The Class A Central division, and all of the Shore Conference and Group II for the matter, has been Holmdel’s domain over the past two seasons but that status will be challenged in 2019. While Holmdel graduated eight starters, Manasquan returns seven and returns another playmaker who played in the academy ranks last year. The two A Central rivals played a competitive game last season and with Holmdel coming back to the pack, the rivalry should heat up this year.

Beyond the top teams, A Central has proven to be a deep league over the past two years. Last year, Raritan advanced to the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals as a No. 21 seed and Shore Regional followed that up by reaching the Central Jersey Group II final – beating Raritan along the way before losing to Holmdel in the championship game. Monmouth Regional lost to Holmdel in the 2017 championship game as well, so there is plenty of recent success to go around from top-to-bottom in the A Central table.

In predicted order of finish

 * - 2018 Shore Sports Network All-Shore Selection

Manasquan

Head Coach: Tom McGill, sixth season
2018 Record: 14-7-2 (5-1, second in A Central)
Returners: Tommy Johnson* (Jr., Forward), Drew Greenblatt (Sr., Midfield), Joe Weinstein* (Sr., Goalkeeper), Frank Manno (Sr., Forward), Chris Pierro (Sr., Defense), Brady Barry (Sr., Midfield), Rich Maloney (Sr., Defense), Louis Cajas (Sr., Midfield), Tyler Guagenty (Sr., Midfield), Liam Diamond (Jr., Midfield), Mike Cafiero (So., Forward), Caeden Miller (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Sam Del Guercio (Sr., Midfield), Matt Drake (Sr., Forward), Ethan Dzenis (Sr., Midfield), Tim Wheat (Sr., Defense), Edwin Osorio (Sr., Midfield), Mike Muscato (Sr., Defense)
Newcomers: Simon Cardenas (Jr., Midfield), Tyler Sperdutto (Sr., Midfield), Sean Wanamaker (Sr., Defense), Mike Franzonie (Sr.), Sean Dugan (Sr., Goalkeeper), Emmi Shim (Jr.), Sean Wayne (Jr.), James O’Neill (Jr., Goalkeeper), Evan Pitzer (So.), Raul Olmedo (So.), Joe Kennedy (So.), Jose Avila (So.), Gavin Guagenty (So.)

Back row from left: Brady Barry, Chris Pierro, Rich Maloney, Drew Greenblatt, Joe Weinstein and Frank Manno. Back Row from left: Tommy Johnson, Tyler Guagenty, Caeden Miller and Luis Cajas. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Coming off its best season in a decade, Manasquan has its collective mind set on a historic season for the program. Last year’s club defeated Shore Conference Tournament champion Ocean during the regular season and played competitive games against state powers Holmdel, CBA and Delran – the latter two of which were during tournament time. With an impressive collection of players back from last year and some key additions, the Warriors have a chance to win some serious hardware.

At the top of the list of returnees is junior forward Tommy Johnson, who led Manasquan with eight goals and five assists during his sophomore campaign after scoring 14 as a freshman. Senior Drew Greenblatt and goalkeeper Joe Weinstein were big additions after transferring from Jackson Memorial, with Weinstein turning in an All-Shore campaign between the pipes and Greenblatt posted five goals and three assists out of the midfield. Seniors Frank Manno and Brady Barry were also steady contributors on the attack and junior Simon Cardenas played big minutes as a freshman and returns this season after exclusively playing with the Cedar Stars Academy Club.

While the attack should be a lot for defenses to handle this season, the Manasquan defense could be even better. The Warriors conceded just 22 times in 23 games with 12 shutouts and six of those 22 goals came in one 6-0 loss to Neptune in the second game of the season. Weinstein’s presence had a lot to do with that, as did returning defenders Chris Pierro and Rich Maloney. The program will pump a wave of sophomores into the mix that will add depth and a few contributors to a Manasquan team that has a chance to win its first Shore Conference Tournament title and a long-awaited NJSIAA sectional title.

