Since 2012, two Shore Conference divisions have had at least one team in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals each year: Class A North and Class B North. While A North remains the deepest division in the conference, B North has boasted some significant talent as well in recent years – most notably from Ocean and Wall.

This year, the division will be the subject of some A North influence as Middletown North shifts down to B North this season with a chance to have one of its best teams. Wall, Long Branch and Ocean feel graduation hits to different degrees, but will all be solid, while teams like Manasquan and Middletown South – also newcomers to the division – will be wild cards. Even with some high level teams over the past four years, B North has remained a tightly-challenged division during that span and 2016 should off more of the same.

In predicted order of finish

Middletown North

Head Coach: Fred Napoli, 14th season
2015 Record: 14-8 (8-6, fourth in A North)
Returning: Ryan Harmon (Sr., Midfield), Scott Wiegel (Sr., Goalkeeper), Elliot De La Rosa (Sr., Midfield), Justin McKenna (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Jordan Stratton (Sr., Defense), Ryan Binn (Jr., Forward), Liam McGregor (Jr., Forward/Midfield), Jeff King (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Anthony Chiaino (Sr., Midfield), Nick Brennan (Sr., Defense), Dan Cavanaugh (Sr., Defense)
Newcomers: Ryan Rhatigan (Jr., Defense), Zack Bent (Sr., Forward)

Of all the accomplishments a Shore Conference boys soccer team can attain, winning an outright Class A North division title is right up there with almost anything. Winning tournament championships is what teams aspire to do, but surviving 14 games in one of the state’s toughest soccer divisions and finishing at the top might be more difficult to do that anything other than perhaps winning the NJSIAA Non-Public A group championship. Middletown North will not have an opportunity to challenge CBA for a Class A North title this year with one of its best rosters in quite some time, but the good news is they will be the tentative favorites to win an outright title in a strong Class B North.

The Lions return eight starters from a team that went 14-8 while playing in a stacked A North while also bringing back 33 of the 47 goals scored. Replacing All-Shore midfielder Anthony Chiaino and his 10 goals and nine assists will be a significant challenge, but Middletown North brings back all its other goal-scoring threats as part of a tight-knit group of seniors and juniors. Senior midfielder Ryan Harmon is a three-year starter will be the primary facilitator after strong year playing with Chiaino in the middle. Senior Justin McKenna and juniors Liam McGregor and Ryan Binn are also back after productive seasons, while senior midfielder Elliot De La Rosa is also coming off a seven-goal season. With those five players have the flexibility to play in the middle or up top and give coach Napoli some options with regard to his formation.

Middletown North will also have to replace a pair of defenders in Dan Cavanaugh and Nick Brennan, but do return seniors Jordan Stratton and Jeff King in front of seasoned senior keeper Scott Wiegel. Junior Ryan Rhatigan will be a key addition to the defense, while senior Zack Bent is on board this year as part of the rotation of forwards. This group of players gained valuable experience last year in reaching the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and the North Jersey 2 Group III semifinals. With a senior-laden group and plenty of offense back, they have a chance to take it even further this season.

 

Wall

Head Coach: Garry Linstra, 15th season
2015 Record: 13-3-3 (9-1-2, second in B North)
Returning: Dan Frisch-Harmon (Sr., Midfield), Ben Kernis (Sr., Defense), Ryan Gordon (Sr., Forward), Dakota Dobrovich-Fago (Sr., Midfield), Nolan Cloney (Sr., Goalkeeper), Jeremy Thompson (Jr., Forward), Colin Douglas (Sr., Defense), Kevin Kile (Jr., Midfield), Callum Price (Sr., Defense), Nick Surgent (Jr., Midfield), Brendan Embon (Jr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Zach Ferry (Defense), Reilly Barcas (Midfield), John Callaghan (Defense), Jordan Bloom (Midfield), Tyler Skelly (Forward), Chris Fay (Defense), Brett Deane (Sr., Midfield), Jim Byrnes (Defense), Roshen Eapen (Midfield), Japheth Segura (Forward)
Newcomers: Tagg Ancrum (Fr., Defense), Greg Burke (Sr.), Justin Hetzel (Sr.), Ricky Kuerzi (Sr.), Gavin Savage (Sr.), Travis Aylett (Jr.), Owen Crane (Jr.), Lorenzo Ramos (Jr.), Robert Stoddart (Jr.), Justin Zucker (Jr.), Aidan Newbury (So.), Riley Powers (So.)

