Boys Soccer – 2016 Class A South Preview
Class A South has earned the reputation as a black-and-blue league that is a five-week gauntlet for the eight member teams to survive. For all its successes over the years, A South entered last year losing some of its impact around the Shore. The division did not have a representative in either the 2013 or the 2014 Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and the highest A South seed entering last year’s tournament was No. 6.
Enter Toms River South. The Indians caught fire in October, knocked off eventual Central Jersey Group IV champion Freehold Township in the SCT quarterfinals and were derailed only by CBA in the SCT semifinals and by Mendham in the Group III championship. This year, the Indians appear to be the Class of A South again, while Jackson Memorial and Toms River North remain threats. A senior-laden Central Regional comes into the division as a wild card, while the other four teams all have elements that could present problems.
It’s possible that the division is down from where it was five or so years ago, but there is at least one team in A South that is anything but down.
In predicted order of finish
Toms River South
Head Coach: Ed Leibe, 13th season
2015 Record: 21-4 (13-1, first in A South)
Returning: Dylan Parks (Sr., Forward), Tyler Egnatuk (Sr., Midfield), Chris Kluxen (Sr., Defense), Dylan Dannelson (Sr., Defense), Dom Pizzi (Sr., Goalkeeper), Ben Brown (Sr., Defense), Matt Babcock (Jr., Midfield), Clem Slavick (So., Midfield), Zack Stankovics (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Cameron Geerinck (Sr., Forward), Mike Tapp (Sr., Defense), Mike Conover (Sr., Defense), Francesco LoScrudato (Sr., Midfield), Sergio Dippolito (Sr., Forward), Evan Niemierowski (Sr., Midfield),
Newcomers: Ryan Laycock (So., Defense), Isaiah Dominguez (Jr., Forward), Jack Seitz (Fr., Midfield), Garret White (Jr., Defense), Dustin Urbaczek (Jr., Midfield)
One could make the case that last year’s Indians team was the best in the history of the program on account of the school record 21 wins they collected. They fell a win shy of their second ever NJSIAA Group championship after reaching the championship game for the second time in program history. Goal-scoring dynamo Cameron Geerinck led the run with eight postseason goals and replacing his 28 goals will be the most pressing challenge for this year’s Toms River South team.
Although Toms River South is without Geerinck and All-Shore defender Mike Tapp, they return eight starters and one more player with varsity experience as the Indians eye a strong follow-up to their 21-win season. Dylan Parks was the second-leading scorer for Toms River South as a junior last season, tallying nine goals and six assists. On the down side, no other player on the Indians scored more than three goals last year, so the source of the scoring this season beyond Parks remains a mystery approaching opening kick. Senior midfielder Tyler Egnatuk scored two goals to go with his 10 assists last year, senior stopper Chris Kluxten added three from the back, and junior Matt Babcock and sophomore Clem Slavick both stood out as underclassmen who may be ready to up their respective games.
The defense led by Kluxten and seniors Dylan Dannelson and Ben Brown will be a strength of Toms River South, which also returns All-Shore senior goalkeeper Dom Pizzi. Junior Garret White and sophomore Ryan Laycock will play in the back along with the three returnees, while junior Zack Stankovics joins Egnayuk, Slavick and Babcock in the midfield. Junior Isaiah Dominguez is the early favorite to play up top with Parks, who will now be the go-to source for goals. Even if Toms River South doesn’t score at the pace it did last year, its balance, athleticism and big-game pedigree make them one of the more complete teams in the conference heading into 2016.
