There are a number of teams gearing up for a run at the Class B South title, but the road to a regular-season championship goes through defending champion Point Boro, which has their sights set on not only repeating as division champs, but also finishing off a postseason title.

 

In predicted order of finish

Point Pleasant Boro

Head Coach: Pete Casalino, 11th season
2014 Record: 18-5 (13-1, first in B South)
Returning Players: Nick DeCurtis (Sr., Forward), Sam Monaco (Sr., Forward), Mason Remondelli (Jr., Midfield), Mason Pitts (Sr., Defense), Alex Stupar (Sr., Midfield), Mason Weingarten (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Kenny Fellows (Forward), Jake Woodring (Forward), Quin Hornish (Forward), Dan Nobbs (Forward), Gabe Pesante (Goalkeeper), Evan McHugh (Midfield), Ryan Remondelli (Defense), Owen Herrington (Forward), Harry Van Wagenen (Defense), Mike Bestine (Midfield), Steve Corso (Midfield)
Newcomers: Tyler Haines (Jr., Goalkeeper), Matt Moran (So., Defense)

Only one Shore Conference team won more games than the 18 Point Boro won last season and this year, the Panthers are aiming at a repeat of the regular season, accompanied by a much sweeter finish. After rolling through Class B South and putting together a school-record 14-game winning streak, Point Boro lost postseason home games to St. John Vianney in the Shore Conference Tournament and Governor Livingston in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals. Both of those games were decided on late goals, the first on a final-second goal in regulation by Vianney and the other on an overtime golden goal by eventual sectional champion Governor Livingston.

After coming so close to advancing in either game last year, Point Boro brings back solid core from a deep 2014 roster that will hope to build on the experience of last season. Seniors Sam Monaco and Nick DeCurtis lead the group and are both slated to play up at the top of the formation after DeCurtis played in the midfield and Monaco at sweeper last year. Senior Mason Pitts and sophomore newcomer Matt Moran will anchor the defense, while Junior Mason Remondelli and seniors Alex Stupar and Mason Weingarten return to the midfield. Junior Tyler Haines will be tasked with replacing all-division goalkeeper Gabe Pesante.

In all, the Panthers return only seven goals from last season, but Monaco’s move from the back to the top of the formation will almost certainly be a boon to his scoring, and the same should hold true for DeCurtis. The challenge for Point Boro will be remaining strong throughout the formation after moving pieces around and building up the kind of depth that made the Panthers so tough to play last year. In a Class B South division whose top teams from a year ago lost a lot of goal-scoring, Point Boro is in good position to rearrange its lineup and remain at the top of the field as the Panthers gear up to take another crack at a sectional title.

Point Boro hopes for many more celebrations in 2015. (Photo by Matt Manley)

 

Donovan Catholic

Head Coach: Ken Oliver, 15th season
2014 Record: 9-9-1 (8-6-0, fifth place in B South)
Returning Players: Alec Mapoy (Sr., Midfield), Nick Kriticos (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Jake Mulvaney (Sr., Forward), Brant Reymann (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Tom Swanson (Sr., Midfield), Dan Popo (Sr., Defense), Evan Root (Sr., Goalkeeper), Brendan Ryan (Sr., Midfield), Matt Dalton (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Justin Alves (Jr., Defense), Kevin Dillon (Jr., Defense), Bryce Grant (Jr., Defense), Jon Michael Pereira (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Dom DiSalvo (Defense), Connor Grant (Midfield), Eric Glawson (Defense), Matt Kelly (Forward)
Newcomers: Alex Palacio (Sr., Forward), Hunter Calveto (Jr., Defense), Ryan Acosta (Jr., Midfield), Brendan Maguire (Jr., Defense), John McAvoy (Jr., Midfield), Brendan McCurnin (Jr., Midfield), Joe Mendes (Jr., Midfield), Pat Trahan (Jr., Defense)

Donovan Catholic faces the challenge of replacing its best player, stopper back Dom DiSalvo, and leading scorer Connor Grant (nine goals) but the Griffins will also have the luxury of returning a large portion of their overall lineup and the majority of its scoring from a year ago. While the 2014 was a disappointing one by Donovan’s standards – a fifth-place finish in Class B South and first-round exits in both the SCT and NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A playoffs – the Griffins did sport a young roster that should be able to take something from the experience.

Alec Mapoy returned to the team last year after sitting out his sophomore season to play academy soccer and made an impact with five goals. Mapoy should play an even larger role in the midfield this season and will be part of a solid one-two punch with junior Matt Dalton, who scored six goals as a sophomore. Senior Brant Reymann also returns with two years of experience, while juniors Justin Alves, Kevin Dillon and Bryce Grant all contributed as a sophomore along with Dalton. Senior goalkeeper Even Root also returns after improving over the course of his first year as a starter.

