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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of the spring season of New Jersey high school sports, dealing a crushing blow to everyone in the athletic community. No group has been hit harder than the athletes, especially seniors who were getting ready to enjoy their final season as a high school athlete.

All athletes were robbed of something, but there is a subset of players who will not get to partake in what was going to be their breakout season. For some seniors, the 2020 season was set to be the exclamation point of their career, a season where they finally put it all together to become one of the Shore Conference’s best. For others, this was going to be the year they finally got their chance to shine after being stuck behind superstars.

The best of the best in the Shore Conference are well known, and we’ve highlighted them in varying capacity throughout the spring. This time, we wanted to find out which boys lacrosse seniors were set to break out, so we reached out to each Shore Conference head coach to get their input. Over the next week, we’ll be featuring those players.

The feature will be broken down by division, which there are four of for boys lacrosse in the Shore Conference.

 

BREAKOUT SENIORS

CLASS A SOUTH 

 

BRICK MEMORIAL 

Rex Freeman, attackman: Freeman was Brick Memorial’s leading goal-scorer with 29 last season. After putting in plenty of work in the offseason and having both his linemates returning, the coaching staff was expecting a big year from him. 

Jackson Forsyth, midfielder: Forsyth began to hit his stride toward the end of last season and was looking to continue that momentum into 2020. He is a do-it-all midfielder for the Mustangs who would have been their top defensive middie while providing complementary scoring. 

Jake White, goalie: The 2020 season was set to be White’s third as Brick Memorial’s starting goalie, and with two starting defensemen also returning in front of him the Mustangs expected his senior year to be his best. He had a 61% save percentage and an 8.3 goals-against average last season. He made 20 saves in Brick Memorial’s state playoff game.

  

BRICK 

Peyton Egleston, goalie: Egleston was forced into the starting role last season when starter Billy Kleissler was lost for the season with an injury and made 148 saves with a .542 save percentage. A strong offseason had him prepared to have a big senior season. 

Kurt Newman, defenseman: Newman used his great stick skills to force 35 takeaways last season and was Brick’s “finesse” defenseman who could stop opposing attacks and begin transition the other way. 

Ian Gellner, defenseman: If Newman was the “lightning” of Brick’s defense Gellner most definitely provided the thunder. A physical player, Gellner was set to be the Dragons’ strong-side pole.

Jake Roux, LSM: A high-energy player with great speed, Roux was Brick’s utility defenseman. 

Parker Brown, attackman/midfielder: After showing significant improvement over the offseason it was anticipated that Brown was going to play a pivotal role for Brick’s offense.

I can’t tell you the amount of work that was put in during this past off-season by our coaches, players and parents,” said Brick head coach Chris Blackburn. “Losing the season has been devastating. Our senior class was not large in numbers but would have played a huge role in leadership. Together, they were the kind of kids who would do anything you’d ask of them and more.”

 

JACKSON LIBERTY 

Jake Bosco, midfielder: Bosco was an important player for Liberty as a junior and tallied 25 goals and 21 assists en route being to a second-team all-division selection. The Lions expected a huge two-way season out of him in 2020. He will continue his lacrosse career at Russell Sage College.

“Jake is a great leader and standout athlete who would have made a noticeable impact on both sides of the field,” said Liberty head coach Anthony Dzienkiewicz. “Jake was heavily relied on as a junior and we were really excited to see what his final season would look like. I can’t wait to see his progression as a lacrosse player at the next level.”

 

Michael Schone, defenseman: An under-the-radar player for Liberty as a junior, Schone put together a relentless offseason of work and was expected to be a lockdown defensemen as a senior.

“Without question, this year would have been an impactful season for him,” Dzienkiewicz said. “He greatly improved his on-ball presence and footwork, making him a problem for anyone looking to make a play. He is a guy you want to keep the ball away from on the offensive side of the field and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see his breakout year.”

 

JACKSON MEMORIAL 

Sean Laverty, attackman: Laverty entered his senior season four points away from 100 after tallying 36 goals and 18 assists in 2019. He was also 34 goals away from reaching the 100-goal milestone. He was a first-team all-division selection last season.

“Sean will always play his best and is willing to do anything to help his team,” said Jackson head coach Joe Pienkowski. “He was a great leader and motivator to our program.”

Braedon Kukan, Face-offs/midfielder: As the Jaguars’ face-off specialist, Kukan won 57 percent of draws and picked up 119 ground balls while adding nine goals and five assists. Jackson planned on expanding his role beyond FOGO this season.

“Braedon is an extremely hard worker and never quits on anything,” Pienkowski. “He was a great leader and role model for our program.” 

Nick Perillo, attackman: Perillo was entering his senior year with 29 goals, 39 assists and 72 ground balls and was the Jaguars leading assist player heading into the season.

“Nick is the most unselfish player I have coached,” Pienkowski said. “He will do anything for the team and his number one goal is the team. It is rare to have a player like that. He was a great leader on and off the field and strived to help our program grow.”

Joe Iacobone, midfielder: A well-rounded player for the Jaguars, Iacobone was entering 2020 with 30 goals and 32 assists for his career. He posted a career-high 115 ground balls last season and was trending toward setting a new single-season school record for ground balls.

