The Class A North division has consistently been the dominant division in the Shore Conference for the better part of a decade, and although realignment has given the Shore Conference’s premiere collection of teams a makeover, it remains the gold standard of the six divisions. The strength of Christian Brothers Academy – the clear favorite to win the division and the Shore Conference Tournament – has a lot to d with that, but the depth is still there despite heavy losses to graduation by Manalapan and Freehold Township, as well as the exodus of Middletown North to Class B North.

Even the public division title looks to have a clear front-runner in Marlboro, which returns far more talent than any other public school team in the division from a team that was good last year. The rest of the division might be slightly more vulnerable in past years, but expect a number of teams that survive the A North grind to be impact players in the postseason.

In predicted order of finish

Christian Brothers Academy

Head Coach: Tom Mulligan, first season
2015 Record: 19-4-1 (11-2-1, first in A North)
Returning: Matt Thorsheim (Sr., Midfield), Patrick Kollman (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Matt Mawson (Sr., Midfield), Scott Misson (Sr., Defense), Aaron Robertson (Sr., Forward), Tom Judge (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Ryan Nigro (Sr., Midfield), Aeden Boriotti (Sr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Tom Lozowski (Defense), Nick Meyer (Midfield), Tim Milkulski (Defense), John Frycz (Forward), Joe Paolillo (Defense/Midfield), Dean Canale (Defense)
Newcomers: Colin Lankau (Sr., Defense), Ryan O’Connor (Sr., Midfield), Jack Gill (So., Midfield), Joe Lozowski (So., Midfield)

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the “dawning of a new era” story at CBA, and rightfully so. Dan Keane has been an institution at a program that is, itself, a Shore Conference institution and it will be strange for anyone close to the program to watch a soccer game without him on the bench. That being said, that is a secondary story for the returning players on the Colts, who feel like they have the blueprint to repeat as Shore Conference Tournament champions and also finish No. 1 in the state as the NJSIAA Non-Public A champions. Last year, CBA reached the Non-Public A final and after a dominant first half by Delbarton, the Colts played an even second half that left them encouraged that they’d be more ready for the challenge if they can make that run again.

Looking at this CBA roster, there is reason to believe they can finish the job. Senior center midfielder and Bucknell recruit Matt Thorsheim returns after winning the Shore Sports Network Player of the Year as a junior behind a 12-goal, 21-assist season. CBA also returns three more of its top five scorers from last year’s SCT title team, with seniors Patrick Kollman (15 goals), Tom Judge (10), and Aaron Robertson (8) all back. The Colts also bring back an All-Shore defensive center midfielder in senior Ryan Nigro, an All-Shore keeper in Aeden Boriotti and an all-division center back in Scott Misson. Senior midfielder Matt Mawson also returns after starting all of last year.

On top of Thorsheim and Judge, who is headed to James Madison net year, senior Ryan O’Connor is another Colts senior to commit to a Division I program, with O’Connor heading to Loyola. O’Connor has will be making his varsity soccer debut this season after playing for NJCSA instead of for the Colts in prior years. Adding him to an already-loaded lineup with scorers and athletes will make CBA a lot for any Shore team to handle and a legitimate contender for the Non-Public A crown in Tom Mulligan’s first season at the helm.

Matt Thorsheim and CBA will look to defend their SCT title and finish off a state title run in 2016. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Marlboro

Head Coach: Dave Santos, 21st season
2015 Record: 8-7-4 (5-6-3, fifth in A North)
Returning: P.J. Ringel (Sr., Midfield), Steven Karp (Sr., Midfield), Ryan LaRocca (Sr., Defense), Josh Grun (Sr., Midfield), James Weinberg (Sr., Goalkeeper), Justin Goldstein (Sr., Defense), Verazdat Topuzyan (Sr., Forward), Dan McGrath (Sr., Defense), Jaden Strumeier (So., Defense), William Chiusano (Sr., Midfield), Brian Dates (Jr., Forward), Matt Howard (Sr., Midfield), Ilan Galitsky (Sr., Midfield), Jacob Grine (Sr., Forward), Phil Kordunov (Sr., Midfield), Jared Markowitz (Sr., Midfield), Jacob Edri (Jr., Goalkeeper), Zach Scarpa (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Jacob Bordman (Defense), Noah Moorstein (Midfield), Andrew Toron (Midfield)
Newcomers: Brett Easton (Sr., Forward), Marten Sakharny (Sr., Defense), J.P. Edralin (Sr., Midfield), Elijah Krain (Jr., Goalkeeper), Jake Rosen (Jr., Midfield), Justin Tzitzis (Jr., Defense), Sam Rikshpun (Jr., Midfield), Seun Majekodunmi (Jr., Forward)

As much as CBA has back from a year ago, there is one A North team that returns an even greater percentage of its starters from last year. Marlboro brings back nine of its starting 11 after a season of highs and lows in Class A North and will be adding some talent to that group as well. Seniors P.J. Ringel and Steven Karp make up a formidable midfield duo that were two of the top scorers on a team that scored only 24 goals and relied on a balanced goal distribution.