It’s rare that Donovan Catholic is not within a game or two of first place in Class B South, and a rebuilding year is typically followed by at least one or two very good ones. Point Boro deserves to be the favorite in the division based on its outstanding 2014, but the Griffins have the numbers and the talent to challenge the Panthers for the top spot in B South.

 

Pinelands

Head Coach: Jason Ashe, seventh season
2014 Record: 9-8-1 (8-5-1, fourth in B South)
Returning Players: Matt O’Connell (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Jordan Humphreys (Jr., Forward), Billy Sulzmann (Sr., Midfield), Austin Hart (Sr., Midfield), Hyatt Yilmaz (Sr., Defense), Donovan Duelly (Sr., Defense), Dave Lunn (Sr., Goalkeeper), Corey Cusack (Jr., Midfield), Cade Sundermann (So., Defense), Tim Keleher (Jr., Forward), Micah English (Jr., Forward)
Key Losses: Rabi Orellana (Midfield), Paul Cardillo (Defense), Matt Cahill (Midfield), Jay Cassillas (Defense)
Newcomers: Frank Aguilar (Fr., Midfield/Defense), Brian Marcella (Jr., Defense), Brian Keleher (Jr., Goalkeeper)

The Wildcats made a significant jump up the standings in 2014 and they are in position to build on their winning season rather than fade away. Pinelands does have to replace two standout performers in Rabi Orellana and Paul Cardillo, but the Wildcats got a great deal of production and contribution from its underclassmen last season. With a year of playing in big games and the taste of winning becoming more familiar, this Pinelands group might have a chance to have one of the best year’s the program has seen in a long time.

Junior Matt O’Connell returns after scoring 16 goals as a sophomore and classmate Jordan Humphreys has scored nine goals in two varsity seasons – giving Pinelands a one-two scoring punch up top that will be together for another year after this one. The Wildcats also return a strong senior core, led by midfielders Billy Sulzmann and Austin Hart, defenders Hyatt Yilmaz and Donovan Duelly, as well as goalkeeper Dave Lunn. Sophomore Cade Sundermann also returns to the defense after tallying two goals and four assists as a freshman, while freshman Frank Aguilar will join the young core as a first-year contributor.

In the past, losing players like Orellana and Cardillo would set Pinelands back by at least a year, but the Wildcats have a wave of talent that not only allows them to make a run at a division title this season, but also next year as well. If this is the year Pinelands breaks through, then it might be time for B South to get used to going through the Wildcats to win a division title.

 

Central

Head Coach: Rob Bechtloff, 28th season
2014 Record: 14-4-1 (11-3-0, second in B South)
Returning Players: Shane Cranstoun (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Troy Foberg (Sr., Defense); Youssef Abdelaziz (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Griffin Bacon (Jr., Defense), Cory Carsten (Jr., Defense), Frank Golda (Jr., Forward), Nate Wiley (Jr., Forward/Defense), Dale Wei (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Brody Elliot (Jr., Defense), Roberto Pacheco (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Gustavo Ponce (Sr., Forward), Francisco Tamayo (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Blake Czajkowski (Forward), Doug Jensen (Midfield/Forward), Bryan Jones (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: Jake Dufner (Sr., Midfield) – transfer from Manchester, Ned Burg (Jr., Defense), Pablo Hernandez (Sr.), Vincent Nelson (Jr.), Tom Ruscitti (So., Goalkeeper), Mike Cambra (So.), Nick Heim (So.)

The bad news for Central is that its top two scorers – who combined for 44 goals and 29 assists – both graduated, along with all-division goalkeeper Bryan Jones. The good news is that outside of All-Shore players Blake Czajkowski and Doug Jensen, the Golden Eagles bring back the rest of their starters in the field while also replacing Jones with a promising sophomore athlete. Tom Ruscitti already broke out as a freshman varsity baseball player and coach Rob Bechtloff believes he’ll make a similar impact as a potential three-year varsity starter in goal.

While Central returns a large portion of its lineup, very little of it consists of seniors. Shane Cranstoun has been a defender during his varsity career because the Golden Eagles have needed help there, but now that they need more creativity on the attack, the senior will play in the middle of the field. Fellow senior Troy Foberg returns to the defense, while seniors Roberto Pacheco, Gustavo Ponce and Francisco Tamayo will have an opportunity to play more this season. Central also welcomes in a senior transfer in midfielder Jake Dufner, who played at Manchester last season and will be a key addition to the formation.

