The Class A North division has always been a powerhouse in Shore Conference soccer and thanks to the new schedule last season, the strength of the division was even more apparent. Six of the eight A North teams qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament and one of the two that did not (Middletown South) stunned unbeaten Hillsborough in the opening round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs.

Expect more of the same from this year’s version of A North, which does not have a roster as impressive as the one Christian Brothers Academy rode to a Non-Public A championship and No. 3 rankings in both the state and Shore Sports Network Top 10. It does, however, have eight quality programs that all have realistic postseason aspirations heading into the season and a chance to sharpen their skills in the Shore’s toughest top-to-bottom division.

Even with a big graduation hit over the summer, CBA goes into the season as the favorite but it should get a push from an annual challenger and another program on the upswing. Freehold Township appears poised for a big season while Middletown South has enough back from an exciting 2018 group to take a big leap forward. There is a lot to like throughout the rest of the field as well and while CBA, Freehold Township and Middletown South appear to be the pace-setters, there are surprises around every corner in this division.

In predicted order of finish

* - 2018 Shore Sports Network All-Shore selection

Christian Brothers Academy

Head Coach: Tom Mulligan, fourth season
2018 Record: 19-4 (6-1, first in A North)
Returners: Luke Pascarella* (Sr., Forward), Connor Anderko (Sr., Defense), Michael Casper (Sr., Midfield), Jack Longo (Jr., Defense), Noah Santifort (Sr., Defense), Chris Vollrath (Sr., Forward), Joe Costa (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Dom Bellomo* (Midfield), Joe Lozowski* (Midfield), Charlie Daly (Midfield), Jack Gill* (Forward), Jack Hempstead* (Defense), Liam Mulvey (Defense), Eric Wnorowski (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: Ryan Mojares (Jr., Midfield), Zuri Mondesir (Sr., Forward), Shane Borenius (Jr., Midfield), Brett Sieg (Jr., Midfield), Jesse Ryan (Sr., Goalkeeper), Drew Valsemedis (Sr., Goalkeeper), Myles Gorski (Sr., Goalkeeper), A.J. Pinto (Sr., Goalkeeper)

From left: Luke Pascarella, Connor Anderko and Noah Santifort. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

CBA’s 2018 had it all, from heartbreak to triumph and everything in between. The Colts bounced back from a regular-season loss to Howell to wrap up another Class A North championship and appeared on the cusp of wrapping up no worse than a Shore Conference Tournament co-championship before Ocean stunned then with a golden goal midway through the second overtime. After that deflating result, CBA rallied to reach the Non-Public A championship game and pulled off a stunner of its own by beating Delbarton, 2-1, in come-from-behind fashion and on a last-minute golden goal by Luke Pascarella.

Seven starters from last year’s CBA team graduated but the Colts return Pascarella as a headliner from that team, which he led with 12 goals. Defenders Connor Anderko and Jack Longo are also back – Anderko in the center of the field and Longo on the outside. Senior Noah Santifort steps into a starting role in the middle with Anderko.

CBA took heavy losses in the midfield, but does return senior center midfielder Mike Casper, senior Joe Costa moving from the bench to the starting XI. Senior Chris Vollrath also carved himself out a bench role last season and brings some finishing ability up top along with Pascarella. It is indeed a new-look lineup, but the Colts are intent on defending their state title and have the schedule to prove it: non-divisional matches with Delran, Seton Hall Prep, St. Benedict’s, Holmdel and Ocean, not to mention another rugged Class A North slate. As usual, if CBA can survive that schedule, they will be prepared for anything come late October and November.

