For the last decade, Class A North has carried the belt as the toughest overall division in the Shore Conference and defended that title last year when Manalapan won the Shore Conference Tournament. Class A North again has three standout teams, but from the top of the division to the bottom, Class B North has the look of the premier collection of teams in the Shore Conference this year.

Only Wall appears like a sure thing to be a top-five team out of this bunch, with so much of last year’s three-loss team back. Even beyond Wall, teams like Red Bank, Long Branch and Ocean all have proven talent that has played well in postseason settings, while Colts Neck has turned out winning seasons consistently over the last five years. Throw in a sleeper like Red Bank Catholic and this division should be an unforgiving one that makes it hard for one or two very good teams to even qualify for the postseason. Once in, however, there are no shortage of teams in the field that could do damage.

Wall senior Brendan Barcas (right) gets a preseason run in while preparing for what he and his teammates hope is a championship season. (Photo by Matt Manley)

 

Wall

Head Coach: Garry Linstra, 13th season
Last Year’s Record: 14-3-6 (6-1-5, second in B North)
Returning: Brendan Barcas (Sr., Midfield); Zach Hetzel (Sr., Forward); Joe Tashjy (Sr., Midfield); Matt DeGenova (Sr., Defense); Jack Wishart (Sr., Goalkeeper); Zach Aylett (Sr., Defense); Colin Nies (Sr., Defense); Michael Wheeler (Sr., Midfield); Connor Fry (Jr., Forward); Gerardo Medina (Jr., Midfield); Zach Ferry (Jr., Defense); Dan Frisch-Harmon (So., Midfield)
Departed: Chris Barcas (Forward); Cameron Wenz (Defense); David D’Agostino (Defense); Mike Commessa (Midfield); Rajan Patel (Defense)
Newcomers: John Callaghan (Jr., Defense); Dean Sabo (Sr., Forward); Reilly Barcas (Sr., Midfield); Jordan Bloo (Jr., Forward); Ben Kernis (So., Midfield); Ryan Gordon (So., Midfield); Dakota Dobrovich-Fago (So., Midfield)

The magic words around this Wall team are “unfinished business” after the Crimson Knights lost an overtime heartbreaker to Allentown in the Central Jersey Group III final last year. Key contributors Chris Barcas, Cameron Wenz and David D’Agostino all graduated, but Wall returns a crop of talent that came into the program with championship expectations. To some extent, the Crimson Knights expect championships every year, but this senior class was an anticipated one for the coaching staff, so the last two seasons were the beginning of a great opportunity to win a state sectional title and perhaps more.

Four-year players Brendan Barcas and Zach Hetzel head up the list of returners after the two combined for 17 goals last year. Last year’s CBA transfer Joe Tashjy is also back in the defensive midfield following a successful first month with the Wall program, and seniors Matt DeGenova, Zach Aylett and Colin Nies will help anchor a revamped back line. Juniors Gerardo Medina, Zach Ferry and Connor Fry are all ready to make bigger impacts this year. Sophomore Dan Frisch-Harmon also contributed as a freshman, and he could be a player who eventually takes the torch from this group of seniors.

In order for Wall to finish unfinished business, they have to simply finish. Goal-scoring has lagged behind the rest of Wall’s game in past years, but that picked up last year, particularly in October and into November. The Crimson Knights have an experienced defense and one of the conference’s top keepers in Jack Wishart, so if the offense builds on what it did at the end of last year, Wall should enjoy its best season in nearly a decade.

