Class B South has grown increasingly competitive over the past several years and that growth is likely to continue this year with several of its programs on the upswing. While the division has grown deeper, one team has still stood out above all others over the past five years: Point Boro. The Panthers have one at least a share of a division title in each of the past five seasons – outright championships in 2012, 2014 and 2016, a co-title in 2015 and a public division championship in 2013. Even as other programs rise to the forefront of the division, the Panthers have been the steady hand at the top that is ready to swat away all challengers.

This year, while there are a number of teams that could put Point Boro’s grip on the division under duress, one in particular stands out: Lacey. The Lions were one of the top teams in A South two seasons ago and started a young lineup last year in its transition season into B South. With a more experienced team, the Lions could be a problem for Point Boro.

Pinelands and Lakewood both took huge steps as programs last year, while Donovan Catholic is looking to put a down year far in the review mirror. Barnegat returns one of the division’s top players, Manchester is senior loaded and Jackson Liberty has a goalkeeper that should keep the Lions in games. No team is hopeless, but will a standout emerge?

 

In predicted order of finish

Lacey

Head Coach: Steve Torre, first season
2016 Record: 10-10 (7-7, tied third in B South)
Key Returners: Kevin Miller (Sr., Midfield), Kip Byrne (Jr., Midfield), Reilly Hunt (Sr., Forward), Dylan Fielder (Sr., Midfield), Luke Moynihan (Sr., Defense), Joel Roig (Jr., Forward), Dan Bentley (Jr., Defense), Dylan Vitale (Jr., Defense), Matt Irrizary (Jr., Midfield), Ryan MacAvoy (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Andrew Strohmetz (Defense), Evan Olawianny (Defense), Brendan Shenowski (Goalkeeper), Jason Bassford (Midfield), Will Rose (Midfield), Young Jin Kim (Defense), Paul Hill (Defense)
Key Newcomers: Ryan Giles (Jr., Goalkeeper), Mike Cyphers (So., Forward), Tyler Wheeler (Sr., Midfield), Matt Walsh (Sr., Midfield), Austin Anderson (Sr., Forward), Dom Palino (Jr., Defense), Kian Gonzalez (So., Defense)

Photo by Steve Meyer.

In many ways last year, Lacey played like a team that was a year away from hitting it big. Now that the Lions enter this season a much healthier team that returns nearly all of its scoring, big things could indeed be on the way for the Lions, who are just two years removed from making a serious run at a Class A South championship. Heading into its second year in Class B South, Lacey looks ready to win its first division title since taking B South in 2011.

The Lions bring back their three top scorers in seniors Reilly Hunt (11 goals) and Kevin Miller (10 goals), as well as junior Kip Byrne (five goals and 10 assists). The trio accounted for 26 of Lacey’s 33 goals in 2016 and of those 33 goals last year, 29 are back on the roster this year. Of course, the Lions would like to balance out the scoring in order to be harder to defend and the healthy return of senior midfielder Dylan Fiedler – who missed most of the season due to concussion protocol – will help in that regard. Junior Joel Roig also scored two goals as a sophomore and senior fullback Luke Moynihan also found the net once, so there are some experienced scorers to help out the big three and Fiedler.

Moynihan will lead a defense that is younger than the attacking unit, but still boasts some experience. Juniors Dylan Vitale and Dan Bentley both started as sophomores in the back and will be key pieces as juniors alongside the senior in the middle. Another key to the season will be the play in goal, which will be occupied by junior Ryan Giles to open the season. Lacey has experienced finishers back and some potential along the back line and in goal, so as long as the Lions can establish some balance in their midfield and solidify the outside of the formation, they will be as good as any team in B South.

