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Class A Central has, essentially, been a foregone conclusion for the past three seasons, with Holmdel dominating the field while authoring a 54-game unbeaten streak the remains active heading into the 2020 season. While Holmdel brings back enough to finish first in A Central for a fourth straight season, the field should catch up to the Hornets this year at least to some degree.

Holmdel will be tested from the beginning, with games against three of the other five on-paper contenders making up its first six games. Monmouth Regional, Rumson-Fair Haven and Ocean are all coming off encouraging seasons to different degrees and all three – plus sleeper Raritan – appear to offer Holmdel a serious challenge in 2020.

In predicted order of finish

Monmouth

Head Coach: Darren Spadevecchia, 17th season
2019 Record: 15-5-2 (4-2, tied second in Class A Central)
Returning: Dominick Santaniello (Sr., Goalkeeper), Bryan Leonard (Sr., Defense), Kaan Pehlivan (Jr., Forward), Ethan Wallace (Jr., Midfield), Aiden Hicks (Jr., Midfield), Ryan Kuldanek (Jr., Midfield), Tom Siracusa (Jr., Defense), Brett Minto (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Mason Martelloni (Forward), Diego Ibarra (Forward), Hoover Cano (Defense), Mathis Quesada (Midfield), Lucas Pierra (Midfield/Forward)
Top Newcomers: Kevin Trehune (Jr.)

Monmouth senior goalkeeper Dominick Santaniello. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Monmouth had a breakthrough season in 2017 thanks to an All-Shore scorer and turned in another impressive campaign last year with the emergence of another. Mason Martelloni was an First Team Shore Sports Network All-Shore selection in his first and only season as a high-school soccer player and now that he is at Wagner College, the Falcons will have to figure out how to replace his production and creativity.

Despite losing Martelloni and three other starters – including second-leading scorer Diego Ibarra – the Falcons have a core of players back that were crucial to the 15-win season in 2019. Juniors Kaan Pehlivan, Ryan Kuldanek, Ethan Wallace and Aiden Hicks were all productive players on the attack and combined for 17 goals and 20 assists, while returning senior defender Bryan Leonard leads a defense that also features returnees Brett Minto and Tm Siracusa. Senior Dominick Santaniello returns to the goal for his fourth season as a varsity starter, giving the Falcons the kind of balance that is commonplace for contending teams. If at least one of the juniors can become a featured goal-scorer, Monmouth has the makings of a side that can win a division and potentially contend in an NJSIAA section.

Holmdel

Head Coach: Ron Poll, second season
2019 Record: 16-0-2 (6-0, first in Class A Central)
Returning: Connor Hinds (Sr., Midfield), Tomas Zolofra (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Ben Milstein (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Felix Doebbel (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Noah Mendez (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Tommy Chyzowych (Jr., Goalkeeper), Brendan Rebele (Sr., Defense), Anthony Pesce (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Matt Kline (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Jack Giamanco (Forward), Mark Walier (Defense/Midfield), Eric Hinds (Midfield), Omar Abuattieh (Defense), Jason Ng (Midfield/Defense), Brandon Ng (Defense/Midfield), Jimmy Vassilakos (Defense)
Top Newcomers: Lucas Arciola (Jr., Defense), Brendan Worobel (Jr., Midfield)

Holmdel senior Connor Hinds. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Holmdel’s shootout loss to Governor Livingston in the NJSIAA Central Group II quarterfinals felt like a stunning end to a golden era of Holmdel soccer but the reality is this current group of Hornets enter the season still holding the proverbial baton. After going unbeaten in the run of play for the second straight season, Holmdel officially carries a 54-game unbeaten streak into its 2020 opener. The Hornets also bring back six starters, although the seniors they graduated were the most integral players in the formation and on the score-sheet.

Connor Hinds is the most experienced players among the returnees, having gotten some time on the 2018 team that went 22-0-1 and won a second straight Group II championship. Both Hinds and senior Tomas Zolofra scored four goals apiece last season and Ben Milstein and Noah Mendez each got on the board with goals in their first season as starters. Felix Doebbel also emerged as a reliable defender and junior goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych showed All-Shore potential between the pipes. There is almost no way Holmdel could be as overpowering as it has been for the last three seasons and the streak is likely to end at some point this year, but the Hornets will still be in the running for a fourth straight division championship.

Rumson-Fair Haven

Head Coach: Jeff Soares, second season
2019 Record: 9-6-3 (3-2-1, fourth in Class A Central)
Returning: Evan Quon (Sr., Defense), Luke Pentikis (Jr., Forward/Midfield), Alec Pentikis (So., Forward), Sean Allingham (Sr., Midfield), Joe Anglione (Sr., Defense), Dylan Haley (Sr., Midfield), Joe Stypa (Sr., Forward), Terence Wrench (Sr., Midfield), Dylan Rumage (Sr., Defense), Aiden Colburn (Jr., Goalkeeper), Harrison Gibson (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Andrew Singleton (Forward), Peyton Ming (Defense), Danny Braniff (Defense), Cade McManus (Defense), Ryan Mitsch (So., Defense) – transferred to Lawrence
Top Newcomers: Antonio Santos (So., Midfield) – transfer from CBA

Rumson junior Luke Pentikis. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Like Monmouth, Rumson is tasked with replacing its leading scorer in Andrew Singleton, but lost little else in the way of goal-scoring production. Brothers Luke and Alec Pentikis starred together and combined for 14 goals and 13 assists in their first season as a duo at the varsity level, with Alex scoring nine goals as a freshman. Relative to most teams, the Bulldogs should have goal-scoring covered with the two brothers leading the way, as well as the return of seniors Terence Wrench (4 goals in 2019), Sean Allingham (four assists) and Joe Stypa (three goals).

