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2020 Shore Sports Network Boys Soccer All-Shore Team First Team

Teams Selected by Shore Sports Network Soccer Editor Matt Manley, based on first-hand observation, stats and input from coaches.

Forwards

Ali Baish, Sr., Toms River North

2020 Stats: 12 goals, 16 assists

For the second straight year, Baish was the top overall scorer on a Toms River North team that captured a sectional championship, this time winning the modified NJSIAA Central Jersey East Group IV South title by beating Jackson Memorial, Freehold Township and Southern in consecutive rounds. Baish played a role in all three playoff victories, collecting three assists over the first two rounds and scored the first of three Mariners goals in the title game vs. Southern.

With his 16 set-ups, Baish led the Shore Conference in assists in 2020 and was fourth in overall scoring behind Southern’s Kevin Kiernan, Colts Neck’s David Tuschmann and Brick’s Zack Meyer. He follows his Second-Team selection from 2019 with a First-Team nod in 2020, capping a memorable three-year varsity career that included 28 goals and 28 assists and, more importantly, back-to-back sectional championships for his Toms River North team.

 

Jake Pepe, Sr., Wall

2020 Stats: 10 goals, 15 assists

Without context, Pepe’s numbers reflect an All-Shore player, with the senior striker leading the unbeaten Crimson Knights (along with junior Terence Byrnes) with 10 goals and finishing second in the entire Shore with 15 assists. When Pepe manufactured the bulk of those stats puts him in the Player of the Year conversation. After a midseason groin injury slowed him down during the middle of Wall’s schedule, Pepe came back from a one-game absence and caught fire over his team’s final. In the last eight games, Pepe posted six goals and seven assists, including five assists in his first two games back and six goals in the final five matches of the season.

Pepe scored a goal in each of Wall’s two crucial Shore Conference Class B North divisional wins over Colts Neck to close out the regular season with a division championship. He then scored in each of Wall’s three NJSIAA playoff wins, including a two-goal second half in a sectional semifinal win over Brick. Pepe’s header in the final against Toms River East got Wall off on the right track, as the Crimson Knights sealed a 2-1 to capture their second straight sectional title. Pepe is now a two-time All-Shore honoree after landing a Second-Team spot as a junior and posting 24 goals and 23 assists over the past three seasons.

 

David Tuschmann, Jr., Colts Neck

2020 Stats: 25 goals, 7 assists

While Baish and Pepe made the leap from Second Team to First Team in their final high school seasons, Tuschmann is a first-time First-Team player and is still only a junior. The relentless Colts Neck striker finished second in the Shore Conference with 25 goals in 17 games during the 2020 season and led the conference with four hat tricks. In one of his hat tricks, Tuschmann pulled the rare feat of scoring three goals and assisting another three, which he did in a 7-0 win over Manasquan.

After going scoreless in two Colts Neck losses to Wall in the final week of the regular season, Tuschmann bounced back by finishing his season with a scoring surge. He scored six goals in three NJSIAA Tournament games, including a game-winning goal in the 75th minute of the sectional semifinals against Matawan and a dazzling hat trick (see above) in the Central Jersey East Group III North championship win over Cranford. He is set to return for his senior year at Colts Neck with career totals of 36 goals and 12 assists.

 

Parker Nickelsen, Sr., Toms River North

2020 Stats: 15 goals, 7 assists

Ali Baish may have been the top scorer on Toms River North’s two sectional championship teams over the past two years, but Nickelsen was equally integral to the Mariners’ seven postseason wins in 2019 and 2020. Toms River North overwhelmed opposing defenses with the dynamic duo of Baish and Nickelsen, with Baish putting up a goal and three assists in three postseason games this past season and Nickelsen complementing him with a goal and two assists – including a goal or an assist in all three playoff wins.

Nickelsen finished his senior season with the fifth-highest goal total in the Shore Conference this season and the top mark on Toms River North. His lone postseason goal came in the second half of a 3-2 win over Freehold Township and proved to be the game-winner. In the week prior to the state tournament, Nickelsen posted three goals and an assist in two games against fellow Class A South co-champion Southern – a standout performance while Toms River North failed to win both matches. Last year, Nickelsen’s golden goal in the South Jersey Group IV championship win was not enough to push the Mariners forward over the top as an All-Shore player, but he kicked down the door in his final season and finished his last two years with 22 goals and 13 assists.

 

Johnny Hart, Sr., Pinelands

2020 Stats: 14 goals, 8 assists

For the fourth straight season, Pinelands finished the season on top of the Shore Conference Class B South standings and it is not a coincidence that the four-year streak coincides with the high school career of Hart. The Wildcats senior finished the season tied sixth in the Shore Conference in goals and tied for seventh in total scoring while leading his team to a 12-1-2 overall record. Hart logged five multi-goal games and six times he scored a goal that went down as an official game-winner.