Wall took down Ocean early in the season and led the B North pack for much of the year, but two late losses to the Spartans – one to cap the regular season and another in the Shore Conference Tournament – sunk a potentially special year. The Crimson Knights almost ran into Ocean again in the Central Jersey Group III final, but they fell to West Windsor-Plainsboro North in the sectional semifinals. Goal-scoring, or lack thereof, was a common challenge for Wall over the course of the season. Of Wall’s seven games with more than one goal, just two came against teams with a winning record (2-0 wins over both St. Rose and Manasquan).

The flip side to that is the Crimson Knights remained and still remain a defensively sound club that has a first-class defensive center midfielder in senior Dan Frisch-Harmon. The four-year starter embodies the team he plays for – he doesn’t offer much scoring on his resume, but Frisch-Harmon controls the middle of the field on the ground and in the air and keeps the ball moving. Senior Ben Kernis will lead the defense behind Frisch-Harmon and in front of senior goalkeeper Nolan Cloney, a second-team All-Shore keeper a year ago. Seniors Callum Price and Colin Douglas and freshman Tagg Ancrum will give the defense a new look, but with Kernis returning and Cloney in the net, Wall should not miss a beat keeping the ball out of the net.

As usual, the x-factor for Wall will be its ability to score. Seniors Dakota Dobrovich-Fago and Ryan Gordon each showed a nose for the net at times and junior forward Jeremy Thompson has a chance to make an impact with more time this year. Frisch-Harmon is also a scoring threat thanks to his speed and his right foot, so it’s possible their main goal scorer is a more obvious source. The Crimson Knights probably won’t dominate the scoreboard, but they will once again compete across the board this season and enter 2016 as a team eyeing a second trip to the SCT semifinals in the last three years.

 

Wall senior Dan Frisch-Harmon. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Ocean

Head Coach: Tom Reilly, 32nd season
2015 Record: 19-5 (11-1, first in B North)
Returning: Brandon Holland (Sr., Defense), Tom Amato (Sr., Defense), Ian Dwyer (Sr., Midfield), Jordan Ornowski (Sr., Midfield), Cosimo Franze (Sr., Midfield), Sergio Periera (Sr., Defense), Santieno Harding (So., Forward), James Schutz (So., Midfield), Thomas Gleason (Jr., Goalkeeper), Mike Mauro (Sr., Defense), Stephen Carton (Jr., Forward), Job Cajas (Jr., Midfield),
Key Losses: Wadneson Alexis (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Marlhens Nasanes (Sr., Forward), Luis Araya (Sr., Defense), Ryan Wells (Sr., Defense), Yianni Kavarakas (Sr., Goalkeeper), Joe Abrams (Sr., Midfield), Braylin Estrella (Sr., Defense)
Newcomers: Luke Yates (So., Defense), Zach Sintic (So., Defense), Ivan Molina (Sr., Midfield), Max Winters (So., Goalkeeper), Brent Gaber (So., Defense), Frank Astudillo (Jr., Defense), Mark Butler (Jr., Defense), Joe Russomano (Sr., Forward), Chris Occena (Sr., Forward), Haider Rafi (Sr., Goalkeeper), Erick Vasquez (So., Forward)

Speaking of the SCT semifinals, Ocean has camped out there over the previous four years, reaching the semifinal round in three of those four seasons while playing in two championship games and winning one. CBA proved to be too much for Ocean to overcome in last year’s final, but the Spartans went on to win their first Central Jersey Group III title in 15 years. While Ocean loses six starters from that team – including three First-Team All-Shore players in Wadneson Alexis, Marlhens Nasanes and Ryan Wells – they also return an exciting collection of talent that helped make the Spartans one of the Shore’s deepest teams last year.

Seniors Ian Dwyer, Jordan Ornowski and Cosimo Franze were three glue guys in the Ocean midfield last year and may have gone overlooked because of some of the All-Shore talent that played around them. The same can be said for senior defenders Brandon Holland and Tom Amato, who will lead the defense this year along with fellow senior and new starter Sergio Pereira. Goalkeeper Tom Gleason will play behind the group in goal after getting a crash course in net early in his sophomore year with starter Yianni Kavarakas sidelined to begin the season.