This year’s junior class will carry Central over the next two seasons, led by Youseff Abdelaziz (eight goals), Nate Wiley, Cory Carsten, Griffin Bacon, Frank Golda, Dale Wei and Brody Elliot – all of whom played significant minutes as sophomores. If that junior group can begin playing like seniors a year early and Cranstoun, Abdelaziz and Wiley can lead the charge in replacing some of the scoring left behind by Czajkowski and Jensen, Central could end up being the B South favorite.

 

Jackson Liberty

Head Coach: Brett Mallinson, third season
2014 Record: 9-9 (9-5, third in B South)
Returning Players: Brandon Pirog (Sr., Forward), Bryan Garry (Sr., Midfield), Morgan Barkley (Sr., Midfield), Nick Pellegrino (Sr., Defense), Zach Moran (Sr., Defense), Alex Iorio (Jr., Midfield), Kyle Macauley (Sr., Defense), Nate Santana (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Adam Haidi (Midfield), Chris Galifi (Midfield/Forward), Joe Pasqualini (Defense), Ben Siragusa (Defense), Aidan Benbrook (Goalkeeper), Jake Mackenzie (Midfield), Jeremy DeBoer (Midfield)
Newcomers: Trevor Anderson (So., Midfield), Nick Siragusa (Jr., Goalkeeper), Riley Fanholz (Fr., Goalkeeper), Matt Campbell (So., Defense), Kevin Garry (So., Midfield)

The pieces were in place for Jackson Liberty to have its best season in the program’s short history, and while the team had a solid season, it never quite took off the way the Lions had hoped. Like the rest of the B South field, they could not keep pace with Point Boro in the division race and in their two postseason games, Jackson Liberty lost to Wall (SCT) and Allentown (CJ III) by a combined score of 9-0. A season-ending injury to central defender Ben Siragusa contributed to the struggles at the end of the season, so the Lions will be hoping for a healthier 2015 that ends with a flurry.

One reason for optimism is the return of senior forward Brandon Pirog, a 20-goal scorer and third-team All-Shore selection by Shore Sports Network. Pirog has played both sweeper and striker in his high school career and while the Lions may need him in the back at some point, he is already a proven scorer up top who can finish with Ocean County’s best. Senior midfielder Bryan Garry also returns after logging seven goals and seven assists, and those two will likely be the primary source of offense this year. Junior Alex Iorio also contributed three goals as a sophomore and could be a key piece as Jackson Liberty looks to stay in the mix.

Sophomore Trevor Anderson and junior goalkeeper Nick Siragusa each got a small taste of varsity last year and lead a crop of newcomers who will be asked to pick up the production left behind by seven graduated starters. Seniors Morgan Barkley, Nick Pellegrino and Zach Moran will also be factors in the formation as the Lions look to build toward the finish and remain a factor in B South.

 

Barnegat

Head Coach: Mike McCullion, eighth season
2014 Record: 5-12-2 (4-9-1, sixth in B South)
Returning Players: Max Ritner (Sr., Goalkeeper), Kyle Heidel (Sr., Midfield), Brandon Spain (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Flaherty (So., Forward), Sean Moran (Jr., Midfield), Cameron Lew (Sr., Defense), Reese Hardy (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Stewart Villavicencio (Forward), Austin Reynolds (Midfield), Justin Kovacs (Forward), Kidron Stolte (Defense)
Newcomers: John Cullen (Sr., Defense), Chad Fraser (So., Defense), Connor Pagkalinawan (Sr., Midfield), Jake Tompkins (Jr., Defense), Nico Veneziano (Jr., Midfield), Avery Boyer (So., Forward), Ricky Norman (Fr., Forward), James Parri (So., Midfield), Joe Wygas (Sr., Defense), Corey Branz (So., Midfield), Brendan Murphy (Sr., Midfield)

The Bengals have been teetering on the edge of contention in Class B South for the past several years and with a pair of productive offensive players and a proven goalkeeper returning, this could be the season they break into the top half of the division and qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament. The first of those challenges will not be easy with Point Boro, Donovan Catholic, Central and Pinelands all returning quality roster and Jackson Liberty also bringing back a handful of top players, but after playing every team in the division except Point Boro to at least one goal decision, the Bengals have already proven they are not that far off.