 

Freehold Township

Head Coach: Josh Mehl, fourth season
2018 Record: 11-5-3 (4-3, tied third in A North)
Returners: Bennett Messinger* (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Zach Orrico (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Evan Savino (Sr., Defense), Adam Havens (Jr., Midfield/Forward), Connor Latona (Sr., Defense), Joe Lardaro (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Aidan Szymanski (Jr., Defense), John Wilhelm (Jr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Evan Nastarowicz (Goalkeeper), Chris Orrico (Midfield), Cristian Corcione (Sr., Forward), Alonzo Konstantinidis (Midfield), Alex Janssen (Midfield/Defense), Joe Marchiano (Sr., Midfield), Richie Beggs (Sr., Defense)
Newcomers: Chris Finn (Sr., Midfield), Connor Finn (Sr., Midfield), Paul Gaynor (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Brian Heintz (Sr., Forward), Tiron Shatku (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Matt Madonna (Sr., Midfield), Nick Schulman (Sr., Midfield), Hector Santiago (Sr., Defense), Josh Leonetti (Jr., Defense), Shane O’Malley (Jr., Defense), Riley Ryan (Jr., Defense), Herman Colbert (So., Midfield), J.T. Gold (So., Midfield), Josh Hocheiser (So., Midfield), Christian Mojares (So., Midfield/Defense)

From left: Bennett Messinger, Evan Savino, John Wilhelm, Zach Orrico, Tiron Shatko. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Although Freehold Township never quite took off last year, the Patriots showed on several occasions that they were not far off from having a big year. They played Jackson Memorial tough on the road in a back-and-forth, 3-2 loss and later took South Brunswick to penalties on the road in the Central Group IV quarterfinals before falling.

The silver lining for the Patriots is a lot of talent is coming back, particularly in the scoring department. Senior center midfielder Bennett Messinger and junior forward Chris Orrico were the top two scorers on last year’s team and junior Adam Havens was third with five goals and three assists. The defense should also be sound with Evan Savino, Connor Latona, Joe Lardaro and Aiden Szymanski all back.

Replacing goalkeeper Evan Nastarowicz will be one of the steepest challenges for this year’s team but senior Josh Wilhelm has some experience and has impress coach Josh Mehl and his staff in the early going. With a re-fortified defense and enough proven scoring, the Patriots have the kind of mix out of which championship teams are made. If there is a year they are set up to go toe-to-toe with CBA for A North and Shore Conference titles, this should be it.

 

Middletown South

Head Coach: Rob Grella, third season
2018 Record: 11-10 (3-4, fifth in A North)
Returners: Tyler Jerome (Sr., Midfield), Danny Minze (Sr., Forward), Alex Sigua (Sr., Forward), Jack Obzarny (Sr., Defense), Aaron Oliveira (Jr., Midfield), Chase Guinta (Jr., Midfield), Matt Glynn (Jr., Midfield), John Anthony (Sr., Defense), Alex Marconi (Sr., Goalkeeper), Austin Carter (Jr., Goalkeeper), Matt Cozzi (Midfield), Joey Petzhold (Sr., Midfield), Sean Liner (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Jon Santos* (Midfield/Defense)
Newcomers: Zach Oberc (Sr., Defense), Mike Barbara (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Kennedy (Sr.)

From left: Tyler Jerome, Aaron Oliveira, Danny Minze, Zach Oberc. (Photo by Denise Thompson, provided by Midd. South)

While Middletown South made strides last season – at one point breaking into the Shore Sports Network Top 10 by beating Manalapan, Freehold Township and Manasquan and later upsetting Hillsborough in the Central Group IV first round – the Eagles also had some growing pains while barely finishing above .500. They also lost All-Shore center back Jon Santos to graduation, which will challenge the remaining returnees to pick up the slack.

Fortunately for Middletown South and third-year coach Rob Grella, there are plenty of experienced players back and a lot of versatility as well. Senior Alex Sigua, senior Danny Minze and junior Matt Glynn are proven scorers after finishing as the top three goal-scorers on the team last year, while senior Tyler Jerome has been a contributor on the attack and as a defensive center midfielder. Aaron Oliveira and Chase Guinta are juniors looking to breakout as midfielders, while Zach Oberc and Jack Obzarny will anchor the back line in front of the goalkeeping tandem of Alex Marconi and Austin Carter.

With more experience throughout the formation this year, Middletown South has a chance to be a more consistent contender from start-to-finish while still landing some of the big wins that defined its breakout 2018 campaign.

