For all the talent through Class B North last year, the teams in the division mostly fizzled out when it came time for the postseason. Ocean and Manasquan each lost to Holmdel in their first Shore Conference Tournament game and the only team to reach the SCT quarterfinals (Middletown North) was no match for Marlboro. Middletown North was also the only B North team to carry the flag in the state tournament, reaching the North Jersey 2 Group II final while none of the other teams made it farther than the sectional semifinals.

This year, there might be even more talent in the division, so all eyes will be on teams like Ocean, Wall, Long Branch and Middletown North come postseason time. Before mid-October hits, however, there should be a competitive race for the B North title. Ocean and Long Branch are strong on paper, but Manasquan and Wall are always tough games and Middletown North and Middletown South have players that have been through the Class A North grind just two years ago. All of that should make for a dramatic regular season that should harden a few of those teams for a playoff run.

 

In predicted order of finish

Ocean

Head Coach: John Terlecsky, first season
2016 Record: 14-5 (11-3, tied first in B North)
Key Returners: Steve Carton (Sr., Forward), Santieno Harding (Jr., Forward), James Schutz (Jr., Midfield), Erick Gonsalez (Jr., Forward), Max Winters (Jr., Goalkeeper), Luke Yates (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Frank Astudillo (Sr., Defense), Thomas Gleason (Sr., Goalkeeper), Job Cajas (Sr., Midfield), Zach Sintic (Jr., Defense), Brent Gaber (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Mark Butler (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Brandon Holland (Defense), Tom Amato (Defense), Ian Dwyer (Midfield), Jordan Ornowski (Midfield), Cosimo Franze (Midfield), Sergio Periera (Defense), Mike Mauro (Defense), Ivan Molina (Midfield), Joe Russomano (Forward)
Key Newcomers: Julian Penta (Sr., Midfield), Andrew Shaw (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Mark Mauro (Jr., Midfield), Max Pardon (Jr., Midfield), Sean Reid (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Griffin Adolf (Jr., Midfield), Nikhil Bagchi (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Eli Brandimarte (So., Midfield/Defense)

Ocean is both a team in transition and a team ready to win right now. Longtime head coach Tom Reilly, who won more than 400 games in nearly 30 seasons on the job, retired from teaching and took the head women’s job at Washington College and left the program to former player and assistant John Terlecsky. Six senior starters left along with Reilly, which might spell doom for a lot of programs, but not for Ocean. The Spartans return a talented junior class and a handful of experienced seniors that should make Ocean the team to beat in B North once again.

Senior Steve Carton was the most productive of the Class of 2018 players last year, scoring five goals and two assists. Frank Astudillo, Job Cajas and Mark Butler are all back as seniors as well, with Astudillo and Mark Butler returning to the defense.. The junior class, meanwhile, dominates the roster. Forwards Santieno Harding and Erick Gonsalez, as well as midfielder James Schutz, were prominent producers last season, while center fullback Zach Sintic and versatile defender and midfielder Luke Yates also return as starters. Junior Max Winters also played big minutes after winning the goalkeeper job, which he is slated to share with senior Thomas Gleason to open the 2017 season.

Ocean will also get a boost from its collection of newcomers, most notably Andrew Shaw, Mark Mauro, Nikhil Bagchi and Eli Brandimarte – all of whom are rising through the ranks of the program. Junior Griffin Adolf, who moved to N.J. from Hawaii, will also provide some help up front after being named an all-division player in his former league as a sophomore. The competition will be fierce, but Ocean’s stacked junior class and wealth of returning talent gives the Spartans the edge in B North heading into the season.

Photo by Steve Meyer.