What the Mustangs lacked in finishing, they made up for with their possession and a strong backline in front of standout keeper James Weinberg. Seniors Ryan LaRocca, Justin Goldstein and Dan McGrath return to the defense, as does sophomore Jaden Stumeier – who pushed into the starting lineup by the end of his freshman year. Senior Josh Grun is also back in the midfield and senior Will Chiusano will join the midfield group as a first-year starter.

If Marlboro has a big year, it will be because the horses up top are finishing goals. Senior Verazdat Topuzyan scored four goals a year ago and junior Brian Dates scored five goals before a concussion derailed his hot streak. The newest weapon in the Marlboro attack is senior striker Brett Easton, who did not play high school soccer either of the past two seasons. With some extra creativity up top, the Mustangs have the makings of a complete team that can give CBA a challenge and be a factor come postseason time.

 

Colts Neck

Head Coach: Art Collier, 19th season
2015 Record: 8-9-2, (6-6-0, fourth in B North)
Returning: Owen Keusch (Sr., Defense), Ryan Tompkins (Sr., Defense), Colt Luzzi (Sr., Defense), Christian Saavedra (Sr., Midfield), Michael Martinho (Sr., Forward), Zach Ferchak (Jr., Forward), Connor Smith (Sr., Midfield), Connor Sager (Jr., Midfield), Zach Shaffer (Jr., Midfield), Chris Strzalkowski (Jr., Defense), Jayson Visco (Jr., Defense), Amro Dewedar (Sr., Midfield), Jake Moore (Sr., Forward), Brian Chehanske (Sr., Defense), Dan Gaines (Jr., Forward), Ethan Kilmnick (So., Midfield)
Key Losses: Tice Smit (Goalkeeper), Rob Berdel (Midfield), Chris Greco (Forward), Logan Thomsen (Midfield), Dean Raynor (Defense), Ryan Tompkins (Defense), Noah Baker (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: Louis Reale (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Parker Ballingal (So., Midfield), Don Friedrich (Sr., Goalkeeper), Evan Lowell (Jr., Goalkeeper), Sam Becce (Sr., Midfield), Jack Becce (Sr., Defense), Dean Posner (Sr., Midfield)

A move from Class B North to Class A North can be an overwhelming one for a team, but Colts Neck has responded to the challenge in the past, just as the Cougars hope to do this year. Back in 2012, they moved into A North and won the division title, and while that’s a high bar in a division with a loaded CBA team, the Cougars can take aim at the public division title with a chance to hit their mark.

One reason for optimism is the return of senior Louis Reale from Brazil, giving the Cougars a creative finisher up top that they sorely missed last year. Reale put up six goals and four assists during his sophomore season and was one of Class B North’s top players back in 2014. He will combine with senior Michael Martinho and junior Zach Ferchak at the top of Colts Neck’s 4-3-3 formation. Behind the trio of forwards will be senior midfielders Christian Saavedra and Connor Smith, as well as junior Connor Sager.

Even with Reale back, the strength of Colts Neck’s team is likely its back four, led by senior center backs and co-captains Owen Keusch and Jake Tompkins. Senior Colt Luzzi and junior Chris Strzalowski will man the outside of the back line. The question mark for Colts Neck heading into the season lies in goal, where junior Evan Lowell has the inside track for the job. If it all works out, graduation hit much of A North hard enough that Colts Neck can roll into the division with a solid 11 and challenge for the Class A North public title.