Head Coach: Steve Bado, 12th season
2015 Record: 12-6-3 (9-4-1, third in A South)
Returning: Christian Fryc (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Mike Schoener (Sr., Forward), Andrew Jenkins (Sr., Midfield), Andrew Keating (So., Defense/Midfield), Nick Kinzler (So., Goalkeeper), Ben Patti (So., Forward/Midfield), Kevin Luzzi (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Jacob Patti (Jr., Midfield), Josh Franco (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Chris Sichenze (Sr., Defense), Zach Maibach (Sr., Forward)
Key Losses: Joe Mamola (Defense), Andrew Jozwicki (Forward), Joey Stoltenberg (Midfield), Nick Schlageter (Midfield), Anthony Nappi (Midfield), Chris Kinzler (Defense/Midfield), Dan Van Clef (Midfield), Dylan Kanner (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: Brandon Hudak (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Sam Savage (Sr., Forward), Joe Schlageter (So., Defense), Carsten DiGiantomasso (So., Defense), Logan Lewis (So., Midfield), Richard Chan (So., Midfield), Daniel Russo (Fr., Forward), Joe Weinstein (Fr., Goalkeeper), Connor Lucas (Fr., Defense/Midfield), Drew Greenblat (Fr., Midfield), Ben Schnaak (Fr., Defense), Ed Jacoby (Fr., Midfield), Tyler Howlett (Fr., Midfield), Ronny Bantang (Fr., Defense), Chase Olejarz (Fr., Defense)
While some teams like their chances to compete if they can find someone to score goals, Jackson Memorial is the team that likes its chances explicitly because it knows it has someone to score goals. Senior forward Mike Schoener went off for 25 goals during his junior season, one of only five Shore Conference players to reach the mark and the only one from an “A” division to return this season. Everything Jackson Memorial does will be geared toward getting Schoener the ball with a chance to score game-winning goals, which means the Jaguars will commit to defender and getting the ball forward to the speedster in space.
Along with Schoener, the Jaguars also have a standout defensive center midfielder in Christian Fryc, who was somewhat hampered by injury during the early part of his junior season before notching four goals and four assists. Outside of Schoener and Fryc, Jackson Memorial got nearly all of its goal production from seniors last year. Sophomore Ben Patti was the exception with two goals and two assists and he returns as an attacking midfielder with the ability to play up top. Senior Andrew Jenkins will be another key cog in the midfield after playing significant minutes last year.
Sophomore Andrew Keating returns along with juniors Kevin Luzzi, Jacob Patti, Josh Franco and Chris Sichenze to compete for time with a host of sophomore newcomers and a deep, talented freshman class that could pay dividends immediately. Sophomore goalkeeper Nick Kinzler is also back after playing most of his freshman season. It won’t be easy to replace six starters, but the Jaguars got their young players a taste last season and with two All-Shore-level players in Schoener and Fryc back, they’ll just need to settle into roles and contribute enough to complement those two.
Toms River North
Head Coach: Joe Mahon, seventh season
2015 Record: 9-8-1 (8-5-1, fourth in A South)
Returning: Mitch Reed (Sr., Midfield), Matt Benvenuto (Sr., Defense), Jason Garcia (Sr., Midfield), Brandon Copeland (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Tyler Keller (Sr., Defense), Kevin Ryan (Sr., Goalkeeper), Dante Shenkin (Sr., Midfield), Joe Swanton (Sr. Goalkeeper), Evan Zurawski (Sr., Defense), Jack Butz (Jr., Midfield), Anthony McNulty (Jr., Defense), Alex Poll (Jr., Defense), Harmony Bel-Gam (Jr., Forward), Brett Schneider (Jr., Forward), Victor Colasurdo (Jr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Joey Hertgen (Midfield), Kyle Burke (Defense), Tommy Butz (Defense), Rob Cameron (Midfield), Cedric Cook (Forward), Tommy Lynch (Goalkeeper), Andrew Foti (Forward), Raz Chabra (Midfield), Gal Chabra (Midfield), Nick Moreno (Defense)
Newcomers: Kyle Kerr (So.), Luke Franklin (So.), Andrew Casey (So.), Marco Imperiale (So.), Mark Koerner (So.), Kyle Mills (Sr.)
Toms River North has remained a contender in Class A South in recent years and is just two years removed from a trip to the South Jersey Group IV sectional final, where the Mariners lost to a powerhouse Washington Township team. Last year opened with some promise with a healthy Joey Hertgen back, but it was not enough to keep up with the class of the division. Despite sporting two 20-point scorers – one of whom returns this season – Toms River North came up shy of 40 goals on the season and was blanked in a 2-0 loss to Atlantic City in the NJSIAA opening round.
On the bright side, the 2014 team bounced back from a first-round loss in 2013 to make their state playoff run and this year’s group the depth in talent to warrant title aspirations. Senior Mitch Reed leads the group of returnees after scoring eight goals last season and with the graduation of Hertgen, the team will lead on Reed on the attack. Junior Jack Butz began to come on as a sophomore last season and will be another source of offense. Brandon Copeland, Brett Schneider and Harmony Bel-Gam will also see increased roles that could lead to more production.
