfield); Brian Scheno (Sr., Defense); Christian Fryc (So., Midfield); Chris Juhasz (Sr., Goalkeeper); Chris Kinzler (Jr., Defense)
Departed: Garrett Muzikowski (Midfield); Anthony Provini (Defense); Devyn Josko (Goalkeeper); Jordan Hodges (Midfield); Bryce Procida (Midfield); Tyler Russo (Defense); Jeff Galatola (Defense); Pat Squeo (Forward); Justin Kritou (Midfield)
Newcomers: Mike Schoener (So., Forward); Tyler Kessler (Sr., Forward); Dan Vanclef (Jr., Midfield); Kevin Luzzi (Fr., Defense/Midfield); Jacob Patti (Fr., Midfield); Josh Franco (So., Midfield); Chris Sichenze (So., Midfield); Carlin Procida (Jr., Midfield); Dylan Kanner (So., Goalkeeper); Andrew Jenkins (So., Midfield); Eric Beyer (Sr., Midfield); Alex Compell (Sr., Defense); Matt George (Sr., Forward); Nick Josko (Sr., Forward); Anthony Maiorino (Sr., Forward); Jeff Meyer (Sr., Forward); Dan Placko (Sr., Midfield)

Last year’s focus for Jackson Memorial was replacing most of its 2012 starting lineup and building around one exceptional offensive player in Garrett Muzikowski. This year will be almost the complete inverse of that, as the Jaguars return a great number of their starting talent from a year ago, but will have to replace Muzikowski’s scoring and creativity.

Regardless of who is back or not, the Jaguars are going to play their brand of defensive soccer and they have shown over the past four years that it works to keep them in the division race. Seniors Jared DiGiantomasso and Will Kaminskas are at the heart of that defense and junior Joe Mamola also returns after establishing himself as a key part of the defense and Jackson’s future. That group of fullbacks will protect goalkeeper Chris Juhasz, who saw sparse action in net behind two-year starter Devyn Josko last year.

Even with the loss of Muzikowski, Jackson Memorial still has the potential to score with the return of juniors Andrew Jozwicki and Joey Stoltenberg, who combined for seven goals last year. Jozwicki will play up top in Jackson Memorial’s formation while Stoltenberg takes over in the central midfield. Fellow juniors Nick Schlageter and Anthony Nappi will also take on roles in the middle of the field and sophomore Christian Frycz could potential take a job as a starter and give Jackson another quality midfielder who would be back next season. It will have to be more of a collective offensive effort this year, but Jackson Memorial has the pieces to keep its train rolling.

 

Toms River North

Head Coach: Joe Mahon, fifth season
Last Year’s Record: 9-4-5 (9-2-3, first in A South)
Returning: Lee Scheck (Sr., Forward); Liam McDonnell (Sr., Midfield); Ryan Cheslock (Sr., Defense); Brian Brannagan (Sr., Goalkeeper); Tyler Foss (Sr., Midfield); Nick Hund (Sr., Defense/Midfield); Mike Karpinsky (Sr., Defense); Kyle Burke (Jr., Defense); Tommy Butz (Jr., Forward/Midfield); Rob Cameron (Jr., Midfield); Cedric Cook (Jr., Forward); Joey Hertgen (Jr., Midfield); Andrew Jeans (Jr., Goalkeeper); Tommy Lynch (Jr., Goalkeeper)
Departed: Sean Moore (Forward); Eric Mancini (Defense); Nick Sica (Defense); Sean Graham (Midfield); Mateen Nemati (Forward); Sal Turelli (Midfield); Marcos Vargas (Forward); Mike Morales (Defense); Tim Holland (Defense); Brad Lupo (Defense); Christian Tavares (Midfield)
Newcomers: Andrew Foti (Jr.); Raz Chabra (Jr.); Gal Chabra (Jr.); Kevin Lysaght (Sr.); Tommy Lynch (Jr., Goalkeeper); Nick Moreno (Jr.); Jason Garcia (So.); Brandon Copeland (So.); Mitch Reed (So.)

The Mariners lost a lot of skill with the graduation of Nick Sica, Sean Moore, Sean Graham and Eric Mancini, but they also have a talent pool that is widely regarded to be the deepest of any Shore Conference public school. Toms River North will cast its net into that pool this year in an attempt to replace those four key players and a handful of role players as well.