It is one thing to score a game-winning goal but it is something else to perform the way Hart did in crunch time for the Wildcats. You are not guaranteed to see a team score a golden goal in the final two minutes of overtime during the course of an entire season and Hart managed to do it twice. He hit a picture-perfect free kick to beat Lacey in the 99th minute on Oct. 20 and in the NJSIAA sectional quarterfinal round, he scored with less than one second left before the end of the second overtime period to stun Neptune – a memorable final goal of the season. Hart wraps up his high school career with 32 goals and 25 assists, three official division championships and a virtual title in 2020.

 

Midfield

Kevin Kiernan, Sr., Southern

2020 Stats: 27 goals, 9 assists

Even in a season shortened due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Kiernan managed to put together a remarkable senior campaign that stacks up against just about any Player-of-the-Year performance of the last decade – at least on an individual level. Team success usually comes with the territory for a Player of the Year and while Southern did not win an outright championship of any kind, the Rams still had a historic season by their program standards. With Kiernan leading the way, Southern unofficially won a share of the Class A South championship for only the second time ever and the first time since 1989. The Rams had never even been to an NJSIAA sectional final prior to this season and nearly won their first title before losing to Toms River North in overtime in the sectional final round.

Kiernan led the Shore Conference both in goals scored and total scoring, scored in 16 of Southern’s 17 games, posted six goals in three games vs. Toms River North – the No. 3 team in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10 – and put up five goals in three NJSIAA Playoff games. He scored six game-winning goals and two overtime golden goals, the second of which game the Rams a 4-3 overtime win at Toms River North on Nov. 9. Still uncommitted as a college prospect, Kiernan finishes his high school career as Southern’s all-time leading scorer, with 65 goals and 18 assists to go with three All-Shore selections – two First-Team and one Second.

Read more about Kevin Kiernan's season in his 2020 Player of the Year Profile.

 

Chris Fontanazza, Sr., Raritan

2020 Stats: 16 goals, 7 assists

Like so many other high school players, Fontanazza was not sure if there would be a high school soccer season. He just knew he wanted to be a part of it. After not playing high school soccer during the early part of his career, Fontanazza decided to make 2020 his first foray into the varsity soccer game and he left a lasting impression. The Rockets center midfielder joined a young roster short on returning scoring production and helped Raritan ascend closer to the top of the Class A Central standings.

Fontanazza’s 16 goals ranked fourth in the Shore Conference and he put up that number in 14 games while the other four players among the Conference’s top-five scorers played 17 games. He scored in 11 of Raritan’s 14 games, registered four straight multi-goal games in October against Monmouth, Shore (twice) and Ocean and also scored a goal against Holmdel – the second-hardest team at the Shore to score against, according to team goals allowed. Fontanazza’s last goal was his best, a golden goal to beat Rumson-Fair Haven in the sectional quarterfinals.

 

Brett Sieg, Sr., Christian Brothers Academy

2020 Stats: 5 goals, 4 assists

One of only three starters back from a Colts side that finished No. 2 in the 2019 Shore Sports Network Top 10 but did not win a championship of any kind, Sieg quickly established himself as a leader and facilitator on a 2020 team that won just about everything that it could. He ran the center of the field for a Colts squad that finished 13-0-1, finished atop the Class A North division standings, ended Holmdel’s 65-game unbeaten streak and rolled to an NJSIAA Central Jersey East Non-Public sectional championship.

An already-limited schedule became even more so when CBA shut down during the first two weeks of the season, leading to three of the four game cancelations of the season for the Colts. That held down the numbers of Sieg and his teammates over the long haul and in the short term, it challenged the Colts to get prepared without being able to formally practice. Despite the frayed start, Sieg and CBA came out red hot, with the senior scoring five goals and two assists in his team’s first five games. A foot injury on Nov. 7 slowed Sieg the rest of the way, but the Monmouth University commit came back after sitting for a week to help CBA win a sectional title and complete an unbeaten season.

 

Jason Laviola, Sr., Long Branch

2020 Stats: 5 goals, 7 assists

The Long Branch program broke out at the end of 2019 and Laviola’s standout play in the middle of the field was a prime reason why. The momentum from the end of last season carried over into 2020, with Laviola emerging as one of the Shore’s most gifted, in-control midfielders for a Long Branch team that lost just three times all year – once to CBA, once to Freehold Township and once to Southern. The Green Wave also beat Freehold Township, with Laviola playing a strong game in the middle and assisting the winning goal in the come-from-behind 2-1 win.