Holmdel

Head Coach: Ron Poll, first season
2018 Record: 22-0-1 (6-0, first in A Central)
Returners: Jack Giamanco* (Sr., Forward), Mark Walier* (Sr., Defense), Eric Hinds (Sr., Midfield), Connor Hinds (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Anthony Arena* (Forward), Joe Arena* (Midfield), Torre Avitabile* (Defense), Jack Russo* (Defense), Jack Murray (Goalkeeper), Mark McStay (Midfield), Ryan Ferguson (Midfield/Forward), Peter Vassilakos (Defense), Henry Kiechlen (Midfield)
Newcomers: Omar Abuattieh (Sr., Defense), Jason Ng (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Brandon Ng (Sr., Defense/Midfield/GK), Tommy Chyzowych (So., Goalkeeper), Anas Ani (Sr., Midfield), Arya Saini (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Jimmy Vassilakos (Sr., Defense), Anthony Pesce (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Ben Milstein (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Brendan Rebele (Jr., Defense), Felix Doebbel (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Noah Mendez (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Matt Kline (Jr., Defense), Tomas Zolofra (Jr., Midfield/Forward)

Holmdel senior Jack GIamanco. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

There is a case to be made that Holmdel was the best team in N.J. over the past two seasons and according to NJ.com, the Hornets were the No. 1 team at the end of their 22-0-1 season in 2018. Holmdel won back-to-back Group II championships and it took a round of penalty kicks to keep the Hornets from winning a second straight Shore Conference Tournament title as well. Nothing lasts forever in high school and the remaining cast-members of Holmdel’s dominant 2018 team may be about to learn that first-hand if they cannot replace a plethora of talent that graduated.

Although Holmdel lost All-Americans Anthony and Joe Arena and All-Shore defenders Jack Russo and Torre Avitabile, the Hornets actually bring back their leading scorer from last year. Senior Jack Giamanco scored 23 goals to go with 10 assists during a breakout junior season and will now be the focus of opposing defenses now that the Arenas are gone. Senior Mark Walier was also an All-Shore player from his outside back position and he could play multiple positions this season with so many open spots. Senior Eric Hinds also started last season at outside midfield and younger brother Connor will see a larger role after playing as a reserve during his sophomore year.

On top of the player exodus, longtime coach John Nacarlo stepped down following the season after putting Holmdel soccer on the map during his 16 seasons at the helm. Ron Poll takes over after serving as Nacarlo’s assistant for the last three seasons and brings head coaching experience after successful tenures at Donovan Catholic and Raritan. Poll will have a lot of inexperienced talent to sort through but there is enough in place for Holmdel to contend for another A Central crown and develop into a dangerous side come tournament time.

Monmouth

Head Coach: Darren Spadevecchia, 16th season
2018 Record: 9-9-2 (2-3-1, fourth in A Central)
Returners: Hoover Cano (Sr., Defense), Dominick Santaniello (Jr., Goalkeeper), Bryan Leonard (Jr., Defense), Mathis Quesada (Sr., Midfield), Kaan Pehlivan (So., Forward), Ethan Wallace (So., Midfield), Aiden Hicks (So., Midfield), Ryan Kuldanek (So., Midfield)
Key Losses: Brian Waltsak (Midfield), Chris Anfuso (Defense), Ryan Wolff (Defense), David Lopes (Defense), Ryan Hoplock (Forward)
Newcomers: Thomas Siracusa (So., Midfield/Defense)

From left: Hoover Cano, Dominick Santaniello, Mathis Quesada. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Monmouth entered 2018 with elevated expectations after reaching the Central Jersey Group II final one year earlier, but their hopes of a similar performance took a major hit when leading returning starter Brian Waltsak went down early in the year with a season-ending ankle injury. The silver lining was Monmouth’s youth movement started a year early and while the Falcons will miss other graduates like Chris Anfuso and David Lopes, they have a lot of returnees who had to contribute to keep the team competitive.

The Falcons will aim to be strong in the back again with the return of Hoover Cano and Bryan Leonard to the back line and third-year junior starter Dominick Santaniello in goal. The sophomore tandem of Kaan Pehlivan and Ethan Wallace made noise as freshmen last year and classmates Aidan Hicks and Ryan Kuldanek each contributed as well. Senior Mathis Quesada is back as well off a three-goal showing last year, giving the Falcons a welcome mix of experience on promising young talent throughout the field as they look to remain competitive in the top three of a tough, top-heavy A Central division.