 

Long Branch

Head Coach: Adrian Castro, eighth season
2018 Record: 8-8-1 (2-4-1, tied sixth in A North)
Returners: Jason Laviola (Jr., Defense), Rudy Giron (Sr., Goalkeeper), Janson Munoz (Sr., Defense), Patrick O’Dwyer (Sr., Forward), Eryck Lazo (Sr., Forward), Tyler Abbot (Jr., Goalkeeper), Brian Completo (Jr., Midfield/Defense)
Key Losses: Stiviny Silva* (Forward), Jefferson Orellana (Sr., Defense), Alex Tabisz (Midfield), Rey Guzman (Sr., Defense), James McGrath (Defense)
Newcomers: Augusto Bontempo (Jr., Midfield), Arturo Hernandez (So., Midfield), Jeremy Hernandez (Fr., Defense), Victor Pessoa (Jr., Defense), Jonathan Borba (Jr., Defense)

From left: Jason Laviola, Augusto Bontempo, Jason Munoz, Herbert Ruiz and Patrick O'Dwyer. )Photo by Paula Lopez)

Most teams that lose the kind of scoring and offensive creativity that Long Branch did from 2017 to 2018 fall on hard times and while last season was a disappointment in some ways, the Green Wave also held their own while showing they could reload. Long Branch failed to qualify for the NJSIAA Tournament, yet still finished 8-8-1 while playing in the always-challenging Class A North division for the first time.

Once again, the Green Wave have to replace a standout scorer in Stiviny Silva but have a group of returning players that should they could respond when opposing defenses keyed on Silva. Senior forward Patrick O’Dwyer was the major benefactor, scoring nine goals during his junior season. Senior striker Eryck Lazo also showed flashes of his scoring ability last season and will pair with O’Dwyer at the front of the formation while junior newcomer Augusto Bontempo will inject some life into the midfield.

Junior Jason Laviola will lead the defense that will have some new blood but will be backed up by an experienced goalkeeper. Senior Rudy Giron has been a starter for multiple seasons and junior Tyler Abbot pushed him for time last year by performing well in spot duty and growing his role from there. The loss of another standout scorer will present its usual challenges, but Long Branch should be better-suited to handle the A North grind this time around.

 

Freehold Boro

Head Coach: Mike Parshelunis, second season
2018 Record: 7-9-1 (1-5-1, eighth in A North)
Returners: Isaac Ball (Sr., Forward), Phil Franco (Sr., Defense), Noah Brower (Sr., Defense), Zack Wozniak (Sr., Midfield), Rob Tweeddale (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Mike Romero (Jr., Midfield), James Crivelli (Sr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Abel Herrera (Forward), Cam Elslager (Midfield/Defense), Brendan Duffy (Goalkeeper), Lucas Bruckman (Defense), Andrew Greitz (Forward), Jake Mostowsky (Defense), Eddie Oropeza (Forward)
Newcomers: Jose Luis Vasquez-Oliveira (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Christopher Casale (Jr., Defense), Jonathan Min (So., Forward), Tharnthong Phua (So., Midfield)

From left: Zack Wozniak, Isaac Ball and Phil Franco. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

No team fell victim to the A North schedule worse than Freehold Boro, which was 8-4 outside the division with an early-season win over Wall. Inside A North, however, the Colonials managed just one win against a divisional slate that offered no breaks and figures to offer a similar challenge this year.

Senior Isaac Ball will once again lead Freehold Boro after posting a team-high six goals last year, most of which came early in the year while Freehold was still swimming above the .500 mark. Ball could be in for even more defensive attention this year with the graduation of fellow forward Abel Herrera and capable midfield scorer Cam Elslager, but the supporting cast of 2019 has the potential to complement Ball even better.

Zack Wozniak and Mike Romero are back in the midfield while the defense returns seniors Phil Franco and Noah Brower. Newcomers Jose Luis-Vasquez-Oliveira and Jonathan Min will offer some additional scoring ability up front as the Colonials try to spring for a bounceback season in an unpredictable A North.