Senior midfielder Kyle Heidel has been one of Barnegat’s top players during each of the past two years and will again anchor the formation from the middle of the field. The Bengals will also have an element of danger up top in returning breakout striker Ryan Flaherty, who scored nine goals as a freshman in 2014. Those two, in addition to experienced returnees Brandon Spain, junior Sean Moran, senior Cameron Lew and senior Reese Hardy, will give the Bengals a competitive group in the field to go with returning goalkeeper Max Ritner. After winning the job as a sophomore in 2013, Ritner became a mainstay in 2014 and is one of B South’s top returning keepers.

The climb to the top is a long one for Barnegat, but the Bengals will have some scoring ability, along with a quality keeper. That’s a formula that should keep them competitive all season long in B South and if they can begin to finish off close games, they could be a surprise contender come October.

 

Manchester

Head Coach: Ed Hudak, second season
2014 Record: 0-18-2 (0-13-1, eighth in B South)
Returning Players: Dom Gregg (Sr., Forward), Ryan Dolan (Sr., Defense), Dylan Barry (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Brandon Moreno (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Vanderham (Sr., Defense), Colton Peck (Sr., Goalkeeper), Matt Migliaccio (Jr., Defense), Albert Millan (Jr., Defense), John Dolan (Jr., Midfield/Forward)
Key Losses: Matt Santos (Midfield), Jake Dufner (Midfield) – transferred to Central
Newcomers: Nick Cybenko (Sr., Forward), John Constantine (So., Defense), Jordan Finkle (So., Midfield/Forward), Milan Kleva (So., Midfield), Devin Ortiz (So., Midfield)

It is hard to argue against Manchester as the worst team in the Shore Conference last year, but the Hawks were also one of the youngest and least experienced. With only one senior in the fold, Manchester went 0-18-2 and was outscored by its opponents 106-17. They obviously have a long way to climb to make any real impact in the Class B South race, but the Hawks will be a much more experienced group this year, one who should begin to hang with the B South field on a game-in-game-out basis.

Senior forward Dom Gregg is a four-year starter who was a scoring threat from the outset, although scoring has been a difficult task with so much inexperience around the field. With senior teammates Ryan Dolan, Dylan Barry, Brandon Moreno and Ryan Vanderham back in the field, the Hawks should be able to play a little bit more and generate more chances.

A solid sophomore class should begin to make an impact this season, led by John Constantine, Jordan Finkle, Milan Kleva and Devin Ortiz. The turnaround will likely not happen overnight, but the worst of the rebuild is most certainly over and Manchester can begin to work its way back into competition in Class B South.

 

Lakewood

Head Coach: Gene Drumright, 15th season
2014 Record: 2-14-1 (1-12-1, seventh in B South)
Potentinal Returning Players: Christian Granados (Jr., Defense), Eduardo Castillo (Jr., Forward), Japhet Campollo (So., Forward), Andy Hermida (Jr., Goalkeeper/Defense)
Key Losses: Tomas Uribe (Midfield), Irving Sanchez (Midfield), Enrique Giron (Defense), Manny Quintero (Midfield), Carlos Velasquez (Forward)

 

Players to Watch

Sam Monaco, Point Boro – A shift from sweeper to striker will mean an uptick in goals for a player who is already an All-Shore talent.

Brandon Pirog, Jackson Liberty – Pirog was one of seven 20-goal scorers in the Shore Conference last season and one of only two who return this year.

Alec Mapoy, Donovan Catholic – Mapoy’s return from the academy ranks helped a young Griffins survive in B South and now, both the senior midfielder and his team should begin to thrive.

Shane Cranstoun, Central – With Central needing defense, Cranstoun was the consummate team player in playing in the back. The Golden Eagles need his offense this year, so the numbers should more accurately reflect his ability.

Matt O’Connell, Pinelands – Coming off a 16-goal sophomore season, O’Connell is the scoring standout in a young Wildcats core.

Ryan Flaherty, Barnegat – On a Barnegat team that won five games, Flaherty’s nine goals as a freshman flew under the radar.

 

Goalkeeper to Watch

Dave Lunn, Pinelands – A three-sport standout in soccer, basketball and baseball, Lunn is one of the top athletes in the division and it shows in the way he plays in goal.

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Matt Dalton, Donovan Catholic – After a six-goal sophomore season as a supporting-cast player, Dalton is ready to be a go-to option up top for a Griffins team that looks to get back into the B South race.

Nick DeCurtis, Point Boro – Although it’s not reflected in the scoring stats, DeCurtis has been a key player for the Panthers and like Monaco, the numbers should come this season.

Corey Carsten, Central – The junior had a strong preseason for the Golden Eagles and along with teammates Nate Wiley and Youseff Abdelaziz, he will help pick up some of the offensive slack for Central.