 

Red Bank

Head Coach: Sean Reid, fifth season
Last Year’s Record: 9-8-2 (6-5-1, tied for third in B North)
Returning: Justin Gilson (Sr., Forward); Dylan Fogerty (Sr., Midfield); Sam MacPherson (Sr., Midfield); Justin Delaney (Sr., Midfield); Joe Malley (Sr., Defense); Aaron Williams (Sr., Defense/Midfield); Louis Tiro (Jr., Midfield); Jacob Curtis (Jr., Defense); Chris Lefever (Sr., Midfield); Randy Boehler (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Michael Colao (Jr., Midfield)
Departed: Luis Aguirre (Goalkeeper); Chris Soldo (Midfield); Eduardo Trejo (Forward); Daniel Cabrera (Forward); Kevin Reilly (Defense)
Newcomers: Chris Fuentes (So., Defense); Brian Fuentes (Sr., Defense); Miguel Valdez (Sr., Goalkeeper); Max Lane (So., Midfield); Jake Lane (So., Defense); Jake McIntyre (So., Midfield); Dee Caban (So., Midfield); Matt Christie (Sr., Midfield); Chris Hughes (So., Forward/Midfield); Oscar Romero (Sr., Midfield)

The Cinderella of the early rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament returns a slew of talent at every level and even brings back some academy talent that it missed last year. Put it all together and Red Bank has the potential as a sleeper in any tournament it enters, provided the Bucs play like the team that finished the season 8-2-2 and not the one that started the season 1-6. If that slow start was just a result of some typical growing pains for a team without a whole lot of seniors, then Red Bank should hit the ground running.

The Red Bank attack begins up top with senior striker Justin Gilson, whose move from the midfield to forward coincided with the team’s turnaround. Gilson tied with Central’s Blake Czajkowski for the Shore Conference lead in goals scored (20) and has been scoring at a breakneck pace again this preseason, according to coach Sean Reid. Seniors Dylan Fogerty, Sam MacPherson and Justin Delaney make up a skilled, experienced returning midfield that will also return senior Randy Boehler and junior Michael Colao. Boehler – who will play attacking midfield and some forward – and Colao both chose to play academy soccer last year but returned this year with the hope of helping push their high school team over the top.

 

Long Branch

Head Coach: Adrian Castro, third season
Last Year’s Record: 6-10-2 (2-8-2, seventh in B North)
Returning: Sam Hernandez (Sr., Midfield); Manny Camacho (Sr., Midfield); Gibranni Padilla (Sr., Midfield); Marco Fonseca (Sr., Defense); Ygor DaSilva (Jr., Defense); Gregory Borba (Sr., Forward); Gilberto Matildes (Jr., Goalkeeper); Diego Galiz (Jr., Defense); Jairo Elmer Castro (Jr., Midfield/Forward); Caique Sousa (So., Defense); Guillerme De Novaes (Sr., Forward)
Departed: Lucas Andrade (Midfield); Elias Oliveira (Defense); Chris Salmon (Midfield); Fabio De Souza (Forward)
Newcomers: Kevin Solano (Jr., Goalkeeper); Juan Carlos Marino (Fr., Forward/Midfield); Hernan Acevedo (So., Forward); Joa Victor Pessoa (So., Defense/Midfield)

There are disappointing seasons and then there is what happened to Long Branch last year. Although there were some legitimate concerns – lack of senior leadership, questions about scoring, inexperience in goal – every coach who saw or played Long Branch came away thoroughly impressed and yet the Green Wave finished the season 6-10-2 and dead last in Class B North. It was a season in which almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong and a very good division schedule made the Green Wave pay for its mistakes.

This year is a chance for this group of Green Wave players – mostly the same as the ones who underachieved last year – to make good. Long Branch does have to replace one of the division’s better defenders in Elias Oliviera and will also have to make do without leading scorer Fabio De Souza, who transferred to St. Benedict’s.

Despite that, the Green Wave still return an experienced midfield with skill, with seniors Sam Hernandez, Manny Camacho and Gibranni Padilla leading the way. The Wave also get back Guillerme De Novaes, who showed off a dominant knack for scoring during the 2013 preseason before suffering a torn ACL before the start of the season. Fullback Ygor DaSilva and goalkeeper Gilberto Matildes will look to improve as juniors in the back of the formation, while sophomores Caique Sousa and newcomer Hernan Acevedo provide some potential for scoring.

If Long Branch was simply short on experience and leadership last year, an offseason together should have cured those ills. There is still enough left for Long Branch to be a top-10 team during the course of the season and challenge the likes of Wall during the two meetings and perhaps even in the race for the B North title.