Long Branch

Head Coach: Adrian Castro, sixth season
2016 Record: 7-10-2 (5-8-1, tied fifth in B North)
Key Returners: Renan Azevedo (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Venancio Fernandes (Sr., Forward), Juan Carlos Merino (Sr., Midfield), Mario Galiz (Sr., Defense), Alex Tabisz (Jr., Midfield), Stiviny Da Silva (Jr., Midfield), Daniel Santos Silva (Sr., Defense/Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Joao Pessoa (Defense), Carlos Irizarry (Goalkeeper)
Key Newcomers: Derick Rodriguez (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Oscar Marmol (Sr., Midfield), Jason Munoz (So., Defense), Jason Laviola (Fr., Defense), Rodolfo Giron (So., Goalkeeper)

Long Branch was in for a big jump in wins this year just based on the players on last year’s team getting a year older and a year better, so the addition of senior Juan Carlos Merino turns a potential Top 10 team into a potential Shore Conference Tournament contender. Merino played as a freshman and sophomore for the Green Wave before missing last season while playing for Red Bull Academy, so Long Branch is re-installing a high-level midfielder into the middle of its formation.

The return of Merino will take some of the pressure off of 6-foot-4 senior Renan Azevedo, who can push forward with more abandon this season. Long Branch is already bringing back a 19-goal scorer in Venancio Fernandes, so Merino will have two capable targets at the head of the formation to finish his set-ups. Junior Stiviny Da Silva is also back after scoring four goals as a sophomore, including one in Long Branch’s near-upset of Toms River South in the opening round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III Tournament.

Long Branch’s defense and keeper will be the x-factor to its season. Seniors Mario Galiz and Daniel Santos Silva bring some experience and senior toughness to the back line, while sophomore Jason Munoz and freshman Jason Laviola will take on the other two spots on the defense. Munoz was in line for time as a freshman last season before suffering a fracture in his foot on opening day. Sophomore Rodolfo Giron, meanwhile, is in line to start in net. Scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem on most days, but for the Green Wave to go to the next level, they will have to protect their net.

Photo by Steve Meyer.

 

Wall

Head Coach: Garry Linstra, 16th season
2016 Record: 14-6-3 (9-2-3, fourth in B North)
Key Returners: Jeremy Thompson (Sr., Forward), Kevin Kile (Sr., Midfield), Nick Surgent (Sr., Midfield), Tagg Ancrum (So., Defense), Riley Powers (Jr., Forward), Owen Crane (Sr., Defense), John Volpe (Jr., Midfield), Lorenzo Ramos (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Dan Frisch-Harmon (Midfield), Ben Kernis (Defense), Ryan Gordon (Forward), Dakota Dobrovich-Fago (Midfield), Nolan Cloney (Goalkeeper), Colin Douglas (Defense), Callum Price (Defense), Justin Hetzel (Midfield)
Key Newcomers: Aidan Newbury (Jr., Midfield), Brendan Embon (Sr., Goalkeeper), Justin Zucker (Sr., Defense), Robert Stoddart (Sr., Midfield), Alex Parella (Sr., Forward), John Vaccaro (Jr., Forward), John Knight (So., Defense), Ryan Gariby (So., Midfield), Jack Gotsch (So., Midfield), Jeff Burdge (Jr., Defense), Ryan Walsh (Jr., Defense), Nick Ramiz (Jr., Midfield), Sam Gisoldi (Jr., Midfield), Drew D’Agostino (So., Midfield), Matt Penkethman (So., Defense), Bladimir Vasquez (So., Defense)

Replacing All-Shore and All-Division players has seldom been a problem at Wall, but last year’s team relied so much on Dan Frisch-Harmon that this year’s group will face a more significant adjustment than in years past. On the bright side for Wall, it has experience returning around the field, including a handful of players who found the net last year. Seniors Jeremy Thompson, Kevin Kile and Nick Surgent were all starters and productive players on the attack, while junior Riley Powers provided some scoring punch off the bench with five goals and seven assists.