Two of the more exciting players back for Ocean are sophomores Santieno Harding and James Schutz, both of whom played significant minutes as freshman. Harding has a chance to be one of the top scorers in the conference after a six-goal season while Schutz has the size, athleticism and developing skill to become a force in the midfield as well. Ocean has the makings of a small, high-effort team again this season and the talent of Harding and Schutz can take over, the Spartans will be a very dangerous postseason team.

Long Branch

Head Coach: Adrian Castro, fifth season
2015 Record: 11-9-1 (6-5-1, third in B North)
Returning: Renan Acevedo (Jr., Forward/Midfield), Joao Pessoa (Sr., Defense), Venancio Fernandes (Jr., Forward), Mario Galiz (Jr., Defense)
Key Losses: Ygor DaSilva (Defense), Diego Galiz (Defense), Leo DaSilva (Midfield), Kevin Solano (Goalkeeper), Gilberto Matildes (Goalkeeper), Juan Carlos Merino (Jr., Midfield) – Academy commitment
Newcomers: Carlos Irizarry (Jr., Goalkeeper), Alex Tabisz (So., Midfield), Stiviny Da Silva (So., Midfield), Gabe Viera (Jr., Midfield)

The Green Wave might have fallen slightly short of expectations during an up-and-down season last year, but it’s worth mentioning that the source of expectations stemmed largely from a talented sophomore class. In retrospect, maybe it should have been expected that there would be some growing pains for a team that was relying on 15 and 16 year-olds to carry so much of the load.

This season, the Green Wave return a handful of key pieces from last year’s team, including 23 goals between juniors Venancio Fernandes (13) and 6-foot-4 left-footer Renan Acevedo (10). The two juniors give Long Branch one of the top scoring tandems in the conference and while the defense will have some inexperience, it has shown enough promise that the goal-scoring could be what separates Long Branch from the B North pack. Senior Joao Pessoa returns to the back as the captain and center back, while junior Mario Galiz also returns to the back line. Junior Carlos Irizarry will take over in goal this season after Gilberto Matildes and Kevin Solano split the duties over the past two seasons.

Long Branch might have entered this season with an even higher ceiling, but was dealt a blow when they lost talented junior Juan Carlos Merino to Red Bull Academy. Merino started opening day as a freshman and would have been an ideal facilitator in the midfield to set up the two goal-scorers. With Merino gone, junior Gabe Viera and sophomores Stiviny Da Silva and Alex Tabisz will step into midfield roles and try to work the ball the ball up the Fernandes and Acevedo while also defending the middle of the pitch. There are some holes to fill and challenges to be met for the Green Wave, but there is also immense potential any time a team returns a pair of attacking players who combined for 23 goals as sophomores.

 

Manasquan

Head Coach: Tom McGill, third season
2015 Record: 11-8-2 (6-4-2, second in A Central)
Returning: Dan Del Guercio (Sr., Forward), Bryan Tapia (Sr., Midfield), Aaron Kocienski (Sr., Midfield), Chris Black (Jr., Midfield), Ryan Flanagan (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Mike Lyons (Defense), Brendan Kelly (Defense), Beau Bradley (Midfield), Kevin Dempsey (Forward),  Brian Comer (Goalkeeper), Tolga Guven (Midfield), Mike Howell (Midfield), Thomas McGill (Midfield), Matt Del Guercio (Midfield)
Newcomers: Matt Drake (So., Forward), Finn Cuozza (So., Midfield), Ethan Dzenis (So., Midfield), Sam Del Guercio (So., Midfield), Brian Sugrue (So., Defense), Mike Muscato (So., Defense), Jack Long (Sr., Goalkeeper), Spencer Westcott (Sr., Goalkeeper)

Given some of the talent on the roster this year and the improved goal-scoring ability, Manasquan might have been better than its11-8-2 record last year indicates. The Warriors opened things up a little more last season and wound up going toe-to-toe with some quality opponents. On the down side, they did it with a very good group of seniors that will have to be replaced by a handful of returnees from the varsity squad, as well as a strong group of sophomores.

Seniors Dan Del Guercio, Bryan Tapia and Aaron Kocienski return as the backbone of this year’s team after all three started and played key roles a year ago. Del Guercio scored six goals during an all-division campaign last year, while Kocienski and Tapia return to the midfield. Juniors Chris Black and Ryan Flanagan will also start again this season, this year as midfielders after playing in the back as sophomores.

