Ocean Township High School sophomore striker Wadneson Alexis served as a kind of secret weapon on last year’s Shore Conference Tournament championship team. The secret is out this year, but even with opposing teams beginning to throw marking backs his way, it does not seem to matter.

Ocean sophomore Wadneson Alexis has five goals in five games, picking up where he left off at the end of his freshman season. (Photo by Doug Bostwick)

The Spartans are the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10 and are off to a 4-0-1 start to the 2013 season after a 3-1 win over Brick on Sept. 21, during which Alexis scored his fifth goal of the young season.

In the early going this year, Alexis – whom his teammates call “Waldo” for short – has already scored five goals in five games, including his second career hat trick in a 3-3 draw against a Wall team on Sept. 16 that is perennially among the Shore Conference’s best defensive teams.

“Waldo is so dynamic,” senior forward and co-captain Justin Silverberg said. “We can play him in so many different roles, whether it’s playing the ball through to him, or he can get it, turn and shoot. He can beat you in so many different ways and defenses have to account for all of them.”

Ocean remains a dangerous team a year after graduating five starters and Tyler Nowak’s 21 goals from an 18-1-2 Shore Conference Tournament championship team. The Spartans remain a threat not because of Alexis and fellow sophomore Neil Martin (three goals, two assists this season) up top, but because of the core of seniors who allow the young players to fit in rather than be focal points.

Silverberg, midfielder George Kavarakas, sweeper Tyler Roman and goalkeeper Chris Seager give Ocean experienced talent at each level of the field. Their presence has only helped to expedite the growth of a strong group of sophomores, led by Alexis and Martin.

“All of the guys who have returned to the team are improvements upon themselves,” Ocean coach Tom Reilly said. “Justin, Georgie, Tyler Roman, Chris Seager, Waldo, all of those guys are vastly improved from last year when they were all key pieces of a championship team. The question is, can the new guys fill in the roles that are open? Obviously, replacing 21 goals by Tyler Nowak is an issue, and we’re not going to do that with one guy, but we have a lot of guys who can help do it.”

Although the draw against Shore Conference Class B North rival Wall is the only blemish on Ocean’s record thus far, that game also served as the perfect example of Ocean’s experience working hand-in-hand with the young, rising talent.

Ocean trailed Wall 2-1 through the 70th minute, but Alexis struck for his second goal in the 71st to tie the game at two after Silverberg chased down a ball on near the right corner and crossed it perfectly to the front of the net, where Alexis redirected it into the net. Just 4:32 later, Alexis took a through-ball from Silverberg off a Wall turnover, drew Knights junior goalkeeper Jack Wishart off his line and slid a shot past him to give the Spartans a 3-2 lead.

Martin got in on the action on the first goal of the game when he redirected a corner kick from Silverberg with his head from the far post back to the near post, where Alexis punched home his first of three goals in that game.

“I knew they were coming,” said Alexis of the tying and go-ahead goals. “Justin was working hard out there and I was getting opportunities all game. I knew we were going to score.”

Alexis scored four goals as a freshman last year, with all four of them coming in the SCT and three of them coming in an 8-2 win over Toms River South. Although he played the role of substitute more often than not, he was a dangerous weapon off the bench and is now the player that Ocean’s opponents will have to game plan against.

“Waldo was a bit of an unknown commodity heading into last year, and then he scored a bunch of goals for us in the preseason,” Ocean coach Tom Reilly said. “Then he kind of lost his edge once the season started and that’s why we eased him into the lineup. If he had continued scoring goals like he was in the preseason, he would have been starting and playing a lot. I don’t care how young he is. As the saying goes, ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.’”

“I was nervous playing varsity last year, and I think the reason I had trouble is that I didn’t get enough playing time,” Alexis said. “I just couldn’t get comfortable because I wasn’t getting a chance to play and learn. But I learned a lot from being around all of those seniors and this year’s seniors, and now I feel like I’ve been playing for a while now.”

Troubling words for the rest of the Shore Conference.