Rumson-Fair Haven

Head Coach: Jeff Soares, first season
2018 Record: 1-14-1 (0-6, seventh in A Central)
Returners: Evan Quon (Jr., Defense), Andrew Singleton (Sr., Forward), Sean Allingham (Jr., Midfield), Luke Pentikis (So., Forward/Midfield), Danny Braniff (Jr., Defense), Joe Anglione (Jr., Defense), Peyton Ming (Sr., Defense), Dylan Haley (Jr., Midfield), Cade McManus (Sr., Defense), Joe Stypa (Jr., Forward), Michael Crockett (Sr., Goalkeeper), Owen Fry (Sr., Goalkeeper/Defense)
Key Losses: Jamie Goodwyn (Defense/Midfield), Thomas Maltabono (Forward)
Newcomers: Aiden Colburn (So., Goalkeeper), Sam Coughlin (Jr., Midfield), Harrison Gibson (So., Midfield), Ryan Mitsch (Fr., Defense), Alec Pentikis (Fr., Forward), Tristan Shaw (Sr., Defense)

From left: Evan Quon, Danny Braniff, Andrew Singleton, Sean Allingham and Dylan Haley. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

If you are looking for a team likely to turn an ugly record into a winning one, Rumson is as good a candidate as any. The 1-14 mark is deceiving considering the Bulldogs lost half of those games by one goal, including to some prolific teams: Manasquan, Freehold Township, Toms River South and Raritan and Shore teams that made deep postseason runs.

Rumson will be under the direction of first-time head coach Jeff Soares, who was the top assistant under Tom Reilly and his successor, John Terlecsky, at Ocean – including during last year’s Shore Conference Tournament and Group III championship season. Soares takes over a roster that returns most of its young group from a year ago, led by junior central defender Evan Quon and scoring threats Andrew Singleton and Luke Pentikis. Freshman Alec Pentikis will also be an impact player right away and if the defense can continue to gel while the scoring picks up with a more experienced group, Rumson should be back in the postseason picture when October rolls around.

Shore

Head Coach: Christian Pontier, 10th season
2018 Record: 9-14 (2-4, fifth in A Central)
Returners: Conor Creighton (Sr., Midfield), Joao Victor Fonte Boa (So., Midfield), Jimmy Donohue (Sr., Midfield), Charles Creighton (So., Defense), Donovan Davis (So., Defense), Will LaBruno (So., Forward), Kevin Silveira (Jr., Midfield), Christopher Hazel (So., Midfield),
Key Losses: Ryan Bongarzone (Midfield/Forward), Taylor Sousa (Defense), Chris Panduri (Goalkeeper), Kadison Bates (Midfield), Max Cameron (Defense), Garrett Freund (Defense), Michael Adams (Midfield), Brandon DeNovaes (Midfield), Matt Klesmer (Forward),
Newcomers: Patrick Ferraro (Sr., Midfield), Nathan Jones (Sr., Forward), Ross Dougherty (Sr., Defense), James Gomez (Sr., Defense), Michael McGeddy (Sr., Midfield), Jacob Wallace (Sr., Defense), Bruno Attardi (Jr., Midfield), Cory Moeller (Jr., Midfield), Griffin Barfield (So., Defense), Liam McKeon (So., Defense), Jack Walker (So., Midfield), Benjamin Wellner (So., Defense), Nick Poulos (Jr., Goalkeeper), David Barham (So., Midfield), Joao Pedro Souza (So., Defense), Daniel Bonner (Fr., Defense), Nick DiNapoli (Fr., Midfield), J.C. Gutierrez (So., Midfield) – Transfer from CBA

From left: Cory Moeller, Conor Creighton, Nick Poulos, Kevin Silveira and Jimmy Donohoe. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

What seemed like a lost season with a team heavy on seniors took an exciting turn in November. Shore authored an improbable run through the Central Jersey Group II bracket, reaching the sectional championship game as a No. 14 seed. The Blue Devils eventually ran into a juggernaut in Holmdel in the championship game but the run gave its seniors a lasting memory and its handful of underclassman something to build on.

Senior Conor Creighton is the top returning contributor from last year’s team, having scored six goals and three assists as a junior – good for third on the team in scoring. Joao Victor Fonte Boa and sophomore classmate Will LaBruno also stepped up to provide some scoring as freshmen and will head up a solid foundation of sophomores that also includes returnees Donovan Davis, Charles Creighton and Chris Hazel. Senior Jimmy Donohoe and junior Kevin Silveira will provide some more experience in the midfield and if Shore can shore up an inexperienced defense and keeper situation, the Blue Devils could have a nice foundation sooner rather than later.

