BY VIN RAPOLLA
The 2004 season was originally expected to be a rebuilding year for the young Red Bank Catholic girls soccer team, after the squad lost 11 players to graduation.
It has been anything but.
“It’s been a real interesting year. We really didn’t know what to expect,” said head coach Ken Santos. “We’ve done well considering the loss of a lot of players.”
The first-year coach and his Caseys are currently 9-0-3 with a ranking of third in the Shore Conference.
Needless to say, they’re exceeding expectations.
“At this point we’ve done better than expected. The girls have done well and have been working hard to make it happen,” said Santos.
The Caseys’ defense has set the tone, as it has registered five shutouts on the season. Players like junior left back Jayne Condon, sophomore center back Kaitlyn Grimes, junior center back Ashley Ventura and junior right back Jessica Muscianesi have been downright dominant thus far, and have consistently pushed the ball upfield successfully.
“We’ve been very solid in the back. The defense has been solid enough to not give teams chances to score,” said Santos. “We’ve been able to stay in the game with only one or two goals.
“And these shutouts may not have been possible with out first-year varsity goalkeeper Sam Morris,” added Santos. “She’s come a long way, and she’s learned a lot and is willing to learn.”
The Casey midfield has also had a major factor in the team’s success. Led by senior captain Cailin McCrory, the Caseys have been able to get the scoring chances needed to keep them in game.
“She’s been a true leader, and she’s done well with keeping an inexperienced team together,” said Santos.
The midfield has also seen help from a trio of juniors — center-mid Kim Karpinski, right-mid Cara DaNagblillio and left-mid Megahan Brennan.
“The midfield have been tireless workers,” said Santos. “They’ve been good defenders and have been good attackers as the season has progressed.”
In order for Santos and the team to make this a successful season, he knows the team will have to keep up on its solid defensive play, and work on increasing the number of scoring opportunities.
“We’ve established the defense, our offense will come,” said Santos. “We’d like to score more, but we’re getting there. The girls are gaining experience and are beginning to get good scoring chances, which is good. As the team gains confidence, it will come together.”
The Caseys played Manasquan on Wednesday, and will take on a solid Raritan team today. On Monday, they will face an always tough Toms River South team.
Roundup… While the Caseys, with their stellar start, have assured themselves of a berth in the postseason, other local teams remain on the bubble with the Oct. 22 state cutoff rapidly approaching.
The Shore Conference Tournament pairings will be drawn up on Monday, RBC will likely get the third seed behind Lacey and Brick Memorial.
Rumson-Fair Haven’s girls are virtual locks for both tournaments as well, as they improved to 7-2-2 with a 1-1 tie against Red Bank Regional on Monday. Red Bank entered Wednesday’s action at 6-4-2, needing just a couple more wins to sure up its postseason berths.
The same can be said for Ocean Township, who entered the week at 5-3-2. The Spartans are one of the Shore’s elite teams, but face a daunting Class A North schedule with includes a number of tough teams.
Shore Regional’s girls beat Point Beach, 3-1, on Monday to improve to 7-6 on the year, and appear to be poised to qualify for both postseason tournaments.
On the boys’ side of play, both Rumson-Fair Haven, who improved to 10-2 with a 2-0 blanking of Red Bank Regional on Monday, and Shore Regional (11-3 following Monday’s 3-0 win over Point Beach) will be in both tournaments.
Red Bank Regional also appears to be in good shape at 7-5.
Among the teams on the bubble for the postseason are Long Branch, who fell to 6-6 with a 5-1 loss to Lakewood on Saturday, and Ocean Township (5-5-1 entering the week’s action).
Monmouth Regional’s boys are still alive at 5-7-1, but need to get hot over the next two weeks in order to sure up their postseason berths.
— Doug McKenzie contributed to this story