The Mariners will not have a player with the versatility of Sica, but returning senior forward Lee Scheck has the ability to replicate Moore’s production up top. Scheck scored four goals last season, and while his game does not necessarily parallel that of Moore, it’s not far-fetched to believe he can score 10 goals, as Moore did last year.

Toms River North has a chance to be better in the midfield this season, led by seniors Liam McDonnell and Tyler Foss, as well as promising junior Joey Hertgen. After a strong preseason, Hertgen missed nearly the entire 2013 season due to injury, so his return will give the Mariners a boost that they expected to get last year. Even without Sica, the defense has a chance to be solid with the return of seniors Ryan Cheslock and Mike Karpinsky, as well as senior goalkeeper Brian Brannagan.

Toms River North may miss having the standout talent that Sica and Moore represented, but the Mariners have a chance to be good across the board with players like Scheck, McDonnell, Hertgen and Cheslock leading the charge. In a Class A South without an obvious dominant team, that combination is enough to stay in the race and compete for a second straight division title.

 

Lacey

Head Coach: Rob Biele, first season
Last Year’s Record: 11-6-3 (8-4-2, third in A South)
Returning: Owen Hope (Sr., Midfield); Fred Ciampa (Sr., Midfield); Scott Larsen (Sr., Defense); Robert Biele (Jr., Midfield); Hunter Dorsey (Jr., Forward); George Gartner (Jr., Defense); Bobby Considine (Jr., Goalkeeper)
Departed: Brendan Byrne (Midfield); Eric Reitmeyer (Forward); Nick Iappico (Forward); Paul Lynch (Goalkeeper); Anthony Palino (Defense); Ryley Scholl (Defense); Matt Opacity (Defense); Dale Russell (Midfield); Nick Horvath (Midfield)
Newcomers: Garrett Hope (Jr., Midfield); Ian Gillen (Sr., Midfield/Forward); Dan Greener (Sr., Forward); Dan McAvoy (Sr., Defense); Dakota Donnelly (Jr., Midfield); Bailey Dickson (Sr., Defense)

Few teams had a good season in quieter fashion than Lacey did last year, finishing third in a very competitive Class A South division and 11-6-3 overall. The Lions gave both Toms River North and Jackson Memorial difficulty in head-to-head match-ups last season and while, like any team, they have some quality seniors to replace, enough talent remains to make another run at a division title.

Lacey loses it top two goal scorers, one of whom – Brendan Byrne – was also its center fullback. The other of the two scorers was striker Eric Reitmeyer, so while there are a couple of holes to fill at either end of the formation, the Lions remain largely intact in the midfield. Seniors Owen Hope and Fred Ciampa and junior Robert Biele were top midfielders for the Lions last season and bring experience and consistency to the middle again this year. Biele led that trio in scoring last year with four goals and four assists, while Ciampa added two goals and Hope had a goal and five assists.

The Lions will look to junior Hunter Dorsey (two goals last year) to play up top and pick up some of the scoring left behind by Reitmeyer, while senior Scott Larsen and junior George Gartner return to the defense. Junior goalkeeper Bobby Considine moves into the net for Lacey, which allowed 27 goals in 20 games last year. With a strong group returning to the midfield and some depth with which to plug some of the potential holes, Lacey is built to hang around in a wide-open Class A South race once again.

 

Toms River East

Head Coach: Brian Huttemann, second season
Last Year’s Record: 9-9-2 (6-6-2, sixth in A South)
Returning: Josh Sommerer (Sr., Forward); Chris Varga (Sr., Midfield/Defense); Nat Amadeo (Sr., Defense); Justin Nicol (Sr., Midfield); Andrea Verace (Jr., Midfield); Justin Tedeger (Sr., Goalkeeper); Erik Bucchi (Sr., Defense); Alex Matos (Jr., Midfield); Dan Smyth (Jr., Midfield); Kyle Unger (Jr., Defense)
Departed: Lorenzo Scala (Midfield); Anthony Batelli (Midfield); Josh Johansson (Defense); Umberto Verace (Midfield); Tyler Nichols (Midfield); Jon Meola (Forward)
Newcomers: Alessio Rea (Sr., Forward); Giordano D’Alessio (Sr., Midfield); Giuseppe D’Alessio (Sr., Defense); Marcelo Duarte (Jr., Forward); Sean Lefebvre (Sr., Forward); Brandon Mirabile (Jr., Midfield); Mitchell Pereira (Sr., Midfield); Drew Ugaro (So., Goalkeeper)

Last year’s Toms River East squad was one of the more dynamic sides in recent Raiders history, for better or worse. At full strength, the Raiders moved the ball quickly, got the ball forward and got up shots thanks to multiple skilled midfielders and an athletic collection of strikers. One of those midfielders remains, and senior Josh Sommerer will look to keep Toms River East a dangerous team on the attack after logging nine goals and nine assists as a junior for a team that led the division in scoring on a per-game basis (41 goals in 20 games).

