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Part of every preseason in Shore Conference boys soccer involves reiterating how good the Class A North division is every year and this year is no different. It should, however, be noted that teams in the division took some lumps during the course of the truncated 2020 season. Taking Christian Brothers Academy out of the equation, A North teams were just 1-6 against teams from outside the division and the lone win was a tight, 3-2 win by Long Branch over Brick Memorial in the NJSIAA Tournament.

It also appeared, heading into the year, that CBA might be a vulnerable team for the rest of the division to jump on. The Colts lost a lot of production from the prior year and were shut down for two weeks at the start of the season. Not only was CBA not weak, but the Colts were the best team in the Shore Conference, going 13-0-1 while allowing only four goals all year.

Coming into 2021, the Colts are the established favorite in Class A North once again and the pecking order behind them might look a little different. Freehold Township has been and will remain a contender, while Long Branch, Middletown North and Marlboro have all been in the mix in recent years, but will have something to prove in 2021.

In predicted order of finish

Christian Brothers Academy

Head Coach: Tom Mulligan, sixth season
2020 Record: 13-0-1 (9-0-1, first in Class A North)
Returners: Dylan Cupo (Sr., Forward), Jack D’Eletto (Jr., Forward), Will Thygeson (Jr., Forward), Jake Homowitz (Sr., Midfield), Declan Kelly (Sr., Defense), Marco Mastriani (Sr., Midfield), Jack McGagh (Sr., Defense), Ryan Hayes (Sr., Goalkeeper)
Losses: Jack Longo (Defense), Brett Sieg (Midfield), Shane Borenius (Midfield), Ryan Mojares (Defense), Graydon Santos (Midfield), Ethan Beyer (Defense), Thomas Manners (Goalkeeper), Michael Jakub (Goalkeeper), Tommy Glynn (Forward)
Newcomers: Joe Grossman (So., Goalkeeper), Charlie Paparella (Jr., Defense), Max Koczan (Jr., Defense), Lawrence Masino (So., Defense),  Tiarnan King (Sr., Midfield), Luke Cousins (Sr., Defense), Will Geiger (Sr., Defense), Nick Bartlewitz (Sr., Midfield), Dimitry Corba (So., Midfield), Christian DeOlivera (So., Midfield)

CBA junior Will Thygeson defended by Freehold Township's Josh Leonetti. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

In a 2020 season that began with so much uncertainty for every team, CBA had an extra dose of it in more ways that one. The entire school went into a two-week, COVID-related shutdown just before opening day of the season and once the Colts were to begin the season, they were doing it with a lineup that was made up mostly of new starters. Throw in the fact that, despite finishing No. 2 in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10, the 2019 team did not win a championship (division, Shore Conference, NJSIAA) of any kind, and the 2020 outfit had plenty to prove under very difficult circumstances.

The 2020 CBA squad passed every test with flying colors, finishing 13-0-1 with an unofficial Class A North championship, a modified NJSIAA sectional championship and the No. 1 ranking in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10. There will once again be seven open starting spots to fill but in addition to boasting depth off the bench in 2020, the Colts have demonstrated time and time again that they can replace graduated players more seamlessly than any team in the conference.

Seniors Dylan Cupo, Jake Homowitz and Declan Kelly, as well as junior Will Thygeson, were starters last season while junior Jack E’Aletto, senior Marco Mastriani and senior Jack McGagh all contributed off the bench. D’Eletto and Mastriani, in particular, were two of the Shore’s best substitutes, posting a combined three goals and four assists. Cupo and Thygeson were two of the team’s top four scorers a season ago while Homowitz emerged while playing in the center of the field.

Charlie Paparella and Max Koczan are a pair of junior defenders with a chance to contribute this season and the sophomore trio of Dimitry Corba, Christian DeOliveira and Lawrence Mancino are hoping to have an impact similar to the one Thygeson and D’Eletto had as sophomores a year ago. Another sophomore, Joe Grossman, is in the mix for the starting goalkeeper job with senior Ryan Hayes and after Thomas Manners and Michael Jakub split the duties last year, it’s possible both could see some action early on. There are some roles to settle leading into the Sept. 7 opener vs. Long Branch but CBA has the pieces in place to rule the Shore once again and make a deep postseason run come November.