Matt Drake leads a group of sophomores that will have a chance to make an impact right away. Drake will play up top as a striker and will look to play off of Del Guercio to form a formidable one-two-scoring punch. Fin Cuozza, Ethan Dennis and Sam Del Guercio will also play roles as midfielders, while fellow sophomores Mike Muscato and Brian Sugrue are in line for spots on the back line. The move to Class B North from Class A Central comes with some good and some bad for Manasquan: the bottom of B North is probably softer than the bottom of the A Central, but the top half is heavy on talent. If the Warriors can avoid slip-ups against Monmouth, Red Bank Catholic and Middletown South and knock off one of the top four teams at some point this year, they should be an active postseason participant again.

 

Middletown South

Head Coach: Pat Petretta, 10th season
2015 Record: 2-14-2 (1-12-1, eighth in A North)
Returning: Jake Skribner (Sr., Midfield), James Glynn (Jr., Defense), Mike Zito (Jr., Midfield), Connell MacLellan (Jr., Midfield), Brandon Kalika (Jr., Defense), Danny Sangermano (Sr., Defense), Christian Sigua (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Liam Davis (Defense), Mike Britt (Forward), Louis Moure (Goalkeeper), Alex Keating (Midfield), Nick Mihoulides (Defense), Blake Finlayson (Midfield), George Costidis (Forward)
Newcomers: Brendan Magner (Jr., Midfield), Mike Jarostchuk (Sr., Forward), Tyler Johnson (Sr., Defense), Matt Russo (Sr., Forward), Kyle Robinson (Jr., Midfield), Ambrogio Troia (Jr., Midfield), Nick Cataneo (So., Forward), Andy Segovia (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Danny Minze (Fr., Forward), Tyler Jerome (Fr., Defense), Jack Obszarny (Fr., Midfield)

Of all the teams that switched divisions this season, Middletown South might benefit the most from its move. Middletown North could get a division title out of their move, but the Lions might have liked to compete at the level that A North offers given their talent on hand this year. Shore Regional will get to shake off the stigma of playing in a small-school division, but its move to A Central could put them at risk of finishing outside the top spot of a division race. Lacey is heading to B South this year, but may not have the offensive firepower to take advantage of the move.

Middletown South, meanwhile, moves out of an A North division that proved to be overwhelming in recent years. Those years were not without their bright spots – the Eagles stunned CBA two years ago – but for a program that reached a Shore Conference Tournament and Central Jersey Group III semifinal in 2012, the last three years have been rough sledding against competition that is a level above. Now in B North, the Eagles can not only climb out of the bottom of the standings, but they will be able to compete on most days, even with the likes of Wall, Long Branch and Ocean. Middletown North is the frontrunner in the division and the Eagles played them to a 1-0 final in the second meeting between the two rivals last year.

The Eagles will be a little younger this season, so there may be some early rust with which to deal. Senior midfielder Jake Skribner returns as one of the top players from a year ago, while the junior group of James Glynn, Mike Zito, Connell MacLellan, Brandon Kalika and Christian Sigua begin to assume the leadership role for the program. Glynn and Kalika will man the back line, while Zito, MacLellan and Sigua play in the midfield. With a mix of new varsity players working in around those returnees, 2016 will still likely be a rebuilding year for Middletown South, but the results should start to come with a much more forgiving schedule.

 

Monmouth

Head Coach: Darren Spadevecchia, 13th season
2015 Record: 9-10-1 (5-6-1, fourth in A Central)
Returning: Joel Burgos (Sr., Forward), Chris Anfuso (So., Defense), Antonio Illiano (Sr., Midfield), Brian Waltsak (So., Defense), Jason Wolff (So., Defense)
Key Losses: Bobby Riordan (Midfield), Ross Spadevecchia (Forward), Erik Caban (Midfield), Fabian Burgos (Midfield), Austin DeOrio (Defense), Nicco Ludden (Defense), Ryan DiBella (Defense), Kevin Ross (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: Chase Clemetson (Sr., Defense), Sean O’Brien (Sr., Midfield), Patrick Riordan (Jr., Midfield), Schiano Di Cola (Sr., Midfield), Andrew Wallace (So., Midfield)

Another of the three new teams in Class B North, Monmouth enters the field with the youngest roster of any team in the division. Graduation took its toll on the Falcons, with all-division standout Bobby Riordan, Ross Spadevecchia, Erik Caban, Austin DeOrio and Fabian Burgos all leaving after helping Monmouth crawl back to around the .500 mark last year. This year’s team has some potential standouts as well, but it’s a young group that will be facing some tough, battle-tested teams in B North.

