How good was the Shore Conference Class B North division in 2018? When the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals rolled around in early November, it was a final four of B North’s top teams. Colts Neck topped Neptune on the road to avenge a 4-0 regular-season loss and Ocean beat Wall to avenge a 2-0 regular-season loss before beating Colts Neck in a competitive championship game, 2-1. On top of that, Ocean went on to win the overall Group III championship to go with a B North title and a Shore Conference Tournament championship.

It remains to be seen if the B North champion can collect the hardware that Ocean did last season but there should be no shortage of candidates for a postseason run amid this group. Of the top four teams from a year ago, Wall is the one that brought back the most from last year’s roster, but Ocean, Neptune and Colts Neck all remain set up to compete. Meanwhile, the bottom four teams in the division – St. John Vianney, Matawan, Middletown North and Red Bank – all return top scorers and a majority of their lineups.

The gap between the top and the bottom of the division should shrink even more this year and the overall quality of the division won’t necessarily take a hit. Although B North season is sure to be unpredictable, one team’s returning group looks a step ahead of the field to open the season.

In predicted order of finish

* - 2018 Shore Sports Network All-Shore Selection

Wall

Head Coach: Garry Linstra, 18th season
2018 Record: 13-4-2 (5-2, tied second in B North)
Returners: Tagg Acrum* (Sr., Defense), Jack Gotsch (Sr., Midfield), John Knight (Sr., Defense), Matt Penkethman (Sr., Defense), Bladmir Vasquez (Sr., Defense), Sebastian Campanile (Jr., Goalkeeper), Jake Pepe (Jr., Forward), Nico DellaPietro (Jr., Forward), Phillip Lyons (Jr., Midfield), Sean Southwell (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Riley Powers* (Sr., Forward), John Volpe (Sr., Midfield), John Vaccaro (Sr., Forward), Aidan Newbury (Sr., Forward), Jeff Burdge (Sr., Defense), Sean Campbell (Sr., Forward), Ryan Walsh (Sr., Defense), Sam Gisoldi (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Garibay (Sr., Forward) – Injured, out for season
Newcomers: Michael Beer (Sr., Forward), Jaasiel Hernandez (Sr., Defense), Alex Longo (Sr., Defense), Aidan McGregor (Sr., Defense), Neri Ortiz (Sr., Forward), Thomas Perry (Sr., Forward), Evan Crilley (Sr., Defense), Christian Conenza (Jr., Goalkeeper), Brendan Newbury (Jr., Defense), Terence Byrnes (So., Forward), Emmett Aravich (So., Midfield), Kyle Horowitz (So., Forward), Danny Hyde (So., Defense)

Wall senior Tagg Ancrum. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

In a Shore Conference that was home to three state champions in 2018, a team like Wall got lost in the shuffle: the Crimson Knights were a top 10 team, beat Ocean during the regular season and reached the sectional semifinals in Central Jersey Group IV, but that wasn’t a headline-grabbing resume considering some of the other accomplishments within the conference. This year, Wall returns enough talent to ascend to the top of the Shore Conference after those three state champions – Ocean, Holmdel and CBA – graduated significant talent.

Wall’s chances took a hit with a season-ending injury to forward Ryan Garibay but the Crimson Knights remain deep and balanced around the formation. The Knights are especially sound in the back with the return of senior center back and All-Shore defender Tagg Ancrum, as well as seniors John Knight, Matt Penkethman and Bladmir Vasquez to the back line. Junior Sebastian Campanile is back in goal after a successful varsity debut last season, which gives Wall a defensive unit that should once again keep opponents’ goal-scoring to a minimum.

Scoring is more of an unknown for Wall heading into the season with the loss of Garibay to injury and 2018 leading scorer Riley Powers to graduation. Ancrum is the leading scorer back from last year at three goals and two assists and he will be playing in the back. Senior Jack Gotsch assisted five goals last year and will be a key facilitator in the midfield, while junior Jake Pepe looks to step in as the top striker after notching three goals last year. Juniors Phillip Lyons and Sean Southwell will also play in the middle and Nico DellaPietro up front with Pepe. Goal-scoring might be a wild card early on but Wall will be among the toughest teams to score on in the entire conference – a common characteristic of a championship contender.