 

Howell

Head Coach: Rich Yuro, 30th season
2018 Record: 12-6-1 (4-3, tied third in A North)
Returners: Mike Anello (Sr., Forward), Nick Cavallero (Sr., Midfield), Jared Rubman (Sr., Forward), Kyle Clark (Sr., Midfield), Pat Coughlin (Sr., Forward), Joe Brenner (Sr., Defense), Lucas Newsholme (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Rob Saunders (Midfield), Dylan Dougher* (Forward), Jason Tango (Defense), Shane McBride (Goalkeeper), Tom Adams (Midfield), Sidhu Arakkal (Defense), Nick Panarisi (Defense), Joe Amitrano (Midfield)
Newcomers: Sean Hanily (Sr., Midfield), Kyle Lindemann (Sr., Defense), Andrew Jiries (Jr., Midfield), Nick Kushner (Jr., Defense), Andrew Paige (Jr., Goalkeeper), Justin Corbett (So., Defense), Tyler Garielsen (So., Defense), Chris Osario-Rodriguez (So., Midfield), Marc Tango (So., Defense)

From left: Mike Anello, Jared Rubman, Kyle Clark and Nick Cavallero. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Other than Manalapan and perhaps CBA, no A North team lost impact talent to graduation than did Howell. The Rebels will have to replace their top midfielder, their most creative forward, their rock on the back line and an All-Shore level goalkeeper, plus a few more key role players from a team that reached the South Jersey Group IV semifinals and lost to eventual Group champion Washington Township.

There is enough back, however, to compete in A North considering that CBA is replacing a lot as well. Senior Mike Anello was second on the team in scoring behind Dylan Dougher and figures to be one of the division’s top goal-scorers again this season. Seniors Nick Cavellero, Jared Rubman, Kyle Clark and Pat Coughlin all made contributions to the scoring effort last year and should give Howell enough of a threat going forward.

Joe Brenner is the lone returnee on the back line, which, along with new goalkeeper Andrew Paige, will be the great unknown for Howell going into the season. If the young, inexperienced backs and Paige are ready to handle the heat in A North, Howell should find itself back in the running for a spot in the top half of the division.

 

Marlboro

Head Coach: Ryan Morris, second season
2018 Record: 8-7-3 (2-4-1, tied sixth in A North)
Returners: Max Shushkovsky (Sr., Midfield), Nick Tango (So., Goalkeeper), Noah Rosen (Sr., Midfield), Mitchell Katsman (Sr., Forward), Ethan Steinberg (Sr., Midfield), Max Rosen (So., Midfield), Matt Kaplan (So., Defense), Mike Steinberg (Sr., Midfield), Sam Scharf (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Daniel Risin (Jr., Forward/Midfield), Ryan Riccardi (Jr., Midfield), Ethan Schlessinger (Sr., Defense), Luigi Lisciandra (So.)
Key Losses: Brandon Grine (Midfield), Kyle LaRocca (Defense), Jake Mirrer (Defense), Carson Friedman (Forward), Jake Schertzer (Midfield), Garrett Zirkman (Defense), Jake Fleischman (Defense), Eric Tsirken (Jr., Midfield) – Academy commitment; Tate Berman (Jr., Defense) – Academy commitment
Newcomers: Cooper Laitman (Fr.), Bryce Strumaier (Fr.), Scott Vituli (So.), Vincent Bamundo (Jr.), Kyle Lin (Jr.), Ryan Schmid (Jr.)

From left: Ethan Schlesinger, Noah Rosen, Max Shushkovsky, Michael Steinberg. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

No team in last year’s Shore Conference improved more by record from 2017 to 2018 than Marlboro, who, under the direction of first year coach Ryan Morris, improved by seven games and qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament. Last year’s team did rely on some senior talent, most notably leading scorer Brandon Grine, but this year’s group is deep in experience and hoping to build on last year’s improvement.