Rumson’s defense also returns relatively settled, led by two-time all-division center back Evan Quon in the middle. Joe Angilone and Dylan Rumage will also have a role on the back line and junior Aiden Colburn is entrenched as the goalkeeper after debuting at the varsity level in 2019. Dylan Haley and Harrison Gibson will have more prominent roles this coming season and sophomore Antonio Santos is set to contribute after transferring from CBA. Following an eight-win improvement in coach Jeff Soares’s first season, the Bulldogs have the look of a team that could improve even more.

Ocean

Head Coach: John Terlecsky, fourth season
2019 Record: 10-10-1 (4-3, fourth in Class B North)
Returning: Aidan Tisony (Jr., Forward), Brian Miranda (Jr., Midfield), Alex Gaber (Sr., Defense), Michael Delia (Sr., Defense), Shane Foster (Jr., Defense), Peter Baillergeau (Jr., Forward), Dan Abrams (So., Defense)
Key Losses: Eli Brandimarte (Defense), Rob Lopes (Midfield), Isaac Greenspan (Goalkeeper)
Top Newcomers: Paco Castelo (Jr., Goalkeeper), Dylan Gargulinski (Jr., Midfield), Michael Reid (Jr., Midfield), Rusty Todd (Sr., Defense), Josh Weiss (Jr., Defense), Kareem Eraky (Jr., Midfield), Colin McLeod (Jr., Midfield)

Ocean junior Aidan Tisony. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

The 2018 season was one of the greatest in the accomplished history of the Ocean program and the Spartans followed that up with a trip to the Central Jersey Group III championship game despite returning only two starters from the prior season. Those two starters – Eli Brandimarte and Rob Lopes – have also graduated but despite that, Ocean has the makings of a team that can build on its sectional-final appearance. Junior Aidan Tisony is a big reason why, with the junior coming off a breakout sophomore campaign in which he posted 12 goals and seven assists.

Tisony and Brandimarte did most of the scoring for Ocean last year but the Spartans still bring back most of their lineup. Brian Miranda did not put up the numbers that Tisony did, but his emergence as a sophomore was also vital to Ocean’s late-season run. Peter Bailergeau will combine with Tisony up top after getting a varsity run as a sophomore. Alex Gaber and Michael Delia are back on the defense as well and junior Shane Foster got some time as an outside back as well. Paco Castelo is the leading candidate to assume the open spot in goal and with some experienced defense and scoring in front of him, Ocean has the kind of team make the transition easier and continue to play for championships.

Raritan

Head Coach: Gregg Cohen, third season
2019 Record: 7-8-2 (2-3-1, fifth in Class A Central)
Returning: Gavin Hersey (Sr., Goalkeeper), Nick Kasmer (Sr., Defense), Brian Larson (Sr., Defense), Hunter Amodeo (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Matt Fogarty (Jr., Midfield), Lupo Ryder (So., Forward), Logan Amodeo (Sr., Midfield), Tim Connell (Sr., Defense), Mike Pereira (So., Midfield), Steve Amodeo (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Lorenzo Leonardi (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Connor Smith (Midfield), Joe Seber (Forward/Midfield)
Top Newcomers: Chris Fontanazza (Sr., Midfield)

Holmdel is the perennial power in the division, Rumson and Monmouth return strong cores and Ocean is coming off a sectional final appearance. The team flying under the radar that could surprise the rest of the field is Raritan and that sleeper status stems from the return of some players who made strides last year and the addition of a big piece.

Senior Chris Fontanazza has not played high-school soccer since his freshman season and his return to the Rockets could give the team a boost similar to the one Martelloni gave Monmouth last year, when he scored 18 goals for the Falcons. On top of Fontanazza, Raritan brings back junior Hunter Amodeo and sophomore Lupo Ryder, who posted a combined seven goals as underclassmen. Seniors Nick Kasmer and Brian Larson return to the defense, with third-year starter Gavin Hersey back in goal behind them. Overcoming the graduation of 22 goals between Joe Seber and Connor Smith will be a real obstacle, but Fontanazza’s return and the growth of some of the underclassmen give Raritan a legitimate chance to pace a competitive A Central field.