Seniors Matt Benvenuto, Tyler Keller, Dante Shenkin, Jason Garcia and Evan Zurawski bring a stabilizing presence back as well after playing varsity minutes last year. They will play in front of senior keeper Kevin Ryan who saw some unplanned playing time with an injury to starter Tommy Lynch. It all adds up to a solid roster with a lot of useful players that should make Toms River North suited to handle the A South schedule and stay in the division hunt. If the Mariners can get an All-Shore year out of Reed and another goal-scorer emerges, just being competititve would be a low bar.
Head Coach: Rob Bechtloff, 29th season
2015 Record: 12-5-2 (10-3-1, third in B South)
Returning: Youssef Abdelaziz (Sr., Midfield), Griffin Bacon (Sr., Midfield), Cory Carsten (Sr., Defense), Frank Golda (Sr., Forward), Nate Wiley (Sr., Forward), Dale Wei (Sr., Defense), Brody Elliot (Sr., Defense), Ned Burg (Sr., Defense), Vincent Nelson (Sr., Defense), Tom Ruscitti (Jr., Goalkeeper), Mike Cambra (Jr., Midfield), Nick Heim (Jr., Defense)
Key Losses: Shane Cranstoun (Midfield/Defense), Jake Dufner (Midfield), Troy Foberg (Defense), Roberto Pacheco (Forward/Midfield), Gustavo Ponce (Forward), Francisco Tamayo (Midfield)
Newcomers: Rigoberto Ponce (Jr.), Eric Pacheco (So.), Eric Szejnrok (So.), Kody Huffert (Fr.), Joe Sweeney (Fr.)
If Central remained in Class B South this season, the Golden Eagles would be co-favorites to win the division along with Donovan Catholic. With their move to Class A South, however, the Eagles will have to contend with a potentially dominant Toms River South team, traditionally tough Jackson Memorial, Brick Memorial and Toms River North teams, and better bottom-half teams like Southern, Toms River East and Brick – all of whom see Central as an opportunity to pick up a win and stay in the playoff mix.
While Central is stepping up in competition this season, the Eagles also present some challenges to the A South mainstays who will just now get to know them. Central has one of the more senior-heavy rosters in the division and it is a group that has had success winning games in each of the past two seasons. Youssef Abdelaziz, Griffin Bacon, Cory Carsten, Frank Golda, Nate Wiley, Dale Wei and Brody Elliot have been varsity regulars for each of the previous two seasons, so they are used to the varsity speed and used to one another by now. This year, the challenge will be ramping it up for a game against Toms River South, staying locked in for a game against Southern, then turning around to play Brick Memorial and Jackson Memorial within a three-day stretch.
In addition to the new schedule, Central will have to find some scoring with the graduation of top scorers Shan Cranstoun and Jake Dufner. If anything, the Golden Eagles can be encouraged that they lost even more scoring from 2014 to 2015 and stayed in the B South hunt with a junior-heavy team. Factor in a quality keeper in Tom Ruscitti and Central has the ingredients to make its transition to A South a successful one. Once the South Jersey Group III playoffs come around, as long as the team is healthy, it should be battle-tested enough to make a run.
Head Coach: Steve Ferullo, fifth season
2015 Record: 8-9-1 (6-7-1, fifth in A South)
Returning: Jake DeGennaro (Sr., Defense), Angel Suarez (Sr., Forward), David Van Note (Sr., Defense), Shawn Berhend (Sr., Midfield), Lou Nazzaro (Jr., Midfield), Steve Ferbee (Jr., Forward), Erik Fatovic (Jr., Forward), Sean Aubry (So., Defense), Angel Suarez (Sr., Midfield), Eric O’Doherty (Jr., Defense), Brian Gerard (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Eddie Seamen (Midfield), Alejandro Fernandez (Defense), Alejandro Cisneros (Midfield), Joe Zahlaman (Goalkeeper), Chris Costa (Midfield), James McCombs (Jr., Midfield) – Academy Commitment
Newcomers: Jake Marren (So., Midfield), Matt Farnkopf (So., Midfield), Matt Ingenito (So., Defense), Nick King (Sr., Defense), Ryan Rodriguez (So., Midfield), Mike Ingenito (So., Forward), Brandon Byrnes (Jr., Goalkeeper), Trevor Green (So., Goalkeeper)
Like Central, Brick Memorial had to adjust to life without two high-end goal scorers that both graduated and the Mustangs were not quite as fortunate as the Golden Eagles. The graduation of Kevin Simek and Bryan Malerba sapped Brick Memorial of the vast majority of its offense and they scored only 22 goals in 18 games last season after putting up 52 in 21 games in 2014. One bright spot to last year was the late-season emergence of then-sophomore Eric Fatovic, who returns as a junior this season looking to build on his six-goal campaign. Classmate Lou Nazzaro also came on last year with three goals and three assists as a sophomore and those two will be key cogs in the offense this year.