Matawan

Head Coach: Tyler Isaacson, fifth season
2018 Record: 8-11 (2-5, tied sixth in B North)
Returners: Marcelo Colonna (Sr., Midfield), Chris Dietrich (Sr., Defense), Luke Zibbell (Sr., Defense), Marco Medel (Sr., Midfield), Gavin Klamm (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Leonard (Sr., Forward), Justin Sumner (Sr., Defense), Dylan Frye (Jr., Midfield), Mike Mallozzi (Sr., Goalkeeper), Anthony Peters (Sr., Midfield), Lucas DeGrigorio (Jr., Defense)
Key Losses: Mal Mehari (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Mike Porceli (Sr., Midfield), Andre Wells (Jr., Forward), Enir Radoncic (Sr., Midfield) – Academy commitment

From left: Luke Zibbell, Chris Dietrich and Marcelo Colonna. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

In each of the past two seasons, Matawan entered the NJSIAA Tournament have a forgettable season and ended each with a memorable playoff run. Last year, for the second straight year, the Huskies reached the North Jersey Section 2, Group III semifinals as a double-digit seed after starting the postseason with a losing record. What made last year’s run so exciting for Matawan is the Huskies were due to return the vast majority of the team, with most of the players coming back as seniors.

Matawan indeed returns most of its starters from last year, led by senior Coaches’ All-County selection Marcelo Colonna. With Colonna back as the top scorer, Matawan will have an offense-defense balance with Colonna leading the scoring effort and three returning senior starters – Chris Dietrich, Luke Ziebbell and goalkeeper Mike Mallozzi – protecting the goal.

The Huskies’ championship prospects took a hit when both junior forward Andre Wells (seven goals in 2018) and senior midfielder Enir Radoncic (three goals, seven assists) both opted not to play high school soccer this year. That will leave it up to seniors Ryan Leonard and Gavin Klamm to pick up some of the scoring and take some pressure of Colonna. Even without the entire group back, Matawan has more experience than it has had in either of the past two seasons and the result should be another battle-tested playoff team that makes more noise in September and October.

Ocean

Head Coach: John Terlecsky, third season
2018 Record: 21-3-1 (6-1, first in B North)
Returners: Eli Brandimarte (Sr., Midfield), Rob Lopes (Sr., Midfield), Isaac Greenspan (Sr., Goalkeeper), Aidan Tisony (So., Forward), Michael Delia (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Santieno Harding* (Forward), Leo Montesinos* (Midfield), Luke Yates* (Midfield), Zach Sintic* (Defense), James Schutz* (Midfield), Erick Vasquez (Forward), Max Winters* (Goalkeeper), Mark Mauro (Defense), Andrew Shaw (Midfield/Forward), Brent Gaber (Defense), Griffin Adolf (Midfield), Kirk Jones (Forward), Sean Reid (Forward)
Newcomers: Brian Miranda (So., Midfield), Rahul Sobti (Sr., Defense), Ethan Walk (Sr., Midfield), Rusty Todd (Jr., Defense), Alex Gaber (Jr., Defense), Paco Castelo (So., Goalkeeper), Dylan Gargulinski (So., Midfield), Michael Reid (So., Midfield)

From left: Eli Brandimarte, Isaac Greenspan and Rob Lopes. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

One year after making program history by winning the B North division, Shore Conference Tournament and Group III championships in the same season, Ocean will have nearly an entire team to replace. Seniors Rob Lopes and Eli Brandimarte are the only returning starters from 2018 and Brandimarte will be moving up in the formation to bring some skill and experience the midfield. Lopes, meanwhile, is the leading returning scorer after putting up five goals and five assists as a junior midfielder on a team loaded with seniors.