Freehold Township

Head Coach: Josh Mehl, sixth season
2020 Record: 11-4-1 (11-3, third in Class A North)
Returners: Herman Colbert (Sr., Forward), J.T. Gold (Sr., Midfield), Josh Hocheiser (Sr., Midfield), Christian Mojares (Sr., Defense), Giancarlo Pantano (Sr., Goalkeeper), Ryan Keegan (Sr.), Tim Bertscha (Jr., Midfield), Kyle Chalfin (Jr.)
Losses: Zach Orrico (Forward/Midfield), Adam Havens (Midfield), Joe Lardaro (Midfield/Defense), John Wilhelm (Goalkeeper), Josh Leonetti (Defense), Shane O’Malley (Defense), Aidan Szymanski (Defense), Anthony Barthel (Midfield)
Newcomers: Logan Mullaney (Sr., Defense), Hunter Torre (Sr., Defense), Richard Lockard (Sr., Goalkeeper), Leo Sarcona (Sr., Midfield/Defense), James Stanley (Sr., Forward), Sean Keegan (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Dan Earhart (Jr., Midfield), Aidan Englander (Jr., Midfield), Kevin Kuriakose (Jr., Defense), Jack Vlacich (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Noah Jones (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Alessandro Principato (So., Midfield), Victor Torres (So., Midfield), Josh Jerome (Fr., Midfield)

Freehold Township senior J.T. Gold. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

If CBA is the best team in the Shore Conference when it comes to reloading, Freehold Township might be the best public school when it comes to replacing talent. The Patriots will have a lot of production and leadership to replace after the graduations of Zach Orrico, Adam Havens, Josh Leonetti, Joe Lardaro and John Wilhelm – all of whom were not only senior leaders last year but were also instrumental pieces on the 2019 Shore Conference Tournament championship team.

As is normally the case for the Patriots, they will have a lot of options when it comes to replacing last year’s senior core. Seniors Josh Hocheiser and J.T. Gold are returning midfielders who produced a combined six goals in 2020, while striker Herman Colbert and central defender Christian Mojares give the Patriots an experienced senior at either end of the formation. Junior Tim Bertscha also got some starting experience a year ago and senior goalkeeper Giancarlo Pantano saw time as well during Wilhelm’s brief stretch away from the team.

Ryan Keegan and Kyle Chalfin will be among the new starters in 2021 after both saw some time as reserves in 2020. The Patriots have three underclassmen looking to make waves early on in Victor Torres, Alessandro Principato and freshman Josh Jerome, while a promising wave of juniors and first-year seniors provide some balance and depth to the roster. With Hochesier now running the show in the middle of the field and Gold and Colbert serving as attack-minded players, the Patriots should be a dynamic team with a chance to win games from September through November.

Long Branch

Head Coach: Adrian Castro, 10th season
2020 Record: 12-3 (11-2, second in Class A North)
Returners: Eduardo Ribiero (Sr., Forward), Arturo Garcia (Sr., Midfield), Brian Yocute (Sr., Midfield), Cesar Rojas Lopez (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Jeremy Hernandez (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Jose Rincon (Sr., Defense), Anthony Vasquez (Jr., Midfield)
Losses: Jason Laviola (Midfield), Tyler Abbot (Goalkeeper), Brian Completo (Defense/Forward), Augusto Bon Tempo (Midfield), Victor Pessoa (Defense), Kobe Brown (Forward), Tyler Haldane (Midfield), Vladimir Gonzalez (Defense), Lucas Da Costa (Forward)
Newcomers: Davenson JoinVilmar (Sr., Defense) – transfer from Asbury Park; Chris Lopez (So., Forward), Wyatt Vicente (Midfield), Carlos Dos Santos (Sr., Defense/Goalkeeper), Shawn Rodriguez (Sr., Goalkeeper), Alphonso Machado (So., Goalkeeper)

At the end of the 2019 season, Long Branch elevated to a new level as a program. The Green Wave made it all the way to the championship game of a loaded Central Jersey Group IV bracket, then put together a 12-3 2020 season in which its only losses came against No. 1 CBA, No. 4 Southern and No. 6 Freehold Township – the latter of which Long Branch also defeated head-to-head. The graduating class of 2020, however, had a lot to do with that success and the upcoming season will be a test of Long Branch’s ability to ride the momentum of two strong seasons despite playing with a different lineup.

