Boys Soccer – Monmouth County’s Big Three Cap Memorable Year in All-Shore Sr. Game
TINTON FALLS - Fifty percent of year's collection of six boys soccer NJSIAA Group championship teams came from the Shore Conference - all three of which were from Monmouth County.
On Monday night, at the first All-Shore Senior All-Star Boys Soccer Game in a decade, 100 percent of the Monmouth County starting lineup was made up of players from those three state championship teams.
After the first 20 minutes at Capelli Soccer Complex, it wasn't hard to see why Holmdel, Ocean and Christian Brothers Academy will be hanging championship banners in short order.
PHOTO GALLERY: All-Shore Senior All-Star Game by Paula Lopez
Ocean's Leo Montesinos and Luke Yates, Holmdel's Anthony Arena and CBA's Dom Bellomo all contributed the scoring during their 20 minute stretch of the first half to highlight the Monmouth County All-Star Team's 5-1 win over the Ocean County All-Stars in a re-imagined version of an All-Star game that went dormant in recent years.
If anyone could reanimate the yearly Shore Conference tradition, it was players from the three state championships teams from the Shore Conference in 2018.
"The kids that I played with tonight are unreal," Montesinos said. "I have played against them a lot over the years and this was the first time I got to play with them."
Holmdel won the Group II title, finished unbeaten and No. 1 in the state. Ocean captured both the Shore Conference Tournament and overall Group III championship. CBA, meanwhile, won the Non-Public A title by snapping a 57-game unbeaten streak by fellow state finalist Delbarton.
Monday night's game began with Monmouth running out Montesinos, Yates, James Schutz, Zach Sintic and goalkeeper Max Winters from Ocean; Anthony Arena, Joe Arena, Torre Avitabile and Jack Russo from Holmdel; and Bellomo and Jack Gill from CBA. Gill, Anthony Arena and Schutz were the three forwards, Montesinos, Bellomo and Joe Arena shared the midfield, and Russo, Avitabile, Sintic and Yates lined up along the back from left to right.
"It was a lot of fun for all of us to play together," Anthony Arena said. "I think we had a lot more chemistry than I expected. It just felt kind of right once we got ten minutes into it. It's a bunch of good players playing with each other."
"It was a little weird at first because we have been playing against each other since like sixth grade," Bellomo said. "Then after about five minutes, it felt pretty normal."
A little more than a month prior to Monday's showcase, the three teams plus Jackson Memorial were part of a loaded Shore Conference Tournament semifinal round at Point Pleasant Borough High School. CBA defeated Jackson Memorial - which fell just short of its own sectional title by losing to eventual Group IV champion Washington Township, 2-1, in the South Group IV final - in overtime and Ocean outlasted Holmdel on penalty kicks on that Oct. 22 night. Ocean went on to beat CBA, 1-0, on a golden goal by Montesinos to cap one of the most memorable finishes in tournament history.
"In four days, we had to face maybe the two best teams in the state," Montesinos said. "We were in practice talking about how big of a week that was. We had to face an All-American striker (Anthony Arena), then Dom in the middle (against CBA). It was a hard week. I don't think I could feel my legs at the end of it."
After competing against one another a month, a collection of seniors from Holmdel, Ocean and CBA combined forces and unleashed an lethal offensive attack on an Ocean County side that, fittingly enough, started Jackson Memorial goalkeeper Nick Kinzler between the pipes and his Jaguars teammate Joe Schlageter at center back.
Yates got on the board first, heading in a free kick by Bellomo in the fifth minute for a 1-0 Monmouth lead.
Montesinos ripped an 18-yard strike that slipped through Kinzler's grasp on a wet, rainy night in Tinton Falls, then set up Arena's goal less than two minutes later to stake Monmouth to a 3-0 lead in the 15th. Arena gave the ball to Montesinos, got it back, then buried a deflected shot to the lower left side netting from 15 yards out.
"Almost every practice (at Ocean) we'd say, 'Okay, let's play against Arena,'" Montesinos said. "Somebody would be Arena and we'd have to defend his tendencies, so we know each other in that sense. It's a lot nicer playing with him and all of these other guys and it probably helped that we are so familiar with each other as opponents."
Ocean County broke onto the board within a minute of going down, 3-0. Pinelands forward Dom Dos Santos ran onto a through-ball from Lacey's all-time assist-leader Kip Byrne, crossed it into the middle and Point Pleasant Beach striker Ki Costa ripped a close-range shot in after settling the pass.