The free-flowing style last year may have come at the expense of protecting the goal, as Toms River East gave up 33 goals in 20 games, a high number for a team that routinely held opponents to under one per game in prior years. This year, with many of the dynamic players in the lineup gone to graduation and other endeavors, Toms River East may revert back to a more defensive style with Sommerer as the primary option.

Midfielders Justin Nicol, Andrea Verace, Dan Smyth and Alex Matos will see increased roles in the midfield, while the defense brings back some experience with Nat Amadeo, Chris Varga, Kyle Unger and Erik Bucchi. Justin Tedeger stepped in and played a quality goalkeeper for Toms River Eat last year and the senior returns this season.

Toms River East hopes to find some more scoring to go with Sommerer among its mix of newcomers, including senior forward Alessio Rea. In a quick varsity look last season, Rea scored a couple of goals late in the season to provide a glimpse at what he could potentially do with a larger role. Producing in larger roles will be an especially important theme for Toms River East, which will try to buck some losses to the lineup and get back to the top of A South.

 

Southern

Head Coach: Evan Brosniak, sixth season
Last Year’s Record: 5-12-2 (2-10-2, seventh in A South)
Returning: Dylan Kanson (Sr., Midfield/Forward); Gavin Dougherty (Sr., Midfield); Tyler Harkness (Sr., Midfield); R.J. Myles (Sr., Forward); Tim Sullivan (Sr., Defense); Andrew Torre (Sr., Defense); Justin Wildasen (Sr., Defense); Andrew Wilkinson (Sr., Midfield); Gunnar Batullo (Sr., Defense); Jared Grady (Jr., Goalkeeper); Kyle Montesano (Jr., Midfield); Justin Schuster (Jr., Midfield); Kyle Galloway (So., Midfield/Forward); Luke Kretschmer (So., Defense/Forward); Peyton Blauvelt (Jr., Midfield/Goalkeeper)
Departed: Chris Starner (Forward); Rich Zennario (Defense); Chris Reed (Midfield); Anthony Gutierrez (Midfield); Shjon Houser (Goalkeeper); Nick Scanlone (Forward)
Newcomers: Justin Kelly (Sr., Midfield/Defense); Elijah Wilder (Sr., Defense/Forward); Sam Howard (Sr., Forward); Tom Rossi (Jr., Midfield); Matt McHugh (Jr., Defense/Midfield); Kevin Stewart (Sr., Midfield)

Injuries put a damper on Southern’s season as a whole last year, but one bright spot during the year was the scoring of Chris Starner, who scored 11 goals in his final high school year. With Starner gone, the Rams' best asset will be health, which could come and go, as last year showed. Seniors Dylan Kanson and Andrew Torre lead a deep group of returnees that should be a well-rounded formation from the midfield on back. Kanson will be an attacking midfielder while playing some forward and Torre will captain the defense, which did not hold up last season in allowing 39 goals in 19 games.

Another possible advantage for Southern is its reliance on seniors this season, led by Kanson and Torre. Midfielder Gavin Dougherty is the leading returning scorer with four goals last year, while midfielders Tyler Harkness and Andrew Wilkinson, defender Justin Wildasen and forward R.J. Myles add to the senior presence in the lineup. Juniors Kyle Montesano, Justin Schuster and Payton Blauvelt will also play key roles, as will sophomores Luke Kretschmer and Kyle Galloway. With some better fortune and some help in the scoring department, Southern will get back into the division race this year.