It does help that the Green Wave return one proven goal-scorer and welcome in the Shore’s highest-profile transfer of the offseason. Senior Eduardo Ribiero finished second on the 2020 team with six goals and should give the Green Wave some finishing prowess, regardless of how well Long Branch possesses the ball with its new-look midfield. In the back, meanwhile, Asbury Park transfer Davenson JoinVilmar will add exceptional athleticism and skill to the formation and should be a worthy replacement for graduated All-Shore defender Brian Completo. Completo was known to push up to play striker late in close games and JoinVilmar has the same capability.

Seniors Arturo Garcia, Brian Yocute and Cesar Rojas Lopez all come back with experience in the midfield and classmate Jose Rincon will play on the defense. Juniors Jeremy Hernandez and Anthony Vasquez have the potential to add to the attack and sophomore Chris Lopez will be a scoring threat up top along with Ribiero. Senior Shawn Rodriguez has the inside track at goalkeeper with sophomore Alphonso Machado pushing him, but senior Carlos dos Santos could wind up in goal if he is not playing outside back. With some new faces and changing roles, Long Branch will have to gel has a team, but has the makings of a dangerous opponent late in the year – just as the Wave has been in each of the past two seasons.

Howell

Head Coach: Rich Yuro, 30th season
2020 Record: 4-7-3 (4-7-2, fifth in Class A North)
Returners: Rudy Braun (Sr, Midfield), John Castanheda (Sr., Midfield), Ken Emerick (Sr., Defense), Tyler Gabrielsen (Sr., Defense), Rob Lacqua (Sr., Defense), Andrew Louis (Sr., Forward), Kris Maza (Sr., Midfield), Chris Osario-Rodriguez (Sr., Midfield), Marc Tango (Sr., Defense), Erik Yakow (Jr., Defense), Charlie Scanlon (Jr., Goalkeeper), Nick Spisak (Jr., Forward)
Losses: Andrew Paige (Goalkeeper)
Newcomers: R.J. Eckleman (Jr.), Anthony Sosa (Jr.), Gavin Soutar (Jr.), Marchello Romano (So.), Aidan VanderGoot (So.)

After a rough 2019, Howell made strides in a tough Class A North division last season and while the record still was not particularly impressive, the Rebels earned those seven results – four wins, two outright draws and a penalty shootout loss in the NJSIAA Tournament – with a team comprised mostly of juniors. Now that the bulk of the team is seniors, there is potential for Howell to take a major step forward in the Class A North pecking order, which the Rebels already did last season, to some extent.

Howell’s midfield has a chance to match up well with any Class A North opponent, with Chris Osario-Rodriguez, Kris Maza, Rudy Braun and John Castanheda all returning as seniors. Five senior defenders also return with experience, with Marc Tango, Tyler Gabrielsen and Rob Lacqua all boasting three years of varsity experience and Ken Emerick and Erik Yakow also providing some proven play as well. Up top, Andrew Louis and Nick Spisak will look to add some scoring punch, which Howell lacked at times last season and will be the final piece to the puzzle that has been this Rebels rebuild.

The other key to Howell’s season is in goal, where junior Charlie Scanlon returns with some experience after learning from graduated two-year starter Andrew Paige. The experience around the field should make Howell tough team to play on a daily basis but the key to a big season will be how the Rebels play on the two ends of the field – finishing goals and play in their own goal.

Marlboro

Head Coach: Ryan Morris, fourth season
2020 Record: 2-9-1 (2-8-1, seventh in Class A North)
Returners: Max Rosen (Sr., Midfield), Scott Vituli (Sr., Defense), Dylan Kipperman (Sr., Midfield), Griffin Wolfe (Sr., Forward), Cooper Laitman (Jr., Defense), Nick Tango (Sr., Goalkeeper), Dan Cohen (Sr., Defense), Matt Sherer (Sr., Defense), Mike Loges (Sr., Defense), Alex Fischler (Sr., Forward), Matt Kaplan (Sr., Midfield/Defense)
Losses: Eric Tsirkin (Midfield), Dan Risin (Forward), Kyle Lin (Forward), Tate Berman (Defense), Ryan Schmid (Defense), Bryce Strumeier (Jr., Midfield)
Newcomers: Jake Bono (Jr., Goalkeeper), Akash Bhujle (Sr., Forward), Ryan Heller (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Cohen (So., Forward), Zach Laitman (Jr., Defense), Ben Rothman (Sr., Midfield)

At first glance, the 2020 season was a rough one for Marlboro’s boy soccer team, especially based on the standard the Mustangs set with two impressive seasons leading up to it. A closer look reveals some excruciating losses but also reason to believe Marlboro can turn things around in 2021. The Mustangs lost five games by a one-goal margin and three of those were in overtime while the other two came on late second-half goals.