Senior goalkeeper Isaac Greenspan saw some after between the pipes as a junior and will take over the full-time starting job in his final high-school year. Sophomore Aiden Tisony, meanwhile, saw significant minutes off the bench and will take on a much bigger role on the attack this season after converting two goals as a freshman. The defense will be entirely new, although senior Michael Delia did get some varsity run over the course of the season as well.

For the past four seasons, Ocean has not lost that five matches in any one campaign. The Spartans went from the strong senior class that led its 2015 sectional championship team to a team heavy on sophomores that eventually lived up to their potential as seniors last year. It’s not likely Ocean makes it through 2019 with five losses or fewer due to all the youth and inexperience on the squad, but the Spartans expect to be competitive enough to contend in B North and pose a threat in the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Group III Tournaments.

Middletown North

Head Coach: Fred Napoli, 17th season
2018 Record: 5-12 (1-6, eighth in B North)
Returners: Pete Angelucci (Sr., Midfield), Aidan Cardella (Jr., Forward), Alex Bogues (Jr., Goalkeeper), Alex Perez (Jr., Midfield), Denzel Boeteng (Jr., Midfield), Matt Dulin (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Brandon Del Grosso (Jr., Midfield), Matt Rozinsky (Sr., Defense), Joe Valillo (Jr., Midfield), James Davis (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Mike Del Grosso (Defense), Dane Calhoun (Defense), Jake Carey (Defense), Brendan McCartney (Midfield), Pat Sarin (Forward)
Newcomers: Andrew Demedici (Sr., Defense), Doug Silva Rocha (Sr., Midfield), Denis Oriendo (So., Midfield), Ryan Prendeville (Jr., Defense), Kyle McCarthy (So., Defense), Kyle Puzo (Jr., Defense), C.J. Corilous (Fr., Defense)

Last year got off to a pleasantly surprising start for a young Middletown North team, which topped Hightstown and Long Branch before dropping eight straight matches to lose its grip on the season. Then the Lions ended the losing streak with back-to-back wins over Matawan and Howell and added a win over Lacey to reinforce their promise as a young team that should have some potential heading into 2019.

Middletown North will have to replace its defense but will have junior goalkeeper Alex Bogues back coming off an impressive debut last year. The Lions also have some established scoring in junior Aidan Cardella and senior Pete Angelucci – the top two scorers on last year’s squad. Juniors Alex Perez and Denzel Boeteng and senior Matt Dulin also contributed to the scoring effort last year and will add to Middletown North’s attack. Even with some inexperience in the back, Bogues and the returning scoring should keep Middletown North in most of its games.

Red Bank

Head Coach: Vincent Gruosso, third season
2018 Record: 8-10 (2-5, tied sixth in B North)
Returners: Tor Haugenes (Sr., Midfield), Aden Castell (Sr., Midfield), Sebastian Carroll (Sr., Goalkeeper), Erik Christie (Sr., Forward), Emilio Hernandez (Sr., Forward), Cesar Ximil (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Karr (Jr., Defense), Matteo Balderas (Jr., Forward), Jacob Kirkpatrick (So., Defense), Phil Stolfa (So., Midfield), Matt Villani (Jr., Defense), John Venino (Jr., Defense), Nick Gorhau (Jr., Midfield), Evan Cheevers (Sr., Midfield), Jon Paul Valencia (Sr., Midfield/Forward)
Key Losses: Mark Brewer (Defense)
Newcomers: Michael Espinoza (Jr., Defense), Luis Santamari (Jr., Defense), Thomas Feldkamp (Jr., Defense), Adam Tladelpa (Jr., Midfield), Joe Koetzner (Fr., Forward), Enoch Hutchinson (Jr., Forward), John Zavala (So., Forward), James Castell (Fr., Midfield), Berend McLaughlin (So., Forward), Braedon Carroll (So., Goalkeeper)

From left: Erik Christie, Aden Castell, Tor Haugenes and Miles Cunningham. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Red Bank is another B North team that finished in the bottom-half of the division standings last year and brings back a whole host of players who are hungry to make the climb. Mark Brewer was the only senior starter on last year’s team and the Bucs suffered an unplanned loss when leading scorer Jon Paul Valencia went down with a preseason injury that will keep him out of action likely until likely, according to coach Vincent Gruosso.