 

Colts Neck

Head Coach: Art Collier, 17th season
Last Year’s Record: 9-4-5 (7-3-4, fourth in A North)
Returning: Taylor Demick (Sr., Midfield); Brian Knauf (Sr., Midfield); Josh Fox (Sr., Defense); Thijs Smit (Jr., Goalkeeper); Rob Berdel (Jr., Defense); Mick Lee (Sr., Forward); Kevin Murch (Sr., Forward); Kevin Colonna (Sr., Defense); Brett Cohen (Sr., Forward); Colten LaLima (Sr., Defense)
Departed: Michael Jelinsky (Defense); Brian Winderman (Midfield); Dom Ricci (Forward); Kevin DePope (Defense); Jason Tonelli (Forward); Casey Camarco (Defense); Devin Gavrushenko (Defense)
Newcomers: Chris Reale (So., Midfield); Owen Keusch (So., Defense); Noah Baker (Jr., Goalkeeper); Tyler Lee (Sr., Defense); Anthony Russo (So., Midfield); Chris Greco (Jr., Midfield); Michael Martinho (So., Forward); Gavin Ross (Sr., Defense); Jon Mojica (Sr., Midfield); Logan Thomsen (Jr., Midfield); Dean Raynor (Jr.); Anaphat Chindarat (Jr., Forward)

After spending the last two seasons competing for division titles in Class A North, it would stand to reason that Colts Neck will move “down” to Class B North and pick up another division title like it did the last time the Cougars were in B North in 2011. It won’t be that simple, however, because not only is this a much more loaded version of Class B North than it has been in recent years, but Colts Neck comes into the division after graduating some very important pieces from last year’s team. Compared to the other teams in the division, only Neptune returns a lower percentage of its scoring output than Colts Neck and only Ocean lost more players from its starting lineup.

Although the Cougars have some holes to fill and obstacles to overcome in the division, they have been turning over winning teams from year to year for several years now, regardless of how many players graduate or leave to play academy soccer. Colts Neck will offset the graduation of six starters by welcoming back one it lost to academy soccer last year. Sophomore Chris Reale will make his high school debut this season in the midfield for Colts Neck, joining returning starters Taylor Demmick, Brian Knauf, Josh Fox and Kevin Colonna, as well as junior goalkeeper Thijs Smit. Junior Rob Berdel also gave Colts Neck quality minutes last year, as did senior forwards Mick Lee and Kevin Murch.

Sophomore Owen Keusch is a newcomer to watch on the defensive side and junior Noah Baker could push for time in goal as well. The Colts Neck defense appears to be solid with a mix of returning and promising talent, but with 19 goals gone to graduation, the Cougars will need to find ways to score to keep pace in a division that is now right there with Class A North.

 

Ocean

Head Coach: Tom Reilly, 30th season
Last Year’s Record: 12-3-5 (7-1-4, first in B North)
Returning: Wadneson Alexis (Jr., Forward); Claudio Martins (Sr., Midfield); Marlhens Nasanes (Jr., Forward); Luis Araya (Jr., Defense); Teddy Eugenis (Sr., Midfield); Ryan Wells (Jr., Defense); Brandon Holland (Jr., Defense)
Departed: George Kavarakas (Midfield); Justin Silverberg (Midfield/Forward); Chris Seager (Goalkeeper); Dan Gomez (Midfield); Tyler Roman (Defense); Chris Cunalata (Defense); Neil Martin (Midfield)
Newcomers: Yianni Kavarakas (Jr., Goalkeeper); Jack Rose (Jr., Midfield); Jordan Ornowski (So., Midfield); Cosimo Franze (So., Midfield); Jordan Franco (Jr., Defense)

As of Thursday morning, the Spartans were holding their breath waiting to find out the results of an MRI on the right knee of junior striker Wadneson Alexis, who injured the knee in a scrimmage against Raritan on Friday. Alexis scored 12 goals last season and represents a whopping 86 percent of the returning goal scoring for the Spartans, who lost seven starters and 20 goals from a year ago. The status of Alexis has major ramifications in the division and beyond because it gives a talented-but-young collection of players at Ocean even more responsibility when it comes to filling in some of those holes.