 

Brick

Head Coach: Ken Lynch, 11th season
Last Year’s Record: 1-13-2 (1-11-2, eighth in A South)
Returning: Jason Brandsdorfer (Sr., Defender); Kyle Reinstadtler (Sr., Midfield); Jhon Ortiz (Sr., Forward); Juan Quintero (Sr., Forward/Midfield); Tyler Madsen (Sr., Midfield/Forward); Kyle Toranto (Sr., Midfield/Defense); Danny Moreno (Jr., Defense/Midfield); Farid Sandoval (Jr., Forward); Al Fasano (Sr., Forward/Midfield); Brendan Laird (Jr.)
Departed: Shane Gilligan (Defense); Umberto DiLauro (Sr., Midfield/Forward); John Moreno (Sr., Defense); Hunter Palmer (Goalkeeper); Casey Stackable (Defense);
Newcomers: Sean Capper (Sr.); Mark Lima (Sr.); Tyler Font (Sr.); Matt Loffredo (Fr.); Frank Firrito (Fr.); Sabath Bonilla (Sr.)

The Green Dragons have had a rough stretch since coming back to Class A South for the 2012 season, winning only three games over the last two seasons. Now they will have to not only replace top defender Shane Gilligan, who graduated last spring, but also current seniors Hunter Palmer and Casey Stackable, who both elected to play for Brick’s defending Central Jersey Group IV championship football team this year. Palmer was a three-year starter in goal and one of the top keepers in Ocean County, while Stackable brought experience to the back of the formation.

With all that being said, the Green Dragons have their most senior-laden team in some time and will have more scoring ability than any time since leaving for Class B South in 2010. Kyle Reinstadtler, Jhon Ortiz and Juan Quintero all return to the lineup, with Reinstadtler and Quintero having each scored three goals last year and Ortiz back healthy after an injury-marred 2013. Brick has closed the gap between itself and the top of the division, which should be an indicator of how close the teams in A South are from No. 1 through No. 8.

 

The A South 11

Kevin Simek, Brick Memorial

The leading returning scorer in the division, Simek’s creativity from the midfield was the primary factor in getting Brick Memorial back into postseason play last year.

Jordan Urbaczek, Toms River South

The Indians had some trouble scoring goals last year, but Urbaczek showed ability to find the net when he did push forward, slamming home six goals as a junior last year.

Josh Sommerer, Toms River East

Only Simek scored more total points than Sommerer among returning players in A South, and the Raiders senior will look to carry the scoring load for Toms River East after an All-Shore season last year.

Fred Ciampa, Lacey

A coaches’ all-division selection last year, Ciampa is one of a trio of midfielders who will lead Lacey, along with Robert Biele and Owen Hope.

Bryan Malerba, Brick Memorial

Combined with Simek to form one of A South’s better one-two scoring punches in the division, trailing only Toms River East’s Sommerer and Lorenzo Scala in combined goals and total points among pairs of A South teammates.

Joey Stoltenberg, Jackson Memorial

With Garrett Muzikowski gone, Stoltenberg will be at the center of the Jackson attack and will also be part of a dangerous scoring duo along with fellow junior Andrew Jozwicki.

Dylan Kanson, Southern

One of several Southern players who battled injuries last year, Kanson will look to have a bounceback year after showing lots of promise as a sophomore.

Robert Biele, Lacey

The leading returning scorer for the Lions, Biele scored four goals and dished out four assists for a balanced Lacey side.

Kieran Murphy, Toms River South

Defense was a strong suit for the Indians last year and Murphy was at the center of that effort. The senior will lead an experienced back line once again this year.

Ryan Cheslock, Toms River North

The Mariners will miss Nick Sica, but Cheslock quietly emerged alongside Sica in the back of the formation last year. With little scoring back, Toms River North’s defense will be a key to its success.

Kollin White, Toms River South

A second-team all-division keeper as a junior last year, White had a case to be a first-teamer considering that he let up only 23 goals in 20 games and showed the ability to make the great save in the process.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Joey Hertgen, Toms River North – After losing last year to injury, Hertgen will look to impress the rest of the Shore the way he impressed those in the Mariner program during the preseason.

Owen Lee, Toms River South – Some strong play from Lee in the middle of the field will allow Jordan Urbaczek to attack, making that Indians' offense a little more potent.

Hunter Dorsey, Lacey – The junior will get a chance to play at the top of the formation in front of a midfield that plays very well together.

Andrea Verace, Toms River East – Showed his ability in bursts last year with a lot of seniors playing in front of him and now will get a chance to play full time as a junior.

Kyle Galloway, Southern – The Rams have a good dose of senior experience, but a little youthful infusion from players like Galloway could make all the difference.