 

Freehold Township

Head Coach: Josh Mehl, first season
2015 Record: 15-4-4 (10-2-2, second in A North)
Returning: Adrian Barajas (Sr., Midfield), Andrew DiBella (Sr., Forward), Kyle Trainor (Sr., Midfield), Sean O’Donnell (Sr., Midfield), Matt Nastarowicz (Sr., Defense), Josh Nastarowicz (Sr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Mark Fasano (Sr., Midfield), Mike Maltese (Sr., Midfield), Nick Facendo (Sr., Forward), Jake Kennis (Sr., Defense), Chris Hoskins (Sr., Forward), Mike Christina (Sr., Goalkeeper), Anthony Orrico (Sr., Forward), Chris Anello (Sr., Defense), Ryan Morrison (Sr., Defense), Chris Cardace (Sr., Defense), Hadi Raoofi (Sr., Forward)
Newcomers: Kris Agyropolous (Sr., Forward), Marc Cohen (Sr., Midfield), Paul Katyal (Sr., Defense), Matt Kole (Sr., Defense), Josh Cagan (Jr., Defense), Kevin Finn (Jr., Forward), Jon Finocchiaro (Jr., Forward), Matt Finocchiaro (Jr., Midfield), Jimmy Farrell (Jr., Midfield), Matt Nitti (Jr., Midfield), Chris Orrico (So., Midfield), Alonzo Konstantinidis (So., Midfield), Alex Janssen (So., Midfield)

A coach dreams of getting out of a class of players what the Freehold Township Class of 2016 gave the Patriots soccer program over the past two seasons: a Shore Conference Tournament championship in 2014 and an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship last season. The stretch was good enough that coach Todd Briggs rode off into the sunset, leaving the program with his former assistant Josh Mehl. Unfortunately for Mehl, Briggs could not leave him more players from last year’s team, as 14 seniors – most of them starters and impact players – moved on.

Mehl does welcome back All-Shore senior Adrian Barajas, who has played on the Freehold Township defense for most of his varsity career and will be a center midfielder for the Patriots this season. As much as any team, Freehold Township has lived off of size and prowess in the air, and the 6-foot-5 Barajas will have every opportunity to uphold that reputation. For the Patriots to remain in the top half of A North, he will have to take after last year’s leading scorer Chris Hoskins, who busted out with an 18-goal season. Seniors Kyle Trainor and Sean O’Donnell also return in the midfield after contributing last year, while Andre DiBella takes over a spot at the top of the formation.

Freehold Township has enjoyed a run of outstanding goalkeepers in Phil Horan, Brian Shushkovsky and last year’s starter Mike Christina. Senior Josh Nastarowicz will assume the mantle this season, with his brother Matt Nastarowicz returning to play on the back line. With an influx of capable talent to go with its handful of returning players, Freehold Township should not hurt for wins, but maintaining the level of the past two years is not going to be the expectation this year. If they can take the first step in getting back to that level in future years, the Patriots will have had a good season.

 

Manalapan

Head Coach: Kerry Eisman, first season
2015 Record: 11-6-2 (8-4-2, third in A North)
Returning: Rocky Garretson (Sr., Midfield), Conor O’Neill (Sr., Defense), Ethan Shalom (Sr., Goalkeeper), Josh Koenig (Jr., Goalkeeper), Cam Saunders (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Joe Maccariello (Sr., Midfield), Quentin Pickering (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Mike McNicholas (Sr., Defense), Mitch Volis (Sr., Midfield), Joseph Ahn (Sr., Midfield), Ayush Mittal (Sr., Midfield), Miles Schindler (Sr., Defense), Daniel Natoli (Sr., Midfield), Pio Lamoriello-Schiano (Sr., Forward), Dylan Williams (Sr., Defense), Tiago Reyes (Sr., Midfield), Tom Colen (Sr., Defense)
Newcomers: Sam Rivere (Sr., Defense), Dylan Han (Sr., Defense), Jon DiBlasi (Sr., Defense), Jon Karlin (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Adam Brodsky (Sr., Forward), Jason Popowitz (Sr., Goalkeeper), Adam Goldberg (Jr., Defense), James LaSpina (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Ryan Myaskovsky (Jr., Goalkeeper), Alex Gargiullo (Jr., Goalkeeper), Justin Goldberg (So., Midfield), D'Angelo Reyes (So., Midfield), Mike Kuver (So., Forward), Marc Tucillo (Jr., Midfield/Defense), J.T. Sasso (Jr., Forward)

Coaching changes are a common thread throughout Class A North, and Manalapan’s was the rockiest of the three. John Natoli submitted his resignation last season after a postgame incident that followed a game in which he received a yellow card. While Keane’s coaching career will be celebrated at CBA this year and Briggs’s relatively short run at Freehold Township was also decoratedl, Natoli’s accomplishments rank up there with some of the most successful coaches in Shore Conference history: three Shore Conference Tournament titles, three NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championships and an overall Group IV co-title in 2007.