Regardless of the status of its best player, Ocean will need some former substitutes and varsity newcomers to thrive as starters. Senior Claudio Martins and junior Luis Araya were regular starters last year and senior Teddy Eugenis and junior Ryan Wells each had time in the starting lineup and played significant minutes. Marlhens Nasanes and Brandon Holland also showed promise as sophomores last season and could see their roles greatly increase as juniors. Nasanes, in particular, could be an x-factor if Alexis were to miss significant time. Yianni Kavarakas has big shoes to fill in replacing All-Shore goalkeeper Chris Seager, but has performed well in the early going.

Ocean is positioned to be win the division next season with so much junior talent, especially if Neil Martin returns after deciding to play academy soccer this year. The Spartans could get a jump on that push this year if healthy, but the questionable status of their top scoring threat will put this year in some jeopardy considering how good this division is.

 

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: Justin Meehan, second season
Last Year’s Record: 8-11-1 (5-7-0, tied fourth in A Central)
Returning: Chris Cesario (Sr., Forward); Kevin Davey (Sr., Forward); Bryan Andrew (Sr., Defense); Jake Wosledger (Jr., Defense); Kyle Bates (Jr., Midfield); Connor Fogler (Sr., Goalkeeper); Jack Pellech (Jr., Midfield); Sammy Ettore (Sr., Defense); Sammy Robertson (Jr., Defense); Luke Riley (Jr., Defense/Midfield); Mike Culkin (So., Forward/Midfield); Logan Roddy (So., Midfield)
Departed: Max Paredes (Forward); Patrick Meehan (Forward); Nick Schweizer (Goalkeeper); Nolan Riley (Defense); Blaise Venditti (Forward); Mac Taylor (Midfield); Nick Wade (Midifield); Vince Gallo (Midfield)
Newcomers: Jack Corcoran (Jr., Midfield); John Keefe (So., Midfield); Christian Simoes (Fr., Forward); Sebastian Pena (Fr., Forward); Blake Tamburri (Fr., Defense); Will Wang (Sr., Goalkeeper)

While Class B North has earned marks for its depth and overall talent on paper going into the season, not many consider RBC to be among the group that could contend for a division title. The Caseys do have a lot to prove as a program, but they should be drawing a little more interest as a team that could make a push up toward the top three or four in B North. Red Bank Catholic was one of the most improved teams in the Shore Conference last season, going from 1-14-2 to 8-11-1 with appearances in both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Non-Public A tournaments, with overtime road losses in each tournament.

Not only was Red Bank Catholic’s 2013 season a major step forward, but the Caseys return some key pieces from last year’s team. Chief among those returnees is senior Chris Cesario, who is coming off a breakout season in which he hammered home 11 goals. Kevin Davey and Bryan Andrew also return to the starting lineup, with Davey looking to build on a three-goal season up top and Andrews working from the middle of the defense.

The junior trio of Kyle Bates, Jack Pellech and Jake Wosledger also return to the lineup this year after making their varsity debuts last season, while senior Connor Fogler takes over in net for graduated goalkeeper Nick Schweizer. The Caseys lost senior midfielder Vince Gallo, who is kicking for the football team this year, but will start to push forward some youth to go with Cesario, Andrews and Davey. If they find the right mix, RBC could be a sleeper in this division.