Costa was the top goal-scorer in Ocean County this season and when the second unit came onto the field at the midway point if the first half, that set the stage for the top scorer in Monmouth County - and the Shore - to put his mark on the game.
Neptune seniors Wilby Alfred and Mickenna Church were arguably the most lethal scoring combination in the Shore Conference this season. Alfred led the conference with 38 goals and Church was first in the Shore with 20 assists.
The two Scarlet Fliers teammates linked up again on Monday, with Church sliding a pass to Alfred, who beat a man along the left side and slipped a shot inside the near post.
"It was incredible to see the talent on our team, not just the talent on the field but the guys on the bench and some of the guys who got left off (the team)," Bellomo said.
After a high-scoring first half, the two teams were mostly quiet in the second half, with goalkeepers Shane McBride of Howell and Matt Dias of Central keeping the ball out of their respective goals.
Monmouth added one last goal in the final minute of the match, with Middletown South midfielder Jonathan Santos blasting a 14-yard, left-footed strike to the far left corner of the goal.
Montesinos was named the MVP of the game on the Monmouth side while Pinelands forward Kieran Sundermann collected the honor for Ocean. It was a fitting end to a storybook season for Montesinos, who transferred from Shore Regional, scored the SCT-clinching goal and assisting what proved to be the clinching goal in the Group III final.
Arena, meanwhile, was named an All-American and was a part of a state championships team for the second consecutive year for a Holmdel program that went 44-1-2 over the past two seasons.
"It's an honor to play in this game because it was such a big year for the Shore Conference," Arena said. "To get together with kids from around here and show what the Shore Conference is about is kind of fun."
Holmdel head coach John Nacarlo, CBA coach Tom Mulligan and Ocean coach John Terlecsky were the three designated coaches for the Monmouth County side and at one point during the game were exchanging stories about ordering championship rings. Few coaches can relate to the experience and it may be a long time before three Shore Conference coaches will again celebrate championships in the same year.
"Once (CBA) won, I was just thinking 'We (Holmdel) have a chance at the number one (ranking),'" Arena said. "Then when we walked off the field after our game (the Group II final), I told a few of the Ocean guys to bring it home. I was definitely pulling for them."
"I didn't even realize all three of us had won and then it kind of dawned on me," Bellomo said. "At that point, it's like, 'Wow, that's maybe the three best teams in the state competing against each other in one conference.' It's fun to watch. I loved watching both teams play and I think we were all pretty happy to see all of us win."
All-Shore Senior All-Star Game Rosters
|Monmouth County||School||Ocean County||School|
|Wilby Alfred||Neptune||Joe Schlageter||Jackson Memorial|
|Anthony Arena||Holmdel||Kip Byrne||Lacey|
|Joe Arena||Holmdel||Peter Kozlej||Toms River East|
|Torre Avitabile||Holmdel||Ki Costa||Point Beach|
|Dominic Bellomo||CBA||Kieran Sundermann||Pinelands|
|Mickenna Church||Neptune||Junior Bravo (DNP)||Lakewood|
|Jack Gill||CBA||John Christ||Brick|
|Justin Goldberg||Manalapan||Ryan Laycock (DNP)||Toms River South|
|Santieno Harding (DNP)||Ocean||Riley DeFeis||Toms River North|
|Max Winters (GK)||Ocean||Dom Dos Santos||Pinelands|
|Jack Russo||Holmdel||Mike Ingenito||Brick Memorial|
|Leo Montesinos||Ocean||Frank Ritchie||Southern|
|James Schutz||Ocean||Ryan Brodeur||Point Beach|
|Luke Yates||Ocean||Nico Garcia||Toms River North|
|Zach Sintic||Ocean||Eric Szejnrok||Central|
|Stiviny Silva||Long Branch||Gio Hernandez (DNP)||Lakewood|
|Jonathan Santos||Middletown South||Frank Aguilar||Pinelands|
|Ethan Kilmnick||Colts Neck||Aniello Lubrano||Pinelands|
|Zack May||Raritan||Ricky Norman||Barnegat|
|Riley Powers||Wall||Liam Kirinovic||Point Boro|
|Mal Mehari||Matawan||Nick Kinzler (GK)||Jackson Memorial|
|Robert Saunders (DNP)||Howell||Matt Dias (GK)||Central|
|Shane McBride (GK)||Howell|
GK - Goalkeeper
DNP - Did not play
Monmouth: John Nacarlo, Holmdel; Tom Mulligan, CBA; John Terlecsky
Ocean: Ed Leibe, Toms River South; Nino Scotto di Carlo, Pinelands; Steve Bado, Jackson Memorial (did not attend)