Longtime assistant Kerry Eisman has taken the reins of the program and while the coaching staff remains relatively similar, the roster will be much different this season. Outside of senior midfielder and four-year letter-winner Rocky Garretson, the links to the sectional and SCT title teams are no longer in the program, so the Braves will be relying on some unproven players to rally around Garretson. Senior defender Conor O’Neill earned starting time a year ago and will have to fill the void left by first-team center back Mike McNicholas and also lead an inexperienced back four. On the plus side, Manalapan returns its goalkeeper tandem of Ethan Shalom and Josh Koenig to clean up any early-season hiccups.

Senior Cam Saunders, senior Joe Maccariello and junior Quentin Pickering all return with some experience as well and will contribute in the front six of the formation. Manalapan’s bad years have been competitive years in good Class A North divisions, so even a Braves team without much experience won’t be a pushover.

 

Howell

Head Coach: Rich Yuro, 26th season
2015 Record: 4-9-1 (4-9-1, sixth in A North)
Returning: Brandon Downey (Jr., Forward), Stephen Marrone (Jr., Midfield), Adam Jiries (Jr., Midfield), Brad Kolczynski (Sr., Midfield), Joe Masino (Sr., Goalkeeper), Ryan Leary (Sr., Midfield), Stephen Lovato (Sr., Defense), Nick Wolfe (Sr., Midfield), Chris Bogdan (Jr., Defense), Tom Adams (So.), Dylan Dougher (So.), Shane McBride (Sr.), Robert Saunders (So., Midfield)
Key Losses: Tyler DiGiovanni (Forward), Conner Hansen (Midfield), Evan Houdousek (Forward), Mike Flaherty (Forward), Tim Mortillaro (Defense), Alex Behan (Forward), Dan Mato (Defense)

Howell is now five years removed from its last venture into the deep rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament and has been grinding away in a rough-and-tumble A North while trying to get back. The conditions may be ripe for the Rebels this season, as Freehold Township and Manalapan are both likely to take a step back and Middletown North is in Class B North. It also helps that the Rebels have developed themselves a nice returning core that will give Howell some experience and proven production all over the field.

Howell’s climb back to prominence starts with goalkeeper Joe Masino and a defense that limited opponents to a respectable 23 goals in 14 games given an overall record of 4-9-1 in A North. Junior Chris Boghdan, and senior Steven Lovato will help solidify that defense in front of Masino, who recorded four shutouts last year. If the goal-prevention is where Howell has excelled, goal-scoring is where they will need to improve. The Rebels scored just 14 goals in 14 games a year ago.

Junior forward Brandon Downey started in each of his first two years and could be primed for a breakout junior season. Senior Brad Kolczynski will captain the midfield with juniors Steve Marrone and Adam Jiries, along with seniors Ryan Leary and Nick Wolffe. Sophomore Robert Saunders also got a chance to play as a freshman and will figure into the mix. With a few more goals from that group, the Rebels could change their fortunes this season and climb back into contention in A North.

 

Freehold Boro

Head Coach: Anthony Sessa, fourth season
2015 Record: 5-12-2 (2-10-2, seventh in A North)
Returning: Andy Rizo (Sr., Forward), Isaiah Ladouceur (Sr., Midfield), Tommy Boyle (Sr., Defense), Alex Trajkoski (Sr., Midfield), Roger Vega (Sr., Midfield), Josue Aceituno (Sr., Forward), Colin Bertscha (Sr., Defense), Kevin Manzano (Sr., Defense), Abe Cuautle (Sr., Midfield), Nestor Romero (Sr., Midfield), Alex Soto (Sr., Midfield), Jared Avila (Jr., Midfield), Jake Bower (Jr., Midfield), Saif Elsiedy (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Robbie Bailey (Jr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Jesus Lopez (Goalkeeper), William Lee (Midfield), Jose Silva (Midfield), Ethan Kudler (Defense), Matt Schertzer (Midfield)
Newcomers: Abelardo Herrera (So., Forward), Lucas Bruckman (So., Defense), Phil Franco (Fr., Defense), Brendan Duffy (So., Goalkeeper), Cameron Elslager (So., Forward), Chris Wraback (Sr., Goalkeeper)

Freehold Boro’s 2015 season started out fine enough, but a 10-match winless streak doomed any hopes of a season that built on a successful 2014 campaign. The Colonials began the year 4-2 and played Freehold Township to a scoreless draw in the first game of that 10-game stretch. Seven straight losses followed and Freehold’s postseason hopes were effectively dashed. With the hard-learned lessons of 2015 engrained in them, these returning Colonials will again look to start the season strong and maintain some level of consistency throughout.