Seniors Max Shushkovsky and Mitchell Katsman (four goals each) were the next two top scorers on last year’s team behind Grine and fellow senior Noah Rosen brings another contributor back in the midfield as well. Marlboro also returns one of the top young keepers in the conference in Nick Tango, who came up big in several critical situations last year, including multiple penalty kicks.

The wave of young talent will continue to pour in and the integration of that talent will be the key to Marlboro building on last year’s success. With plenty of opportunities to win games outside Class A North, Marlboro is a good bet to return to the SCT, regardless of whether or not the Mustangs can break into the top-half of the standings this go-round.

 

Manalapan

Head Coach: Kerry Eisman, fourth season
2018 Record: 9-8-2 (4-2-1, second in A North)
Returners: Mike Avnet (Sr., Defense), Lucas Moreira (Sr., Defense), James Besser (Sr., Midfield), Mike Schimbeno (Sr., Midfield), Gavin Rodrigues (Sr., Midfield), James Bruno (So., Defense), Aiden Tumbleson (So., Defense), Ryan Petosa (Jr., Midfield), Vincent Tuccillo (So., Midfield), Dan Kamen (Sr., Goalkeeper), Andrew DeLanzo (Sr., Defense), Brandon Junquet (Sr., Defense), Jason Junquet (Sr., Forward), Brandon Garcia (Sr., Defense), Jon Moreira (Sr., Midfield), Kyle Samber (Sr., Forward), Matusz Wolak (Sr., Forward)
Key Losses: Justin Goldberg* (Midfield), Ryan Caruso (Defense/Midfield), Mike Kuver (Forward), Gavin Lebright (Forward), D’Angelo Reyes (Midfield), Luke Nelson (Goalkeeper), Sam Berkman (Defense), Ryan Brendli  (Defense), John O’Breirne (Sr., Midfield)
Newcomers: Nick DiLorenzo (Jr., Goalkeeper), Jonah Ortega (So., Midfield), Dylan Fread (Jr., Forward), A.J. Parisi (Sr., Forward), Nick Belo (Jr., Midfield ) – transfer from Calvary Christian

From left: Mike Schimbeno, James Besser, Mike Avnet, Lucas Moreira and Gavin Rodriguez. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

The Braves took a big hit in scoring thanks to the graduations of Justin Goldberg, Mike Kiver, Ryan Caruso and Gavin LeBright – the top four scorers on last year’s Class A North public division championship team. Senior James Besser (three goals, two assists) is the team’s top returning scorer from a year ago although the return of senior Mike Schimbeno (three goals in 2017) from the academy ranks will help the scoring effort as well.

The defense should be Manalapan’s strength, with center back Mike Avnet and fellow senior Lucas Moreira leading the back line. Avnet’s emergence last season allowed Caruso to play on the attack when standout midfielder D’Angelo Reyes suffered a season-ending knee injury. Sophomores James Bruno and Aidan Tumbleson will see greater roles this year after getting a taste of varsity soccer as freshmen.

Senior Dan Kamen will look to take over in goal this year behind Manalapan’s solid defense. If the Braves can come up with the formula to score goals, they will be a factor in Class A North while making another push for the postseason.

 

A North Starting XI (With 2018 Stats)

Luke Pascarella, Sr., Forward, CBA (13 G, 3 A)

Bennett Messinger, Sr., Midfield, Freehold Twp. (10 G, 5 A)

Zach Orrico, Jr. Forward/Midfield, Freehold Twp. (7 G, 8 A)

Isaac Ball, Sr., Forward, Freehold Boro (6 G, 2 A)

Mike Anello, Sr., Forward, Howell (9 G, 5 A)

Patrick O’Dwyer, Sr., Forward, Long Branch (9 G, 2 A)

Michael Casper, Sr., Midfield, CBA (3 G, 2 A)

Connor Anderko, Sr., Defense, CBA (1 G, 1 A)

Tyler Jerome, Sr., Midfield, Middletown South (1 G)

Danny Minze, Sr., Forward, Middletown South (6 G, 5 A)

Nick Tango, So., Goalkeeper, Marlboro (4 shutouts)

 

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