Junior James McCombs was another potential standout for the Mustangs, but he opted to play academy soccer this season, leaving Brick Memorial without its projected center midfielder who was a varsity starter as a freshman. Returning midfielders Shawn Berhend, Angel Suarez and Brian Gerard will have to help Nazzaro in fortifying that level of the formation in McCombs’s absence, while an influx of sophomores try to help as well. The goal of the group will be to battle and get the ball to Fatovic and junior Steve Ferbee, who will play up top as well.
Seniors Jake DeGennaro and David Van Note are two more of the Mustangs’ top returnees and will lead the defense. DeGennaro is one of the leaders of the team and will have to step up to fill a void left by graduated center back Alejandro Fernandez. Brick Memorial began to learn how to compete without the luxury of two All-Shore scorers last year and should have some help in the form of a full year of Fatovic up top. If the defense and the midfield can stem the tide of a couple of key losses, the Mustangs will be more than capable or a top-three finish in the division.
Head Coach: Guy Lockwood, first season
2015 Record: 4-12 (3-11, sixth in A South)
Returning: Luke Kretschmer (Sr., Defense), Ethan Leming (Jr., Forward), Collin McHugh (Jr., Midfield), Anthony Delagarza (Sr., Forward), John Loftus (Sr., Defense), Nick Sinopoli (Sr., Midfield), Fernando Tapia (Sr., Midfield), Joe Orrico (Jr., Forward), Connor Feeney (So., Defense), Brad Bischoff (Jr., Forward), Jay Boehler (Sr., Goalkeeper), Griffin Pounds (Sr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Kyle Montesano (Midfield), Justin Schuster (Midfield), Matt McHugh (Defense/Midfield), Jared Grady (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: Joe Kiernan (Jr., Forward/Midfield), Dylan Blauvelt (So., Midfield), Billy Howard (Sr., Defense), Sam Iacoves (Jr., Defense), Liam McInerney (Sr., Midfield), Nico Wojdyla (So., Midfield)
The Rams are several years removed from competing in postseason-caliber games, and will change course with new coach Guy Lockwood. If the new skipper and his team have one thing going for them, it is that a lot of the players on this year’s roster got a chance to play last season, when the Rams finished ahead of two other A South teams even during a rough year. Kyle Montesano was arguably the team’s top player a year ago and replacing him could be an issue, but this is a program that is in it for the long haul and looking to develop its talent from top to bottom.
One of the pleasant surprises for Southern down the stretch of last season was the play of forward Ethan Leming, who is now entering his junior season coming off a nine-goal sophomore campaign. Those nine goals accounted for more than one third of Southern’s total output on the season, so the Rams’ focus will be less finding a goal scorer than finding a way to maximize Leming’s opportunities and taking advantage of any attention he might draw. Junior Collin McHugh also stepped in and produced as a sophomore and is part of a solid junior group that also includes Leming, forward Joe Orrico, junior Brad Bischoff and Joe Kiernan.
Senior Luke Kretschmer is the other leader on the team, with his contribution coming at the back of the formation. Sophomore Connor Feeney, senior John Loftus, senior Billy Howard and junior Sam Iacoves will help out Kretschmer in the back, with senior midfielders Nick Sinopoli and Fernando Tapia also provide some leadership in the middle. Meanwhile, if those juniors can continue to improve at the rate they did as sophomores, Southern could open some eyes this year.