Shore

Head Coach: Christian Pontier, 11th season
2019 Record: 2-13-2 (0-5-1, tied sixth in Class A Central)
Returning: Nick Poulos (Sr., Goalkeeper), Kevin Silveira (Sr., Midfield), Charles Creighton (Jr., Defense), Nick DiNapoli (So., Forward), Donovan Davis (Jr., Defense), Will LaBruno (Jr., Forward), Christopher Hazel (Jr., Midfield), Hunter Falvo Fernandes (Sr., Forward), Cory Moeller (Sr., Midfield), A.J. McGowan (Sr., Defense), Griffin Barfield (Jr., Defense), Jack Walker (Jr., Midfield), Benjamin Wellner (Jr., Defense), David Barham (Jr., Midfield), Joao Pedro Souza (Jr., Defense), Daniel Bonner (So., Defense), J.C. Gutierrez (Jr., Midfield), Daniel Brisky (Jr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Conor Creighton (Midfield), Jimmy Donohue (Midfield), Joao Victor Fonte Boa (Jr., Midfield), Liam McKeon (Jr., Defense)
Top Newcomers: Jack Koculski (Sr., Midfield), Sage Finch (Jr., Midfield), Maximus DeOliveira (So., Defense), Conner Katz (So., Defense), Maxx Eichenbaum (Fr., Forward/Midfield)

The 2018 season proved that even a Shore team with a losing record is not to be dismissed, but last year featured more losing than the Blue Devils would care to tolerate again. After a run to the Central Jersey Group II final in 2018, the bottom fell out on Shore last year on the way to a 2-13 season. In their defense, the Blue Devils were exceedingly young around their one all-division player – Connor Creighton – and will try to ride what is still a young team to an improved showing in 2020.

There are a handful of seniors that should make an impact for Shore this season, led by goalkeeper Nick Poulos, who was a bright spot in the Blue Devils’ 2019 slate. Forward Kevin Silveira is a fellow co-captain along with Poulos, and Hunter Falvo Fernandes, Cory Moeller and A.J. McGowan all back from last year’s roster as well. Will LaBruno and Nick DiNapoli are back as scorers after playing as underclassmen last year and freshman Maxx Eichenbaum – the younger brother of 100-goal-scorer and 2020 graduate Julia Eichenbaum – will make an immediate impact up top. Although last year was one to forget, Shore has the young talent and the recent track record to believe in a resurgence over the next several years.

Red Bank Catholic

Head Coach: Cody Calafiore, first season
2019 Record: 1-15-2 (0-5-1, tied sixth in Class A Central)
Returning: Diego Volpe (Sr., Midfield), Mike DeLeonardis (Sr., Midfield), Sam Garcia (Jr., Defense), Henry Harvard (Jr., Defense), Robert Milke (So.), Thomas Dreschler (Jr.), Scott Termotto (So.), Vincent Coccimiglio (So.), Christian Condon (So.), Dan Conroy (Jr.), Dominic Mallamaci (So.), Sam Murphy (Sr.), Skyler Warrmer (Jr.)
Top Newcomers: Dylan Van Berkel (Jr.), Colin Cavanaugh (Fr.), Jack McLaughlin (Fr.), Joseph Shaker (Fr.), J.J. Titone (Fr.)

With no seniors on last year’s team, Red Bank Catholic will have as much starting lineup stability as any team in the Shore Conference this season. The question the Caseys have to answer is can this group make significant strides after winning just one game last season? That is the challenge for the new coaching staff, led by former Howell and Temple University standout Cody Calafiore. Assistant Chris Katona is serving as the interim coach while Calafiore tends to his side gig: his second appearance on the CBS reality show Big Brother.

Reality has been harsh for RBC soccer, which has not notched a winning season in more than a decade and is a combined 18-77-3 over the past five seasons. Seniors Diego Volpe and Mike DeLeonardis will be the leaders of the prospective turnaround, with Volpe returning as a proven varsity scorer in each of his first three high-school seasons. With five A Central teams returning with legitimate division championship aspirations, the Caseys have their work cut out for them but competing against this field will certainly sharpen their edges.

 

A Central Starting XI

Alec Pentikis, So., Forward, Rumson-Fair Haven (9 G, 6 A)

Aidan Tisony, Jr., Forward, Ocean (12 G, 7 A)

Tomas Zolofra, Sr., Forward/Midfield, Holmdel (4 G, 4 A)

Kaan Pehlivan, Jr., Forward/Midfield, Monmouth (3 G, 4 A)

Aiden Hicks, Sr., Midfield/Forward, Monmouth (7 G, 3 A)

Connor Hinds, Sr., Midfield, Holmdel (4 G, 3 A)

Luke Pentikis, Jr., Midfield, Rumson-Fair Haven (5 G, 7 A)

Ryan Kuldanek, Jr., Midfield, Monmouth (6 G, 7 A)

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

Brian Leonard, Sr., Defense, Monmouth (1 G, 6 A)

Dominick Santaniello, Sr., Goalkeeper, Monmouth (10 shutouts)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Brian Miranda, Sr., Midfield, Ocean (2 G, 6 A)

Ben Milstein, Sr., Midfield, Holmdel (1 G, 4 A)

Chris Fontanazza, Sr., Midfield, Raritan

Maxx Eichenbaum, Fr., Forward, Shore

Terence Wrench, Sr., Midfield/Forward, Rumson-Fair Haven (4 G, 2 A)