Point Pleasant Boro

Head Coach: Pete Casalino, 13th season
2016 Record: 18-4 (13-1, first in B South)
Key Returners: Jacob Kirinovic (Sr., Midfield), Matt Moran (Sr., Defense), Jake Brzyski (Sr., Forward), Liam Kirinovic (Jr., Midfield), Alex Herrman (Jr., Defense), Mariano Maradiegue (So., Midfield), Christian D’Amato (So., Forward), Will Otto (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Mason Remondelli (Midfield), Nick Duda (Defense), Tyler Haines (Goalkeeper), Matt Kimak (Forward), Chris Bragen Defense), Ian Knapp (Forward)
Key Newcomers: Steve Redler (So., Goalkeeper), Will Flaherty (So., Midfield/Defense)

Since 2012, Point Boro has been the most consistent winner in the Shore Conference, racking up five consecutive division titles, including three outright championships in Class B South. That stretch includes an outright B South title last year and in order to beat out the field again in 2017, the Panthers will have to replace a senior nucleus that helped carry on Point Boro’s tradition of fielding blue-collar, physical, balanced teams.

Fortunately for Point Boro, there is plenty of skill left over from last year to help offset some of the size and physicality that graduated. Brothers Jacob and Liam Kirinovic were steady producers out of the midfield and on the attack last season, with Jacob accounting for seven goals and eight assists and Liam putting up nine goals as a sophomore. Senior Jake Brzyski and sophomore Mariano Maradiegue also added four goals apiece last year, with Maradiegue proving he already can score at the varsity level as a freshman.

The defense also has a key returner in senior Matt Moran, who has been a versatile defender in his last two varsity seasons. Junior Alex Herrman and Will Otto will also lend some experience to the back of the formation, while sophomore Steve Redler takes over in goal for All-Shore keeper Tyler Haines. Talent has come and gone at Point Boro over the years, but the Panthers have remained a team-oriented, disciplined group throughout Pete Casalino’s 13 seasons. Given some of the skill coming back, the Panthers should be able to overcome their losses and challenge for a sixth straight divisional banner before heading back to the postseason.

Point Boro junior Liam Kirinovic, defended by Pinelands senior Frank Aguilar. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Pinelands

Head Coach: Nino Scotto di Carlo, first season
2016 Record: 16-5 (12-2, second in B South)
Key Returners: Cade Sundermann (Sr., Defense), Kieran Sundermann (Jr., Midfield), Aneillo Lubrano (Jr., Midfield), Frank Aguilar (Sr., Midfield), Dom Dos Santos (Jr., Forward), Anthony Diaz (Jr., Midfield), Luke Mathis (Jr., Defense)
Key Losses: Matt O’Connell (Forward), Jordan Humphreys (Forward), Corey Cusack (Defense), Denilson Salgado (Midfield), Brian Kelleher (Goalkeeper), Tim Kelleher (Defense)

Coming off its best season in 27 year, Pinelands will have to replace a 32-goal scorer in Matt O’Connell, as well as a talented midfielder in Denilson Salgado (nine goals and five assists), a steady center back in Corey Kusack, a goalkeeper in Brian Kelleher and a head coach in Jason Asch. New head coach Nino Scotto di Carlo, who was an assistant under Asch for four years, will have the task of addressing all of those concerns and chief among them is making up for the loss of O’Connell’s goal-scoring ability.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, they already got a jump on playing without O’Connell, who missed his team’s final game of the Shore Conference Tournament and the entire NJSIAA Tournament due to a back injury. Not only did Pinelands have to play without O’Connell but the Wildcats played well. They lost to SCT finalist Marlboro 1-0 in the SCT round of 16 and won a state tournament game against Gloucester Tech before dropping a 1-0 decision to a senior-laden Central Regional squad.

Cade and Kieran Sundermann will be key players again for the Wildcats this season, with Cade leading the defense and Kieran returning to the midfield after scoring five goals and 10 assists as a sophomore. Pinelands also brings back a center-midfield duo of junior Aniello Lubrano and senior Frank Aguilar after both played significant minutes last year. Juniors Dom Dos Santos, Anthony Diaz and Luke Mathis will all have to step into bigger roles after contributing as a sophomores last year, with Dos Santos playing up top, Diaz on the wing and Mathis in the back. Pinelands has also had the benefit of program depth in recent years from which to pull players and plug holes around the returnees, so while a lot of production from 2016 graduated, the Wildcats still have a roster that can contend for the B South crown.