Toms River East
Head Coach: Mike Konopka, first season
2015 Record: 3-12-2 (2-11-1, seventh in A South)
Returning: Chandler Gibbons (Sr., Forward), Ryan Labelle (Sr., Midfield), Drew Ugaro (Sr., Goalkeeper), Rob Betts (Sr., Defense), Santino Celebre (Jr., Forward), Stephen Cosentino (Jr., Goalkeeper), Jon DeLigny (Jr., Defense), Joe Gamboa (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Jack Kelly (Jr., Midfield), Sean Kelly (Jr., Defense), Christian Zamora (Jr., Forward)
Key Losses: Andrea Verace (Midfield), Alex Matos (Midfield), Dan Smyth (Midfield), Kyle Unger (Defense), Marcelo Duarte (Forward), Brandon Mirabile (Sr., Midfield),
Newcomers: Rafael Ortiz (Sr., Defense), Jake Himmel (Sr., Defense), Mark Gatanis (Sr., Forward), Fletcher Gest (Sr., Midfield), Owen Donovan (Jr., Midfield), Julian Lopez (Jr., Midfield), Jogan Romero (So., Midfield), Logan Sommerer (So., Midfield), Tyler Paar (So., Defense), Tyler Glabicki (So., Defense), Dan Schneider (So., Defense)
Since perennial winning coach Ted Gillen stepped down following the 2012 season, the Raiders have gone 20-29-7 in three seasons, going 9-9-2, 9-8-3 and bottom out last year at 3-12-2. For perspective, the Raiders were 33-11-8 in Gillen’s final three years with one division title and two second-place finishes. New coach Mike Konopka, the boys basketball coach at East earlier in the decade, takes over the program and will look to lay the foundation for a turnaround in the years to come.
Seniors Chandler Gibbons, Ryan Labelle and Drew Ugaro are the prominent seniors back on the team. Gibbons and Labelle will look to spark the attack, while Ugaro mans the net with fellow senior Rob Betts returning to a starting spot on the defense. Gibbons will move up top full-time, which should give him a chance to add to his statistical profile after scoring a pair of goals as a midfielder last year.
Of all the returning talent that played as underclassmen, junior Santino Celebre stood out the most with his six goals a year ago. Fellow juniors Jack Kelly, Sean Kelly, Christian Zamora, Joe Gamboa and Jon DelIgny all return with experience and could be the key to a Raiders turnaround as soon as this year. If not, there is help on the way with the sophomore class and that junior core could lay foundation for a resurgent 2017.
Head Coach: Tom Frazitta, second season
2015 Record: 3-15 (2-12, eighth in Class A South)
Returning: Matt Loffredo (Jr., Defense), Frank Firrito (Jr., Midfield), John Crist (So., Defense), John Mora (Jr., Defense), William DeLao (So., Forward), Steve Castenado (Sr., Forward), Alan Gomez (Sr., Defense), Alex Gomez (Sr., Forward)
Key Losses: Danny Moreno (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Farid Sandoval (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Brendan Laird (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Eric Buteau (Sr., Goalkeeper), Eric Villalobos (Sr., Defense)
Newcomers: Fernando Ramirez (Fr., Forward/Midfield), Jorge Ramirez (Jr., Defense)
The rebuild at Brick continues into 2016 and the Green Dragons hope this year will start to yield some more consistency and, in turn, more wins. Former Donovan Catholic assistant Tom Frazitta enters his second season at the helm and has a core of juniors and sophomores that are now a year into his program. Juniors Matt Loffredo, Frank Firrito and John Mora all played like centerpiece players going forward, while sophomors John Crist and William DeLao will start as sophomores and look to follow the same path.
Seniors Steve Castenado, Alan Gomez and Alex Gomez will be the older contributors on this year’s squad and two of them – Castenado and Alex Gomez – could provide some scoring punch along with DeLao. Another potential scorer for Brick this season is freshman forward Fernando Ramirez, who will have a chance to play right away. He and junior defender Jorge Ramirez are two of the key newcomers that will join an already young and developing Green Dragons side that will look to surprise the usual suspects and start to make the move up the A South standings.
XI to Watch (2015 Stats)
Dylan Parks, Toms River South (9 goals, 6 assists)
Tyler Egnatuk, Toms River South (2 goals, 10 assists)
Chris Kluxen, Toms River South (3 goals, 3 assists)
Mike Schoener, Jackson Memorial(25 goals, 1 assist)
Christian Fryc, Jackson Memorial (4 goals, 4 assists)
Mitch Reed, Toms River North (9 goals, 5 assists)
Youssef Abdelaziz, Central (1 goal, 8 assists)
Ethan Leming, Southern (9 goals, 3 assists)
Erik Fatovic, Brick Memorial (6 goals, 3 assists)
Jake DeGennaro, Brick Memorial (1 assist)
Santino Celebre, Toms River East (6 goals, 1 assist)
Goalkeepers to Watch
Dom Pizzi, Toms River South (12 shutouts)
Tom Ruscitti, Central (9 shutouts)
Kevin Ryan, Toms River North (3 shutouts)
Breakout Players to Watch
Clem Slavick, Toms River South
Jack Butz, Toms River North
Chandler Gibbons, Toms River East