Raritan

Head Coach: Gregg Cohen, second season
2018 Record: 9-9-1 (4-2, third in A Central)
Returners: Connor Smith (Sr., Midfield), Gavin Hersey (Jr., Goalkeeper), Joe Seber (Sr., Forward/Midfield)
Key Losses: Zack May* (Defense), Jake Fortune* (Midfield), Nick Bavaro (Forward), Anthony Sparacino (Forward), Marco Vasta (Midfield), Chris Fontanazza (Jr., Defense) – Academy commitment
Newcomers: Matt Fogarty (So., Midfield), Nick Kasmer (Jr., Defense), Brian Larson (Jr., Defense)

After a decent-but-forgettable regular season, the Rockets made their presence felt in the Shore Conference Tournament by knocking off Marlboro and Freehold Township on the road in consecutive rounds to reach the SCT quarterfinals. Their NJSIAA Tournament run was undone by a suddenly-hot Shore team in overtime but Raritan’s postseason performance behind Jake Fortune scoring goals and Zack May leading the back line made it a memorable 9-9-1 season.

The top five scorers from last year’s team all graduated and none of Raritan’s returnees scored more than one goal last year. Senior midfielder Connor Smith did a lot of the unsung work in the middle of the field last year and could certainly see a bigger year on the stat sheet as a senior. Joe Seber and sophomore newcomer Matt Fogarty should aid in the scoring effort and Raritan returns goalkeeper Gaving Hersey to help keep opponents off the board. Scoring could be an issue but with some talent in the midfield and in net, Raritan could find some advantages along the way in A Central.

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: John Butler, fifth season
2018 Record: 7-12-1 (1-4-1, sixth in A Central)
Returners: Diego Volpe (Jr., Midfield), Michael DeLeonardis (Jr., Midfield), Sam Garcia (So., Defense), Henry Harvard (So., Defense), Anthony Muniz (So., Defense)
Key Losses: Andrew Schweizer (Goalkeeper), Alex Nichols (Midfield), Terence Carroll (Midfield), Sean Wosleger (Defense), Andrew Colannino (Defense), John Duffy (Defense), Ryan Golden (Defense), Jake Keefe (Defense)
Newcomers: Bobby Milke (Fr.), Thomas Dreschler (Fr.), Scott Termotto (Fr.), Vincent Coccimiglio (Fr.)

The Caseys ended a long Shore Conference Tournament drought by qualifying for the SCT last year. It took the best efforts of a lot of seniors and some wins over four B Central schools, so RBC enters the season still looking to prove it can play with A Central’s best on a consistent basis. At times last year, the Caseys did hang with top teams, losing to Manasquan, 1-0, tying Monmouth and knocking off St. John Vianney in the NJSIAA Non-Public A first round.

With its top four scorers and standout keeper Nick Schweizer all graduated, RBC will field a young team this year heavy on juniors, sophomores and freshmen. Junior Diego Volpe (two goals, four assists) and sophomore Anthony Muniz (three goals, two assists) were both productive last season and figure to help lead the way this season. With Raritan and Shore both losing a lot to graduation as well and Rumson coming off a one-win season, there may be an opportunity to RBC to grab some wins during its youth movement – a potential sign the Caseys are on the verge of turning the corner.

 

A Central Starting XI (With 2018 stats)

Jack Giamanco, Sr. Forward, Holmdel (23 G, 10 A)

Tommy Johnson, Jr., Forward, Manasquan (8 G, 5 A)

Mark Walier, Sr., Defense, Holmdel (2 G, 3 A)

Drew Greenblatt, Sr., Midfield, Manasquan (5 G, 3 A)

Eric Hinds, Sr., Midfield, Holmdel (2 G, 8 A)

Conor Creighton, Sr., Midfield, Shore (6 G, 3 A)

Evan Quon, Jr., Defense, Rumson-Fair Haven

Mathis Quesada, Sr., Midfield, Monmouth (3 G, 2 A)

Hoover Cano, Sr., Defense, Monmouth (2 G, 4 A)

Chris Pierro, Sr., Defense, Manasquan (1 G, 1 A)

Joe Weinstein, Sr., Goalkeeper, Manasquan (12 shutouts)

 

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