Sophomore Joel Burgos leads the group of returnees after scoring four goals and five assists as a sophomore and will be its top target up top. Senior Antonio Illiano is the lone returnee in the midfielder after a four-goal junior season, while the defense retains three experienced sophomores in Chris Anfuso, Brian Waltsak and Jason Wolff.

Monmouth will turn to three senior newcomers in Chase Clemetson, Sean O’Brien and Schiano Di Cola for help in the midfield and the defense, while junior Patrick Riordan and sophomore Andrew Wallace take over at midfield spots. The 2016 season may come with some growing pains for the Falcons, but the competition will get the Falcons ready for 2017, when they will have far more experience.

 

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: John Butler, second season
2015 Record: 1-18-1 (0-11-1, seventh in B North)
Returning: John Keefe (Sr., Midfield), Sebastian Pena (Jr., Defense), Blaise Tamburri (Jr., Forward), Jack Taylor (Sr., Defense), Mike Culkin (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Cinque (Sr., Defense), Andrew Schweizer (So., Goalkeeper), Alex Nichols (So., Forward), Sean Wosleger (So., Defense)
Key Losses: Jake Wosledger (Defense), Kyle Bates (Midfield), Jack Pelech (Forward), Sammy Robertson (Defense), Luke Riley (Defense), John Corcoran (Forward)
Newcomers: Christian Simoes (Jr., Midfield), Jake Dempsey (Midfield)

Despite a nightmare season in 2015, the Caseys have some reason for hope heading into the 2016 season and most of it stems from a trio of sophomores who all saw important minutes last year. Leading that group is goalkeeper Andrew Schweizer, who faced enough shots on goal to give him the experience of a junior keeper. Despite its record, RBC was not blown out on the scoreboard all that frequently and the job of its freshman keep should be considered a reason why. Ocean scored 10 goals in its two wins over the Caseys, Wall scored five in one match and Red Bank put up five in an October win over the Caseys.

On the other end, RBC hung with Colts Neck twice in two 1-0 Cougars wins and fell to Donovan Catholic, 1-0, in the opening round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A tournament. With Schweizer and sophomore teammate Sean Wosleger back among the group of Caseys defenders that also includes junior Sebastian Pena and seniors Ryan Cinque and Jack Taylor, RBC should be adept at keeping teams from scoring. For RBC to make the effort in the back count, it will have to progress in the midfield, where newcomers Christian Simoes and Jake Dempsey join returnees John Keefe and Mike Culkin.

Alex Nichols is the third sophomore returnee and he will play up top this year along with junior Blaise Tamburri. RBC scored just seven goals in 2015 and that number is almost sure to increase this season. The Caseys are just two years removed from a trip to the South Non-Public A sectional semifinals, so if the sophomores can grow up fast and the defense remains resolute, last year could turn out to be a clear aberration.

 

XI to Watch (2015 Stats)

Dan Frisch-Harmon, Wall (3 goals, 2 assists)

Ryan Harmon, Middletown North (5 goals, 10 assists)

Liam McGregor, Middletown North (8 goals, 2 assists)

Justin McKenna, Middletown North (7 goals, 5 assists)

Venancio Fernandes, Long Branch (13 goals, 6 assists)

Renan Acevedo, Long Branch (10 goals, 2 assists)

Santieno Harding, Ocean (6 goals, 2 assists)

Cosimo Franze, Ocean (4 goals, 5 assists)

Ian Dwyer, Ocean (2 goals, 6 assists)

Dan Del Guercio, Manasquan (6 goals, 4 assists)

Joel Burgos, Monmouth (4 goals, 5 assists)

 

Goalkeepers to Watch

Nolan Cloney, Wall (14 shutouts)

Scott Weigel, Middletown North (6 shutouts)

Andrew Schweizer, Red Bank Catholic (1 shutout)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Matt Drake, Manasquan

Jake Skribner, Middletown South (1 goal)

Ryan Gordon, Wall (4 goals, 3 assists)

 

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