Although Wall lost some senior leadership in the back, as well as three-year starting keeper Nolan Cloney, the Crimson Knights return sophomore Tagg Ancrum at center back after he was a coaches’ All-Division selection as a freshman. Senior Owen Crane also returns to the defense and senior Brendan Embon will take over his goal after waiting his turn behind Cloney.

Frisch-Harmon did everything from control the midfield to mark opposing midfielders to push forward and score last year, so it is going to take a collective effort to cover all of those facets of the game for the Crimson Knights. They do, however, have some potential in the goal-scoring department and Acrum’s feel for the game will cover them in the back. With Ocean and Long Branch returning some dynamic players, Wall will have its hands full challenging for the division title, but it would not be wise to write off the Crimson Knights.

Photo by Steve Meyer

Manasquan

Head Coach: Tom McGill, fourth season
2016 Record: 11-5-2 (10-3-1, third in B North)
Key Returners: Chris Black (Sr., Defense), Matt Drake (Jr., Forward), Chris Capone (Sr., Midfield), Nick Bilotti (Sr., Midfield), Tim Wheat (Jr., Defense), Ethan Dzenis (Jr., Midfield), Chris Pierro (So., Defense), Frank Manno (So., Midfield)
Key Losses: Dan Del Guercio (Forward), Dulio Guerrero (Forward), Jack Long (Goalkeeper), Bryan Tapia (Midfield), Aaron Kocienski (Midfield), Chris Capone (Midfield), Ryan Flanagan (Sr., Midfield)
Key Newcomers: Sam Del Guercio (Jr., Midfield), Jack Morgan (Sr.), Chaz Barreda (Sr.), Ernie Johnson (Sr.), Tolhan Guven (Sr.), Edwin Osorio (Jr.), Anthony Lingo, Steve Speicher (Jr., Goalkeeper), Brady Barry (So.), Tyler Gaugenty (So.), Rich Maloney (So.), Sean Wannamaker (So., Goalkeeper), Tommy Johnson (Fr.), Simon Cardenas (Fr.), Liam Diamond (Fr.)

Manasquan enters the 2017 season having graduated an all-division goalkeeper in Jack Long while simultaneously losing three players who combined for 21 of the team’s 31 goals, and yet the Warriors still have a chance to contend in the division because they have a chance to be the best defensive team in B North. Senior Chris Black returns in the middle of the defense while sophomore Chris Pierro and junior Tim Wheat return alongside Black.

Although Manasquan will miss the goal-scoring of Dan Del Guercio, Dulio Guerrero and Ryan Flanagan, the Warriors have a pool of options to pick up the scoring slack. Junior Matt Drake chipped in two goals and five assists as a sophomore and senior midfielder Chris Capone tallied four. Those two, plus returnees Nick Bilotti, Ethan Dzenis and Frank Manno will all have a say in the midfield and pushing forward. The Warrios also have a skilled trio of freshmen who could help out in some capacity this year.

Junior Steve Speicher and sophomore Sean Wannamaker are neck-and-neck for time in goal and whichever player is in the game will have big shoes to fill. If Manasquan can find its next goalie, the defense is good enough to keep them in games while the attack sorts itself out. Like Wall, the Warriors will give Ocean and Long Branch a hard time in the two meetings and could claw their way into the race.

Photo by Steve Meyer

Middletown North

Head Coach: Fred Napoli, 15th season
2016 Record: 14-5-2 (11-3-0, tied first in B North)
Key Returners: Liam McGregor (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Binn (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Rhatigan (Sr., Forward), Pat Gallagher (Sr., Midfield), Mike Del Grasso (Jr., Defense), Kevin McCarthy (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Ryan Harmon (Midfield), Scott Wiegel (Goalkeeper), Elliot De La Rosa (Midfield), Justin McKenna (Midfield), Jordan Stratton (Defense), Jeff King (Defense), Zack Bent (Forward)
Key Newcomers: Pete Anglelucci (So., Midfield), Dan Calhoun (Jr., Defense), Mike Murphy (Fr., Defense), Aidan Cardella (Fr., Forward)

Lions senior center midfielder Liam McGregor is one of the Shore’s top returning players, but the question for Middletown North will be whether or not there is enough around him to keep the Lions in the running for another deep push into the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments. McGregor led the team with 10 assists last year and also punched in six goals for a Lions team that won a share of B North, reached the SCT quarterfinals and the NJSIAA North Jersey 2 Group III championship game.