Photo by Steve Meyer.

Lakewood

Head Coach: Gene Drumright, 17th season
2016 Record: 11-10-1 (7-7-0, tied third in B South)
Key Returners: Junior Bravo (Jr., Defense), Moises Galvan (Jr., Goalkeeper), Gio Hernandez (Jr., Defense), Jonathan Toichihuitl (So., Forward/Midfield), Nate Wharlton (So., Forward), Apolinar Grande (Sr., Midfield), Japhet Compollo (Sr., Defense), Gilberto Giordano (Jr., Midfield), Augustin Lopez (So., Defense/Midfield), Jersey Salazar (So., Midfield)
Key Losses: Roberto Wauthion (Defense), Anthony Calixto (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Jorge Araiza (Jr., Midfield; transferred to Brick)
Key Newcomers: Christian Talas (So., Forward)

This year has the potential to be a banner one for Lakewood while simultaneously being the one that got away. The Piners had just one senior regular on last year’s team and had the potential to return essentially an entire team that went 11-10-1 and finished the year strong. Unfortunately for the Piners, due to some real-life circumstances for the school and its best player, the team is not as whole as it could have been. In the wake of Lakewood’s financial problems that jeopardized the entire athletic department, junior midfielder Jorge Araiza transferred to Brick. If there was not bad enough, senior Anthony Calixto – who scored 21 goals last year – will not play this year because he will be working after school to help support his family, according to coach Gene Drumright.

Despite losing two would-be-returnees, the Piners still have a lot of talent on hand that contributed to last year’s turnaround. Juniors Gio Hernandez and Junior Bravo return to the back of the formation in front of junior goalkeeper Moises Galvan, giving Lakewood some solid goal protection. Senior Japhet Compollo and sophomore Augustin Lopez will also contribute to the defense.

Even without Calixto and Araiza, the Piners have some returning players who will be dangerous. Sophomores Jonathan Toichihuitl and Nate Wharlton were two of the team’s top producers as freshmen, while senior Apolinar Grande and sophomore Jersey Salazar look to step up their production this year. Sophomore newcomer Christian Talas is also primed to help out in the goal-scoring department. Although the situation is not ideal, Lakewood is still in better shape than it was just two years ago and has the pieces to contend in a tough, deep B South race.

 

Donovan Catholic

Head Coach: Ken Oliver, 17th season
2016 Record: 7-10-2 (6-7-1, fifth in B South)
Key Returners: E.J. Lucas (Sr., Midfield), Anthony Scotto (Sr., Forward), Sawyer Conrad (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Oliver Nora (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Cristiaan Dailey (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Eric Guarino (Sr., Midfield), Nick Maalouf (Sr., Midfield), Christian McElroy (So., Goalkeeper), Chad Yannazzone (Jr., Defense)
Key Losses: Matt Dalton (Forward), Justin Alves (Forward), Kevin Dillon (Midfield), Bryce Grant (Defense), Jon Michael Pereira (Midfield), Hunter Calveto (Defense), Ryan Acosta (Midfield/Defense), Brendan Maguire (Midfield), John McEvoy (Midfield), Joe Mendes (Midfield)
Key Newcomers: Jonathan Capone (Jr., Midfield), Max Dalton (Jr., Forward), Matt Kekatos (Jr., Defense), Brian Edwards (Jr., Goalkeeper), Trevor Asanza (So., Midfield), Christian Berg (So., Defense), Nick Calvetto (So., Defense/Midfield), Chris Fahringer (So., Midfield/Forward), Neithan Ramos (So., Defense), Garrett Sayre (So., Goalkeeper), Clay Yannazzone (Fr., Midfield)

Despite sporting some returning senior production last year, Donovan Catholic is coming off a disappointing season in which the Griffins finished below .500 overall and in the B South race. Those seniors from last year have moved on and the handful of returning starters and a new cast of newcomers will attempt to re store Donovan Catholic as a top team in B South and a tough out in the postseason tournaments.