“Joe goes 100 miles an hour whether in practice or games,” Pienkowski said. “He was a great role model for our program.”

  

SOUTHERN 

Noah Wasacz, defenseman: Despite being a three-year varsity starter, Wasacz was an under-the-radar player thanks to Southern’s deep defense unit. He blossomed last year when Southern switched to a man-to-man defense after playing zone for Wasacz’s first two years. He had multiple Division 3 options but will not being playing lacrosse in college, however. Wasacz will attend Penn State University and major in engineering.

“His first two years we played zone and no one could see his true one-on-one talents in space,” said Southern head coach John Pampalone. “I believe he would have landed on one of the All-Shore teams this year.

Will Devane, midfielder: As his junior season progressed, Devane developed into one of the best defensive midfielders in the Shore Conference. He was an extremely versatile player for the Rams and was used on the draw line, in the clear game and on the man-down unit. Southern would also occasionally match him up on an attackman. He averaged 42 minutes played against Monroe and Montgomery in the state playoffs last season. Devane will continue his career at Stockton University.

“He was going to be a dominant player for us,” Pampalone said. “He was on his way to an All-Shore type season.”

Jake Hughes, attackman: After being moved from midfield to the attack line after the first six games, Hughes flourished with 15 points in the final 11 games of the season. It was all starting to come together and the Rams expected him to be a 30-goal scorer as a senior. Hughes will be attending Monmouth University in the fall.

Aaron Hutchinson, midfielder: Hutchinson was a two-year starter at Jackson Memorial before moving to the Southern Regional district prior to his junior year. Injuries and having to learn a new system limited him to 20 goals and six assists but the Rams were expecting to him to have a huge year as a senior. He will continue his lacrosse career at Hood College.

 

TOMS RIVER EAST

Matthew Currie, defenseman: A four-year varsity defenseman and a three-year starter, Currie led the Raiders in ground balls and forced turnovers last season. He was an extremely versatile player, as well, as his excellent stick skills and athleticism allowed him to be used as a wing on face-offs. First-year head coach Joe Shore also made note of Currie’s high academic standing as a student at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES).

Michael Gray, attackman: A four-year varsity player and a two-year starter, Gray split time between attack and midfield and banked 31 goals and 20 assists last season. He was looking to hit the 100-career point mark as a senior and was 36 points away. 

Alex Smith, midfielder: Also a standout football player for Toms River East, Smith is a four-year varsity player and a two-year starter on the lacrosse team. His speed made for a difficult matchup and his leadership was a major asset for the Raiders. Smith was also looking to reach the 100-point milestone as a senior with 54 goals and 30 assists to his credit through three seasons.

  

TOMS RIVER NORTH 

Hayden Baranker, attackman: Baranker has been the Mariners’ leading scorer the past two seasons, including 34 goals and 28 assists as a junior. He was set to be one of Toms River North’s captains this season. He has 135 career points and was on track to eclipse both the 200-point and 100-goal milestones for his career. Baranker will continue his lacrosse career at Vassar College.

Corey Finnegan: A four-year starter, Finnegan is a shutdown defender and the Mariners’ defensive leader. He had 21 forced turnovers and 75 ground balls as a junior. Finnegan will play collegiately at Kean University.

Trevor Foss: Another one of Toms River North’s captains, Foss is an invaluable player who plays in even, man-up and man-down situations as a standout two-way middie. He contributed 14 goals and 16 assists as a junior. A four-year starter, Foss will continue his career at Kean University.

Cody Kromer: A four-year starter, Kromer quietly sank 24 goals last season and had the ability to approach the 35-40 goal range this season. He will play collegiately at Georgian Court University.

  

TOMS RIVER SOUTH

Billy Meyer, defenseman: Meyer was a second-team all-division selection and an honorable mention All-Shore selection last season. He is a four-year starter and a 2020 captain. He will continue his career at Chestnut Hill College.

“Billy is one of the most fundamentally sound players I’ve ever coached,” said Toms River South head coach Sean Hirtes. “I would put him up against any attackmen in the Shore Conference and expect him to wreak havoc on that player.

Mark Bish, attackman: Bish, who is also the starting goalie for Toms River South’s ice hockey team, was the Indians’ leading goal scorer in 2019. He will attend Ocean County College in the fall.”

“He was coming off a great hockey season and was looking forward to continuing that energy into lacrosse season,” Hirtes said. “Had the season gone the way we all expected, I anticipated Bish as being a name that other teams were going to look out for.”

Nick Fitzgerald, midfielder: A defensive specialist last season, Fitzgerald made the switch to midfield after a great offseason of club lacrosse. He was named one of the team’s captain. Fitzgerald will continue his lacrosse career at Belmont Abbey College.

“He is tough as nails and was always a nuisance to opposing offenses in prior seasons,” Hirtes said. “There is no doubt he would have made a name for himself this year.”

Shane Kluxen, midfielder: A four-year varsity starter, Kluxen was a defensive midfielder as a freshman and has been an offensive midfielder for the last three years. He was third on the team in points in 2019 and also picked up 64 ground balls.

“I like to refer to him as a Swiss Army Knife,” Hirtes said. “He’s played D-mid, offensive mid, taken face-offs and has offered on multiple occasions to play goalie if we were ever in a situation where we needed one.”

 

 

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.