Senior Ryan Binn also returns after a productive season in which he scored six goals. Binn will play in the center along with McGregor, which will make the Lions hard to defend once again. Although Middletown North lost scoring threats like Ryan Harmon, Justin McKenna and Elliot DeRosa, the bigger question for the Lions will be how to replace the defense. The lone returnee from last year’s back line is senior Ryan Rhatigan, who coach Fred Napoli plans to play up top. Junior Mike Del Grasso and senior Kevin McCarthy will take on starting roles in the back, while junior Dan Calhoun and freshman Mike Murphy step in as well.

Formulating an attack should come relatively easy for Middletown North given McGregor and Binn are back, but in a division with a lot of scoring weapons, the Lions will have to shore up the defense. If they can do that, however, they have the weapons of their own to give teams trouble and pull their way back into the top 10 of the Shore Conference in 2017.

Photo by Steve Meyer.

Middletown South

Head Coach: Rob Grella, first season
2016 Record: 7-11-1 (5-8-1, tied fifth in B North)
Key Returners: Mike Zito (Sr., Midfield), Brendan Magner (Sr., Midfield), Danny Minze (So., Forward), Tyler Jerome (So., Defense), Christian Sigua (Sr., Midfield), Connell MacLellan (Sr., Midfield), Brandon Kalika (Sr., Defense), Andy Segovia (Sr., Midfield/Defense), James Glynn (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Jake Skribner (Midfield), Danny Sangermano (Defense), Ryan Nacelerio (Goalkeeper), Mike Jarostchuk (Forward), Tyler Johnson (Defense), Matt Russo (Forward)
Key Newcomers: Jonathan Santos (Jr.), Kyle Robinson (Sr.)

Moving into Class B North from Class A North suited Middletown South last year as the Eagles went from a team that had to scratch and claw to win one divisional game in A North to a five-win team in B North play. Part of that also has to do with the fact that the Eagles have developed a solid core of players who have improved together and are aiming to get the program back to where it was five years ago, when Middletown South reached the semifinals of both the Shore Conference and Central Jersey Group III Tournaments.

Most of Middletown South’s top performers from a year ago are back, led by a senior class that has played together at the varsity level for most of their careers. Mike Zito, Brandon Magner, Christian Sigua and Connell MacLellan give the Eagles a senior-heavy look in the midfield, while Brandon Kalika and James Glynn man the back line with promising sophomore and returning starter Tyler Jerome.

In addition to a sophomore in the back, the Eagles also have one up top in Danny Minze. As a freshman in 2016, Minze posted five goals and six assists and flashed game-breaking speed at the front of the formation. With two sophomores bookending a senior-laden formation, the Eagles have a chance to be one of the surprise teams in the Shore and if their growth from the beginning of last season to the end is any indication, it might not be such a surprise.

 

Monmouth

Head Coach: Darren Spadevechia, 14th season
2016 Record: 5-15 (2-12, seventh in B North)
Key Returners: Joel Burgos (Sr., Forward), Chris Anfuso (Jr., Defense), Brian Waltsak (Jr., Midfield), Jason Wolff (Jr., Defense)
Key Losses: Antonio Illiano (Midfield), Chase Clemetson (Defense), Sean O’Brien (Midfield), Gianni Di Schiano (Midfield)

Based on the returning personnel alone, Monmouth has a chance to strike in 2017. The Falcons return a talented finisher in senior Joel Burgos (10 goals last year) and an up-and-coming junior in Brian Waltsak. They also bring back junior defenders Jason Wolff and Chris Anfuso to give them some balance in the formation.