Seniors E.J. Lucas, Anthony Scotto, Sawyer Conrad and Christiaan Dailey played significant minutes last year and will be four of the core players on this year’s team. Scotto wound up leading the Griffins in scoring last year with four tallies. Fellow senior Oliver Nora has also seen important minutes over the past two seasons and is a candidate to join Scotto among the Griffins’ scoring leaders. Donovan Catholic also returns a promising keeper in sophomore Christian McElroy, who took over in net early on in his freshman season.

Junior Chad Yannazzone is a returning letter-winner who will help out on defense and younger brother Clay could make an impact in the midfield as a freshman. The junior and sophomore classes each have some depth, so even though the Griffins lost a number of key pieces from a year ago, they have both some returning production and new talent to bounce back from last year’s losing campaign – even in a tough division.

 

Barnegat

Head Coach: Mike McCullion, 10th season
2016 Record: 4-14 (3-11, tied seventh in B South)
Key Returners: Ryan Flaherty (Sr., Forward), Corey Branz (Sr., Midfield), Jimmy Pari (Sr., Midfield), Chad Fraser (Sr., Defense), Ricky Norman (Jr., Forward), Tyler Langan (Jr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Sean Moran (Midfield), Jake Tompkins (Defense), Nico Veneziano (Defense), Avery Boyer (Forward)
Key Newcomers: Grady Edwards (So., Midfield), Justin Gomez (So., Forward), Matt White (So., Midfield), Alex Zuniga (So., Midfield)

Photo by Steve Meyer.

The Bengals are still looking for a breakout season in boys soccer and with the players they have coming back this season, that season is closer to becoming a reality. Although the quality of teams in B South is not doing Barnegat any favors, the Bengals have a returning core that made some progress as a unit last year and will have a chance to climb in the standings if they can take advantage of teams like Pinelands, Lakewood, Point Boro and Donovan Catholic losing some key pieces.

Senior Ryan Flaherty is the most noteworthy of Barnegat’s returning starters after scoring 13 goals and six assists as a junior in 2016. Corey Branz (four goals), Jimmy Pari (four), Ricky Norman (three) and Chad Fraser (three) all scored multiple goals last year as well and Fraser did so as a defender. Junior Tyler Langan is also back in goal and will need the defense in front of him to improve to make Barnegat’s offensive talent hold up.

Sophomores Grady Edwards, Justin Gomez, Matt White and Alex Zuniga all contributed as freshmen and will now be regular starters. If that young group can fit in with the core of returning seniors and Flaherty can continue to perform as one of the division’s top players, Barnegat has a chance to make 2017 its best yet.

 

Manchester

Head Coach: Ed Hudak, fourth season
2016 Record: 5-13 (3-11, tied seventh in B South)
Key Returners: Jordan Finkle (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Milan Kleva (Sr., Midfield), Devin Ortiz (Sr., Midfield), Francesco D’Amato (Sr., Midfield), John Constantine (Sr., Defense), Tim Burns (Sr., Defense), Keith Chinery (Sr., Goalkeeper), Tom Gilman (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: John Dolan (Midfield/Defense), Stephen Hudak (Defense), Albert Millan (Defense), Matt Brennan (Midfield/Forward), Eduardo Castillo (Midfield), John Buss (Forward), Ethan Mil (Defense/Forward)
Key Newcomers: Tyler Laycock (Sr., Midfield), Brian Calsetta (Sr., Defense), Zack Chiavaro (Sr. Forward), Kyle Rembach (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Adilhan Yildirim (Sr., Midfield), Kenzo LaCuerta (Sr., Midfield), Colby Peck (Jr., Defense), Nick Oliver (So., Midfield)

Although Manchester finished last season tied for last in B South a year ago, the Hawks made some progress in their level of competition and now return a large group of seniors that should give them a chance to do even better this year. They will miss graduates like John Dolan, Eduardo Castillo, John Buss and Matt Brennan, but the Hawks bring back a handful of players who scored goals and contributed as juniors a year ago.