Laviola scored five goals on the season and two of them were of the go-ahead variety. His header gave Long Branch a lead during a 2-1 win at Marlboro and on Halloween against Howell, Laviola scored the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation in a 3-2 Green Wave win. Laviola capped his final season with a goal and an assist in the regular season finale vs. Middletown North and assisted a goal in a sectional quarterfinal win over Brick Memorial. Laviola departs a successful career at Long Branch to continue his soccer career at Division III Christopher Newport University in Va.

 

Zach Orrico, Sr., Freehold Township

2020 Stats: 6 goals, 11 assists

The 2019 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year returned off a 17-goal junior season as Freehold Township’s striker and top scorer and had only one goal on his mind for his senior season: help his team win. In this particular season on this particular Patriots team, that meant Orrico was to play more midfield – passing up on some goal-scoring opportunities to involve himself more in the middle of the field. The result was a season as a facilitator, with Orrico finishing tied for third in the Shore Conference with 11 assists.

Orrico still came up with some big goals as well. With his team trailing late against Middletown North in the second game of the season, Orrico scored the game-tying goal in the final 1:30 and followed with the golden goal in overtime to deliver a dramatic win for Freehold Township over the Lions. Orrico also scored a goal in each of Freehold Township’s two games vs. Class A North division rival Long Branch, including a go-ahead goal in a game Long Branch went on to win, 2-1. By the end of his final season, Orrico accumulated 31 goals and 29 assists in his four-year varsity career and will continue his career at Stevens Institute of Technology.

 

Defense

Jack Longo, Sr., Christian Brothers Academy

2020 Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist

CBA's Jack Longo and Holmdel's Matt Kline battle for the ball. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

While CBA finished the season 13-0-1 and No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, it was not behind a juggernaut goal-scoring outfit. Instead, the Colts relied on an airtight defense that not only made up for an offense that only scored four goals twice but also helped protect two first-year varsity goalkeepers. Long was the captain of that unit, starting on the outside for the third year – a rare CBA player to start from his sophomore year on.

Longo and his CBA defense allowed only four goals all season long – the lowest single-season total in the history of the program and the best per game average (0.29 goals allowed per game). Two of those goals came with the game well in hand: one with a 3-0 lead in a 3-1 win over Holmdel and the other with a 4-0 lead in a 4-1 win over St. Rose to close out a sectional championship. Even when the Colts could not score in 100 minutes vs. Manalapan, CBA’s defense did not break. Longo, who is headed to continue his career at Bryant University, also scored a goal in the 5-1 win over Howell, but his best work came on the other end for a defense that helped CBA go an entire season without ever trailing.

 

Sean Southwell, Sr., Wall

2020 Stats: 4 goals, 4 assists

On a 2019 Wall team that came ever so close to winning an overall NJSIAA Group III championship, Southwell carved out a niche as a defensive center midfielder as a junior. With plenty of midfielders and forwards back from last year and an entire back line to replace, Southwell gave up his spot in the midfield to shift to center fullback for a Wall team that always prides itself on keeping the ball out of its own net. Southwell led a defense that again served as a strength for Wall, allowing the third-lowest goal total in the conference (10 goals in 17 games) with seven clean sheets and no games allowing more than one goal.

Southwell also helped create scoring chances on the other end as Wall’s top set-piece server as well as its top penalty-taker. He took two huge free kicks in Wall’s two wins over Class B North nemesis Colts Neck that both led to game-winning goals – one by junior Emmett Aravich and another that was mishandled by the goalkeeper for a goal for Southwell. With an unbeaten season on the line, Southwell connected on the game-winning penalty kick in the 76th minute as the Crimson Knights beat Toms River East to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey East Group III South championship.

 

Goalkeeper

Gavin Hersey, Sr., Raritan

2020 Stats: 14 games, 17 goals allowed, 111 saves, 5 shutouts

A three-year starter for Raritan, Hersey was a leader for a Rockets team that had inexperience in a number of positions around the formation, including in the back. The 6-foot-4 keeper posted five shutouts, including four straight to open the season and another over 100 minutes in a 0-0 draw vs. Rumson-Fair Haven. Hersey’s play in goal gave his team a chance to win in all but one of its matches, the exception being a 4-1 loss against Rumson-Fair Haven that came after the Class A Central division had been decided and right before the teams were to meet in the sectional quarterfinal round of the state tournament.

Hersey was up for the challenge in the playoff showdown, limiting Rumson to one goal on a penalty kick. Two of the five goals Holmdel scored against Raritan came off penalty kicks (one right after Hersey saved the initial attempt) and in the second meeting against the 12-1-1 Hornets, Hersey kept Holmdel out of the net for the final 47 minutes while Raritan played with 10 men. There were keepers with more shutouts and fewer goals allowed, but none commanded a box better than Hersey.