The question for the Falcons will be whether or not there is enough balance elsewhere on the field to complement the scoring of Burgos and Waltsak and whether or not a solid answer to those questions will be enough for Monmouth to compete what is shaping up to be a loaded division. While none of the teams appears to be flawless, most of them are dangerous in some way, shape or form and in Monmouth’s quest to improve their standing and qualify for the postseason, there won’t be much margin for error. Still, with a legitimate scorer in Burgos, they will give the top dogs in B North problems.

 

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: John Butler, third season
2016 Record: 3-17 (0-14, eighth in B North)
Key Returners: Sebastian Pena (Sr., Midfield), Blaise Tamburri (Sr., Forward), Andrew Schweizer (Jr., Goalkeeper), Alex Nichols (Jr., Forward), Sean Wosleger (Jr., Defense), Christian Simoes (Sr., Midfield), Alex Nichols (Jr., Forward), Steve Slattery (Sr., Midfield), Jack Passarella (Sr., Midfield), Andrew Colannino (Jr., Defense), Johnny Duffy (Jr., Defense), Terrance Carroll (Jr., Midfield), Ryan Golden (Jr., Defense), Jake Keefe (Jr., Defense), Brad Schmitt (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: John Keefe (Midfield), Jack Taylor (Defense), Mike Culkin (Midfield), Ryan Cinque (Defense)
Key Newcomers: Diego Volpe (Fr.), Michael DeLeonardis (Fr.), Christian Quindes (So.), Nick Mullaney (Jr.)

Red Bank Catholic had to settle for some moral victories over the course of its 3-17 season last year, but with a young team, it could afford to be happy with progress. The Caseys were unable to compete with Middletown North, Ocean, Wall or Long Branch in divisional play, but managed to keep the score close against Manasquan, Middletown South and Monmouth, particularly in the second trip through the division. RBC also battled Paul VI in a 2-1 loss in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A opening round.

RBC scored only 14 goals last season but 13 of them are back, led by junior forward Alex Nichols (three goals in 2016). Seniors Sebastian Pena and Christian Simoes also played a key part in the midfield, while senior Blaise Tamburri added a goal out of one of the forward positions. Juniors Sean Wosleger, Andrew Colannino, Johnny Duffy and Jake Keefe all return with experience in the back in front of junior Andrew Schweizer, who has proven himself to be one of the better keepers in B North, if not the Shore, over the past two seasons. There is a long way to go for RBC to compete in B North, but there were enough positive signs at the end of last year to feel a lot better heading into 2017.

 

XI to Watch (With 2016 Stats)

Venancio Fernandes, Long Branch (19 goals, 6 assists)

Liam McGregor, Middletown North (8 goals, 10 assists)

Juan Carlos Merino, Long Branch (2 goals, 9 assists in 2015)

Steve Carton, Ocean (5 goals, 2 assists)

Santieno Harding, Ocean (7 goals, 5 assists)

Renan Azevedo, Long Branch (6 goals, 9 assists)

James Schutz, Ocean (6 goals, 3 assists)

Chris Black, Manasquan (1 goal, 2 assists)

Tagg Ancrum, Wall

Ryan Binn, Middletown North (6 goals, 8 assists)

Joel Burgos, Monmouth (10 goals, 3 assists)

 

Goalkeepers to Watch

Max Winters, Ocean (7 shutouts)

Thomas Gleason, Ocean (4 shutouts in 2015)

Andrew Schweizer, Red Bank Catholic (2 shutouts)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Danny Minze, Middletown South (5 goals, 6 assists)

Stiviny DaSilva, Long Branch (4 goals, 2 assists)

Chris Capone, Manasquan (4 goals, 2 assists)

Brian Waltsak, Monmouth (2 goals, 3 assists)

Ryan Rhatigan, Middletown North

 

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