Although losing All-Shore midfielder Eric Tsirkin is a hit to the starting lineup, Marlboro returns some strong individual talent that can more than handle the challenge of Class A North. Senior Max Rosen was a clutch scorer for the Mustangs down the stretch of his junior season and will be one of the division’s top returning players during the upcoming season. Marlboro also has the makings of a solid goal-prevention outfit, with a defense led by returnees Scott Vituli, Cooper Laitman and Matt Sherer in front of fourth-year starter Nick Tango in goal.

On the attack, senior Griffin Wolfe got into the scoring act last season and classmates Alex Fischler and Akash Bhujle look like potential scorers alongside him. Sophomore Ryan Cohen can also help on the scoring side right away, while Dylan Kipperman, Matt Kaplan, Ryan Heller and Ben Rothman will be part of the midfield group. After a hard-luck 2020, this Mustangs side has the potential to put the misfortune behind them and get back on track in a more normal-looking 2021.

Manalapan

Head Coach: Kerry Eismann, sixth season
2020 Record: 0-10-1 (0-9-1, eighth in Class A North)
Returners: Jimmy Bruno (Sr., Midfield), Drew Gross (Sr., Defense), Jonah Ortega (Sr., Midfield), Aiden Derby (Sr., Defense), Randy Spencer (Sr., Defense), Conor Kinnucane (Sr., Defense), Aiden Solomon (Sr., Forward), Ryan Super (Sr., Midfield), Aditya Kasina (Sr., Forward), Anthony Sarkisov (Jr., Midfield), Jacob Hyams (Jr., Forward), Dan Bressler (Jr., Midfield/Defense), Max Dobrych (Jr., Forward), Jake Popper (Jr., Goalkeeper), Travis Butash (So., Midfield), Tyler Pilarinos (So., Midfield), Matteo Paolillo (So., Goalkeeper)
Losses: Nick Belo (Defense/Midfield), Vincent Tuccillo (Midfield), Nick DiLorenzo (Sr., Goalkeeper), Ryan Petosa (Sr., Midfield), Dylan Fread (Sr., Forward/Midfield)
Newcomers: Peter Ardizzone (Sr., Defense), Shabbar Sayed (Sr., Goalkeeper)

Manalapan returns all of its goal-scoring from a year ago, but unfortunately for the Braves, they scored only three during the entire 2020 season. This season should be less of a slog for Manalapan, which will be more experienced than a year ago and playing against teams that, for the most part, have more starters to replace. The goals should come more frequently this season but Manalapan remains a team that will win with effort and organization in the back.

A group of seniors will lead the defense, with Drew Gross, Aiden Derby, Randy Spencer and Conor Kinnucane all back from a year ago. Senior Jimmy Bruno is the team’s top returning playmaker and will have more help this year with the return of a host of players with offensive potential. Senior Jonah Ortega and junior Anthony Sarsikov are a pair of midfielders to watch alongside Bruno and Aditya Kasina is a senior striker option to go with the junior duo of Jacob Hyams and Max Dobrych.

Junior Jake Popper and sophomore Matteo Paolillo are the candidates for the goalkeeper spot and with the defensive continuity from a year ago, they should be set up for success. By finding a few steady scorers as well, Manalapan will have a chance to get back to the top half of the division.

Middletown North

Head Coach: Eric Morley, second season
2020 Record: 4-7-1 (4-5-1, fourth in Class A North)
Returners: Chris Jensen (Sr., Midfield), Dom Soares (Sr., Forward), Michael Colantino (Jr., Midfield), C.J. Crolius (Jr., Defense), Tommy Valinotti (So., Midfield)
Losses: Aidan Cardella (Forward), Denzel Boateng (Midfield), Alex Bogues (Goalkeeper), Brandon Del Grosso (Midfield), Joe Vallillo (Midfield), Ryan Prindeville (Defense), Kyle Puzo (Defense), Thomas Long (Midfield/Forward), Grant Heller (Defense)
Newcomers: Sam Calhoun (Sr., Midfield), Andrew Marinelli (Jr., Goalkeeper), Ryan Barnao (Fr., Defense), Nick Dinella (Fr., Midfield), Liam O’Keefe (So., Defense), Matt Silva (So., Midfield), Vinny Valinotti (Jr., Midfield), Anthony Giamanco (So., Forward), Travis Soto (So., Forward), Matt Kolk (Jr., Midfield)

The 2020 Middletown North team had the makings of a special roster and with a longer season to establish some kind of routine and consistency, the Lions might have caught fire. Not only did the A North schedule beat them up during the season, but COVID-19 shut the Lions down at the end of the year when the district decided to shut down the sports season early due to a spread of the virus within the school. That shutdown forced Middletown North to drop out of the NJSIAA Tournament, ending any designs of a surprise postseason run following a sub.-500 season.