Valencia’s absence leaves a big scoring void after he put up 16 goals as a junior last year but the Bucs have a lot of candidates to pick up the slack. Senior Aden Castell helped set up a lot of those Valencia goals and in addition to scoring some of his own, he will be looking to set up seniors Erik Christie and Tor Haugenes. Seniors Cesar Ximil, senior Emilio Hernandez and junior Matteo Balderas will also look to contribute to the scoring cause for the Bucs while junior Ryan Karr, sophomore Jacob Kirkpatrick, junior Matt Villani and junior John Venino lead the defense in front of returning senior goalkeeper Sebastian Carroll. Even without Valencia, Red Bank should be an improved team and if their star striker comes back for the postseason run, the Bucs could have a big season after all.

Colts Neck

Head Coach: Art Collier, 22nd season
2018 Record: 12-8 (5-2, tied second in B North)
Returners: Dylan Jacobs (Sr., Goalkeeper), John Farfan (Sr., Forward), Stephen Ciccarone (Jr., Defense), David Tuschmann (So., Forward), Christian Rivero (Jr., Midfield), Ely Ferro (Sr., Midfield), Scott DePope (Sr., Defense), Adam Haaf (Jr., Midfield), Derek Haaf (Jr., Forward)
Key Losses: Brooks Condon (Midfield), Ethan Kilmnick* (Midfield), Paul Tepedino (Forward), Jadyn Fankhauser (Defense), Jimmy Powell (Midfield), Parker Ballingall (Defense), Anthony Fiorello (Defense), Kyle Stivala (Defense), Rudy Gonzales (Forward)
Newcomers: Kyle Koenig (Jr., Defense), Jacob Carreira (Jr., Defense), Jake Gershon (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Tom Samaras (So., Midfield), Anjay Ambegaonkar (So., Defense), Dante Cano (Sr., Midfield), Matt Ferchek (Sr., Midfield), Zach Welch (Sr., Defense)

With a senior-laden team in 2018, Colts Neck reached a sectional championship game for the first time in nearly two decades and pushed Ocean to the limit in the championship game before succumbing, 2-1. The Cougars will try to carry that momentum into this year despite returning only three starters from a year ago. Senior goalkeeper Dylan Jacobs developed into a team leader and a reliable goalie and he will help direct a defense that returns junior Stephen Ciccarone off a standout performance as a sophomore.

Senior John Farfan is back up top after contributing three goals and six assists to Colts Neck’s attack and is a likely candidate to lead the Cougars in scoring this season. Another is sophomore David Tuschmann, who began to contribute midway through his freshman season. Junior Derek Haaf will also play up top, while juniors Adam Haaf, Ely Ferro and Christian Rivero fill in open midfield spots. Senior Scott DePope move into the starting lineup with Ciccarone in the back. There are a teams in B North with considerably more experience back from last year but most of those teams have a lot of ground to make up on a Cougars team that accomplished a great deal in 2018.

Neptune

Head Coach: John Knight, 14th season
2018 Record: 14-6-1 (4-3, fourth in B North)
Returners: Jett Tinik (Sr., Defense), Kyle Schembri (Sr., Forward), Ryan Gannon (Sr., Midfield), Louis Pennington (Sr., Midfield), Gavin Latshaw (Sr., Defense), Marvin Garcia (Sr., Midfield), Batur Yaman (Sr., Defense), Giovanni Morales (Jr., Defense), Evan Jimenez (Sr., Defense), David Radwonski (Jr., Defense), Steven Camacho (Jr., Forward)
Key Losses: Wilby Alfred* (Forward), Mickenna Church (Midfield), Seamus McAnee (Goalkeeper), Ryan Gallagher (Defense), Marlon Morales (Midfield)
Newcomers: Dayle Church (Jr., Goalkeeper), Ethan Latshaw (Jr., Defense), Cosme Fierro (Jr., Forward)

From left: Louis Pennington, Jett Tinik and Ryan Gannon. Photos by Paula Lopez)

Not many teams had a duo as dynamic as the one Neptune boasted last season with electric forward Wilby Alfred and midfielder Mickenna Church. With those two accounted for the vast majority of the scoring output, Neptune came within one win of a sectional championship game, losing to Colts Neck in the Central Group III semifinals. Now, Neptune will move on to life after Alfred and Church, as well as three other key starters in goalkeeper Seamus McAnee, Ryan Gallagher and Marlon Morales.