One area in which Freehold has pretty well-covered is goal-scoring, with leading scorer Andy Rizo (eight goals, eight assists) back for his senior year. The Colonials also return midfielder Jake Bower and versatile midfielder Isaiah Ladouceur to join Rizo in the push to score, while sophomore Abelardo Herrera has showed some promise up top as a potential complement to Rizo. Senior Tommy Boyle, meanwhile, will move to the center fullback spot from the center midfield in order to solidify a defense that will now have to operate without departed goalkeeper Jesus Lopez. Junior Saif Elsiedy will also play a key role on the defense, which will look to protect the winner of a three-way goalkeeper battle.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a team was as flawed as a losing spell suggests, or whether or not it just ran into some misfortune and can eventually come out on the other side. In a slightly more forgiving A North, Freehold Boro might be a team that gets some of the breaks this year and, by avoiding another long losing streak, stays in the race.

 

Neptune

Head Coach: John Knight, 11th season
2015 Record: 10-11 (4-8, fifth in B North)
Returning: Wilby Alfred (So., Forward), McKenna Church (So., Midfield), Marlon Morales (Midfield), Bobby Newman (Jr., Defense), Dylan Schembri (Jr., Defense)
Key Losses: Danny Fonrose (Midfield), Vinny Tremarco (Forward), Ming Connors (Defense), Tyler Schembri (Midfield), Matt Jegou (Midfield), Greg Schemazel (Defense), Irving Rodriguez (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: Sebastian Cardinas (Sr., Midfield), Seamus Macanee (Goalkeeper), Ryan Gallagher (Defense), Christian Oasis (Midfield), Sebastian Cardinas (Midfield), David Anderson (Midfield), Penia Camila (Forward)

The Scarlet Fliers are undergoing a partial rebuild and the timing could be a little better. With the move into Class A North taking affect this year, Neptune will have to face a stacked schedule with a team largely comprised of juniors and sophomores who only know life in Class B North. On the bright side, Neptune’s young talent will be battle-tested after running through one turn of a Class A North schedule. After all, B North was a very tough division last year and many of Neptune’s current players experienced a 10-11 season against good overall schedule.

Although Neptune will run into some matchup issues along the way, the Scarlet Fliers present a matchup problem of their own with freshman forward Wilby Alfred. On a senior-heavy team, Alfred contributed five goals as a freshman and will be asked to carry some more of the load this year with Neptune losing 23 goals to graduation from Dan Fonrose, Vinny Tremarco and Tyler Schembri alone. Fellow sophomore McKenna Church will also help out in the youth movement, with juniors Bobby Newman and Dylan Schembri also returning to the starting lineup.

Neptune might be a year away from making some noise in this division, but that doesn’t mean this year is not important. With some high-ceiling sophomore players, the Scarlet Fliers have to show they are ready for the day-to-day slug through A North and are even capable of pulling out some wins against quality opponents. If that happens, Neptune could be poised for big things in 2017 and 2018.

 

XI to Watch (2015 Stats)

Matt Thorsheim, CBA (12 goals, 21 assists)

Tom Judge, CBA (10 goals)

Dave Nigro, CBA (3 goals, 7 assists)

Patrick Kollman, CBA (15 goals, 4 assists)

Louis Reale, Colts Neck (6 goals, 4 assists in 2014)

Adrian Barajas, Freehold Township (5 goals, 1 assist)

Rocky Garretson, Manalapan (6 goals, 12 assists)

Steven Karp, Marlboro (5 goals, 2 assists)

Andy Rizo, Freehold Boro (8 goals, 8 assists)

Wilby Alfred, Neptune (5 goals, 1 assist)

Brandon Downey, Howell (3 goals, 1 assist)

 

Goalkeepers to Watch

Aiden Boriotti, CBA (14 shutouts)

James Weinberg, Marlboro (5 shutouts)

Joe Masino, Howell (four shutouts)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Ryan O’Connor, CBA

Brett Easton, Marlboro

Kyle Trainor, Freehold Township (2 goals, 1 assist)

 

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