 

Neptune

Head Coach: John Knight, ninth season
Last Year’s Record: 7-10-3 (3-7-2, sixth in B North)
Returning: Urial Santiago (Sr., Forward); Dan Fonrose (Jr., Midfield); Vinny Tremarco (Jr., Midfield); Eliezer Santiago (Sr., Defense); Ming Connors (Jr., Defense); Tyler Schembri (Jr., Forward); Casey Schembri (Sr., Defense); Spencer Holt (Sr., Defense); Irving Rodriguez (So., Goalkeeper); Edgardo Canjura (Jr., Midfield)
Departed: Stevenly Joseph (Midfield); Acquilis Dos Santos (Forward); Kevin Rodriguez (Midfield); Marvin Quintona (Defense); Dante Crenshaw (Forward)
Newcomers: Matt Jegou (Jr., Midfield); Thomas Holgring (Sr., Goalkeeper)

On quantity alone, Neptune returns a fair share of its starting lineup, which went 7-10-3 last season with a tough division schedule. Unfortunately for Neptune, it will have to replace a whole lot of scoring in a division that brings a lot of scoring back to the mix this year. Stevenly Joseph (14 goals) scored almost half of the team’s 30 goals and combined with Acquilas Dos Santos, Dante Crenshaw and Kevin Rodriguez to score 24 of the team’s 30 goals.

Junior Vinny Tremarco scored three goals last season and returns as the team’s top scorer. He will join talented junior Dan Fonrose in the midfield, while senior Urial Santiago moves up top with the loss of Dos Santos. Eliezer Santiago and Ming Connors will anchor the defense in front of sophomore goalkeeper Irving Rodriguez, who was forced into emergency duty because of injury last year. Neptune could actually be an improved defensive team, but without some of the skill of players like Joseph and Dos Santos, there will be a lot of pressure on that defense against the exceptional scoring talent in this division.

 

The B North 11

Justin Gilson, Red Bank

The most prolific scorer in Monmouth County last year, Gilson will now have a full season playing striker and could be poised to score even more this season.

Zach Hetzel, Wall

A four-year varsity contributor, Hetzel enters the season with 17 career goals after scoring a career-high 10 last year. Wall was a better finishing team last year and Hetzel was at the forefront of that improvement.

Wadneson Alexis, Ocean

If healthy, Alexis is as dangerous as they come up top. He draws as much attention as any player in the Shore Conference and with that attention, he still managed 12 goals last year.

Chris Cesario, Red Bank Catholic

An 11-goal scorer in Class A Central last year, Cesario helped turn RBC from a struggling program to a team with some dynamic scoring ability.

Brendan Barcas, Wall

A three-year starter, Barcas has scored 16 goals over the last two years and leads the Crimson Knights' attack from the center of the field.

Manny Camacho, Long Branch

After playing a role as a sophomore on the Central Jersey Group II runner-up, Camacho took on a larger role in the center midfield last year. With that transition out of the way, he should be ready to thrive.

Sam Hernandez, Long Branch

Like Camacho, Hernandez will benefit from last year’s experience and should also shine next to his fellow senior midfielder.

Taylor Demick, Colts Neck

The Cougars’ leading returning scorer (five goals) will look to produce some more scoring and carry a bigger load in the middle of the field.

Dylan Fogerty, Red Bank

Gilson got most of the glory with 20 goals, but Fogerty’s play in the middle of the field with Sam MacPherson was also instrumental in Red Bank’s late-season surge.

Joe Tashjy, Wall

The Crimson Knights took off late in the year once they added Tashjy to the lineup. The CBA transfer operated out of the defensive midfield and allowed Barcas and Hetzel to attack.

Jack Wishart, Wall

There are bigger goalkeepers out there, but few are as fearless and tenacious as Wishart, who plays a lot bigger than he actually is.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Guillerme De Novaes, Long Branch – Last year would have been his coming out party if not for a torn ACL. With the knee looking good during the preseason, it appears this season will be his rain check.

Claudio Martins, Ocean – With or without Alexis, Martins can help Ocean stay on top of the division with a big season. Expect him to do his part.

Gerardo Medina, Wall – Carved out a nice niche during his stateside debut last year, and this year the Spanish import will be one of Wall’s top producers.

Chris Reale, Colts Neck – In his first season of high school soccer at any level, the Cougars sophomore will play in the central midfield as Colts Neck looks to carry over its Class A North success into B North.

Dan Fonrose, Neptune – The scoring should catch up to the ability this season for Fonrose, who will look to take the torch that Stevenly Joseph carried for the last couple of seasons.