Seniors Devin Ortiz and Milan Kleva each scored four goals last season, which tied for the team lead. Senior Jordan Finkle also contributed three goals and three assists, while senior forward Francesco D’Amato also found the net. The quartet of Ortiz, Kleva, Finkle and D’Amato will likely account for most of Manchester’s production, while seniors John Constantine, Tim Burns and Tom Gilman return to the back line in front of senior goalkeeper Keith Chinery.

Most of Manchester’s new starters and depth pieces will be seniors as well, while junior fullback Colby Peck and sophomore midfielder Nick Oliver also look to make an impact as two of the few non-seniors on the team. Manchester has a long climb from the bottom to the top in B South, but the teams that tend to make such leaps often have heavy senior influence. The Hawks have no shortage of seniors and that experienced group could make Manchester a B South sleeper.

 

Jackson Liberty

Head Coach: Brett Mallinson, fifth season
2016 Record: 6-11-1 (4-9-1, sixth in B South)
Key Returners: Trevor Anderson (Sr., Midfield), Riley Fahnholz (Jr., Goalkeeper), Matt Campbell (Sr., Defense), Kevin Garry (Sr., Midfield), Lars Edeen (Jr., Defense), Sebastian Navarro (Sr., Forward), Lukas Talalaj (Jr., Forward), Andrew Galifi (Jr., Midfield), Riley Benbrook (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Alex Iorio (Midfield), Nate Santana (Midfield), Kyle Macauley (Defense), Evan Salaj (Midfield)

Like the rest of the teams in B South, the Lions will return some scoring from a year ago that should help them in their pursuit of a postseason berth this season but they do lose a little more production than the rest of the division, with the possible exception of Pinelands. Alex Iorio, Nate Santana, Kyle Macauley and Evan Salaj all scored multiple goals on a team that scored 27 goals in 18 games and all four graduated in the spring.

On the plus side, senior Kevin Garry returns to the midfield after finishing second on the team in total scoring (three goals and three assists), while seniors Trevor Anderson and Sebastian Navarro bring some experience to the attack. Junior Lars Edeen and senior Riley Benbrook return to the defense and juniors Lukas Talalaj and Andrew Galifi each scored a goal as sophomores.

One of the strengths of the Jackson Liberty side will be junior goalkeeper Riley Fahnholz, who is entering his third season as a varsity starter in net. The Lions will have some holes to plug in the field, but if they can build toward a combination that works, they have a keeper in Fahnholz who can cover their mistakes during the early part of the year. It’s a lot to ask of a keeper, but the Lions can find some scoring and remain tough in the midfield, they will hang around in most games.

 

XI to Watch (With 2016 Stats)

Jacob Kirinovic, Point Boro (7 goals, 8 assists)

Kieran Sundermann, Pinelands (5 goals, 10 assists)

Kip Byrne, Lacey (5 goals, 10 assists)

Junior Bravo, Lakewood (9 goals, 9 assists)

Reilly Hunt, Lacey (11 goals, 2 assists)

Ryan Flaherty, Barnegat (13 goals, 6 assists)

Kevin Miller, Lacey (10 goals, 1 assist)

Cade Sundermann, Pinelands (2 goals, 1 assist)

Liam Kirinovic, Point Boro (9 goals, 3 assists)

Jonathan Toichihuitl, Lakewood (5 goals, 15 assists)

Anthony Scotto, Donovan Catholic (4 goals, 1 assist)

 

 

Goalkeepers to Watch

Moises Galvan, Lakewood (7 shutouts)

Riley Fahnholtz, Jackson Liberty (2 shutouts)

Christian McElroy, Donovan Catholic (1 shutout)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Dylan Fiedler, Lacey (1 assist, injured)

Dom Dos Santos, Pinelands (2 goals, 4 assists)

Mariano Maradiegue, Point Boro (4 goals, 1 assist)

Sebastian Navarro, Jackson Liberty (2 goals, 2 assists)

Devin Ortiz, Manchester (4 goals, 1 assist)

 

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