If Middletown North is to make noise in either the Shore Conference Tournament or the NJSIAA Tournament, it would be even more of a surprise. The Lions will have the least experienced roster in Class A North entering the season by number of varsity players returning, but there are some players back who will be major difference-makers. Junior C.J. Crolius was an all-division defender and one of the better marking backs in the conference – even in just his sophomore season. Junior Michael Colantino also made important contributions in the midfield as a sophomore and will be the other proven returnee.

The rest of the team will have something to prove coming off last season, but is welcoming in a promising young core to go with the returning group. With any young team, there is potential to take a big jump if the talent is ready to compete at the varsity level so with two proven players in the mix as juniors, Middletown North could look like a postseason darkhorse by the end of October.

Middletown South

Head Coach: Dan Riverso, first season
2020 Record: 3-10 (3-10, sixth in Class A North)
Returners: Ryan Jerome (Sr., Midfield), Alex Quintano (Sr., Defense), Niko Kousouris (Sr., Defense), Anthony Cona (Sr., Forward), Collin Jaffe (Sr., Forward), Stephen Rispoli (Sr., Forward), Nick Zito (Jr., Midfield), Marcelo Soto (Jr., Defense), Alex Soto (Jr., Forward/Midfield), John Kuhlmeier (Jr., Midfield), Chris Mendina (Jr., Forward), Nate Stix (So., Midfield)
Losses: Matt Glynn (Midfield), Aaron Oliveira (Midfield), Chase Guinta (Midfield), Ethan Dreyer (Forward), Austin Carter (Goalkeeper), Sam Tinoco (So., Forward), Dylan Petke (Midfield)
Newcomers: Michael DeOliveira (So., Goalkeeper), Shawn McCann (So., Midfield)

Like Middletown North will be this year, Middletown South was reliant on a lot of younger players in 2020. That gives Middletown South what should be a battle-tested lineup that will be better-prepared to deal with the rigors of Class A North. There where, however, some seniors that the Eagles will have to replace and they will be doing so with a first-year varsity coach in Dan Riverso.

Alex Soto, Nick Zito and Chris Mendina are three scoring options who have gone through the varsity experience already, while Ryan Jerome leads the group of seniors that will look to take the reins of the program. On the defense, it will be seniors Alex Quintano and Niko Kousouris along with junior Marcelo Soto fortifying the back line in front of first-year sophomore starter Michael DeOlivereira.

Sophomores Nate Stix and Shawn McCann will play important roles as midfielders and if they can find ways to contribute while developing and the senior group comes up with a big effort as a collective unit, Middletown South has the pieces in place to make a push for a top-four finish.

 

Class A North Starting XI (with 2020 stats)

Dylan Cupo, Sr., Forward, CBA (7 goals, 1 assist)

Will Thygeson, Jr., Forward, CBA (3 goals, 4 assists)

Eduardo Ribiero, Sr., Forward, Long Branch (6 goals)

Josh Hocheiser, Sr., Midfield, Freehold Township (5 goals, 1 assist)

Jake Homowitz, Sr., Midfield, CBA (4 assists)

Max Rosen, Sr., Midfield, Marlboro (4 goals, 1 assist)

Chris Osario-Rodriguez, Sr., Midfield, Howell

Davenson JoinVilmar, Sr., Defense, Long Branch (3 goals, 8 assists with Asbury Park)

Declan Kelly, Sr., Defense, CBA

C.J. Crolius, Jr., Defense, Middletown North

Giancarlo Pantano, Sr., Goalkeeper Freehold Township

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Herman Colbert, Sr., Forward, Freehold Township (1 goal, 1 assist)

Jack D’Eletto, Jr., Forward, CBA (2 goals)

Jimmy Bruno, Sr., Midfield, Manalapan

Alex Soto, Jr., Midfield/Forward, Middletown South

Joe Grossman, So., Goalkeeper CBA