Neptune will try to build on last year behind a host of returnees who were role players in 2018 and will look to expand their impact in 2019. Seniors Marvin Garcia, Ryan Gannon and Louis Pennington will be key contributors in the midfield and junior Steven Camacho and senior Kyle Schembri return to play up top, where Alfred accounted for a Shore-best 38 goals. The defense will be sound with seniors Jett Tinik, Batur Yaman and Gavin Latshaw returning in front of new goalkeeper Dayle Church. If that unit can thrive this season, the Scarlet Fliers have a chance to contend in B North, albeit with a different approach.

St. John Vianney

Head Coach: Ryan Tetro, first season
2018 Record: 9-9-1 (3-4, fifth in B North)
Returners: Armand Valentino (Sr., Forward), Danny Vitale (Jr., Midfield), Johnny Troiano (So., Forward), Mike Hands (Sr., Defense), Sean Molloy (Jr., Defense), Dylan Oswick (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Nico Clark (Midfield), Anthony Altomonte (Goalkeeper), Colin Kane (Defense), Dylan Nguyen (Defense), James Corcoran (Midfield), Chris Ward (Defense), Kieran Kane (Sr., Midfield)
Newcomers: Sam Munning (So., Defense), Mike Ceurvels (So., Defense/Midfield), John Moreira (So., Goalkeeper), David Cardenas (So., Midfield), Matt Skolnick (So., Midfield/Defense) – Transfer from Freehold Twp.

After a 3-6 start to the 2018 season, St. John Vianney began to turn the corner. The Lancers went 4-2-1 in the seven matches leading up to the opening round of the NJSIAA Tournament, which included wins over Wall and Middletown South and a draw against Manasquan. It also included a win over Red Bank Catholic but in the first round of the South Jersey Non-Public A Playoffs, the Caseys paid St. John Vianney back by beating the Lancers 2-1 to deal SJV a sour ending to a promising season.

The Lancers return some significant offensive pieces from last year’s team, but will have to replace senior center midfielder Kieran Kane, who moved to South Carolina. Kane finished second in the Shore Conference with 17 assists last year while returning senior Armand Valentino led the Lancers with 12 goals in 2018. Valentino will play up top as St. John Vianney’s No. 1 scoring option.

St. John Vianney will be leaning on a crop of sophomores, seven of whom are set to start, according to first-year coach Ryan Tetro. Forward Johnny Troiano leads that group after posted five goals and eight assists as a high school rookie. Senior Mike Hands and junior center back Sean Molloy return to the defense and senior Dylan Ostwick moves into a starting midfield spot. The sophomores have some growing up to do and if they play above their age, the Lancers could again be a pesky opponent in the second half of the season.

 

B North Starting XI

Marcelo Colonna, Sr., Midfield, Matawan (11 G, 2 A)

Tagg Ancrum, Sr., Defense, Wall (3 G, 2 A)

Armand Valentino, Sr., Forward, St. John Vianney (12 G, 4 A)

Aidan Cardella, Jr., Forward, Middletown North (8 G, 2 A)

Rob Lopes, Sr., Midfield, Ocean (5 G, 5 A)

Eli Brandimarte, Sr., Midfield, Ocean

Aden Castell, Sr., Midfield, Red Bank (4 G, 6 A)

Stephen Ciccarone, Jr., Defense, Colts Neck (1 G, 2 A)

Marvin Garcia, Sr., Midfield, Neptune (2 G, 4 A)

Chris Dietrich, Sr., Defense, Matawan (1 G, 1 A)

Alex Bogues, Jr., Goalkeeper, Middletown North (1 shutout)

 

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