Heath built legendary cross-country program at CBA

SPORTS VIEW

Tim Morris

The words “great” and “legend” get thrown out so often that they have almost lost their meaning.

In the case of retired Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) cross-country coach Tom Heath, those words hardly do him justice.

Heath, who stepped down as the Colts’ head coach after another championship year, leaves as one of the greatest coaches in any sport in New Jersey high school sports history. His legacy is unsurpassed. He is synonymous with cross-country in this state and, in the process, elevated the sport.

His list of accomplishments is staggering. There is the record 21 NJSIAA Meet of Champion (MOC) crowns, which includes the last six straight. There are the 27 group state titles, as well as team average course records all over New Jersey and New York (Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls). Maybe the most impressive achievement is winning the Nike Cross Nationals national championship in 2011.

Tom Heath’s Christian Brothers Academy cross-country teams won a record 21 NJSIAA Meet of Champions titles during his unparalleled career. Yet he ranks the national-record 343 dual-meet victories as the highlight of his career.LARRY LEVANTI/CBA

Tom Heath’s Christian Brothers Academy cross-country teams won a record 21 NJSIAA Meet of Champions titles during his unparalleled career. Yet he ranks the national-record 343 dual-meet victories as the highlight of his career.

LARRY LEVANTI/CBA However, when asked what stands out the most to him over his unprecedented career, his reply was the streak.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said.

The streak is CBA’s ongoing national record for consecutive dual-meet victories, which began in September 1974 and continued through the 2015 season. The mark now stands at 343.

The mark is a tribute to CBA’s unmatched depth. The Colts were so deep that Heath was able to run his B or even C team in most dual meets and rest his top runners. In that way, as Heath noted over the years, everyone contributed to the streak.

One of the Shore coaches linked to Heath’s streak is Colts Neck High School’s Jim Schlentz. In 1981, the streak was at 94 when Schlentz’s St. John Vianney High School team tied the Colts in a dual meet but lost on the sixth-runner tiebreaker. It was the closest any team came to CBA during its unfathomable five-decade streak.

“I like running against CBA,” Schlentz said. “The only way to get better is to race against the best.”

The Cougars’ coach, who has had his fare share of success in the sport (his 2006 Colts Neck girls were MOC champions), spoke highly of what Heath and CBA have been able to accomplish.

“To be at the top all those years is remarkable,” Schlentz said.

The Cougars’ coach had a simple explanation as to why the Colts have stayed on top all this while. “They outwork everybody,” Schlentz said. Heath, a CBA graduate who was a sprinter on the track team, took over as head coach of the cross-country team in the fall of 1971.

“There was a tradition at CBA for crosscountry,” Heath said.

Heath, though, took the program to high levels.

Heath noted that not being a cross-country runner was, in a strange way, an advantage for him.

“I never ran distance, which is probably good,” he said. “I never knew pain.”

There was no secret formula behind CBA’s and Heath’s success. He pointed out that it starts with recognizing that kids are smart. He explained they have to work hard, put in their miles in training and stay injury free. Pretty simple stuff, but something it seems only the Colts could achieve year-in and year-out.

I have watched the CBA program over the years as it went from a state power to national champion. I, like most, used to think, “Hey, anyone can coach CBA.” He gets the talent, but after observing Heath over the years and seeing how his runners were always ready for November and the biggest races of the season, I began to appreciate what he has done more. Getting your runners to come through when it matters in a single race takes more than talent. It takes coaching. In Heath’s case, it’s great coaching.

I remember the shocked faces of the Cherokee High School runners a few years ago when they were the heavy favorites to win the MOC only to have CBA take it from them as the Colts ran above their season-level. They did it this year, rebounding from a loss in the group championships the week before to snatch a 21st MOC title.

The 2012 MOC stands out as CBA’s signature win. With superstorm Sandy pushing the MOC back, it conflicted with the Nike Cross Northeast Regional. Heath couldn’t run his starters for fear that it would impact them at the regional three days later and jeopardize their chances of qualifying for the nationals. So he gambled on his “B” team, resting his top five runners.

“I told [the MOC runners] there was no downside,” Heath said. “If you do bad, I’ll take the blame. Just relax and be focused.”

The Colts all went out and ran their Holmdel Park personal bests for a stunning triumph that was a testament to CBA’s tradition.

When the Nike Cross Nationals started up to produce a national champion, did anyone doubt that Heath and the Colts would win it? They did in 2011, raising the profile for New Jersey cross-country. The Colts were also the runnerup in 2013. They’ve made the national championships the last six years.

It’s hard to think about it now, but it wasn’t always this way for Heath and his harriers. He pointed out that he lost the Monmouth County championships the first four times his teams competed in it. Clearing that hurdle opened the door for what would follow.

“As soon as you win something, you realize it’s not as hard to win as you thought,” he said. “It was the same thing with the states (MOC). I thought it was impossible. Then you win it, and it’s not as hard to do.”

How do you get everyone to race so well at the same time?

“You just have the kids relax and realize it’s just another race and it can be won,” Heath said.

Now that Heath has retired, he said that he won’t appear at any cross-country meets next year so as to not be seen as looking over the shoulder of the coach who has the impossible task of following him.

He may not be at Holmdel Park next year, but his shadow certainly will be.

Boys basketball season holds promise for district teams

By TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

 Colts Neck High School’s Lloyd Daniels, middle, looks to put up a shot between a pair of Long Branch High School defenders — Ron Anderson, left, and Brandon Yutko — during the season-opening game played in Long Branch Dec. 18. The host Green Wave won, 57-54.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Colts Neck High School’s Lloyd Daniels, middle, looks to put up a shot between a pair of Long Branch High School defenders — Ron Anderson, left, and Brandon Yutko — during the season-opening game played in Long Branch Dec. 18. The host Green Wave won, 57-54. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The 2015-16 high school basketball season holds a lot of promise for the Freehold Regional High School District’s boys’ teams.

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP

It seems every year Freehold Township High School finds a way to win a Shore Conference A North Division title.

Last year, the Patriots emerged out of the pack to capture the public school crown and were the only team to defeat Christian Brothers Academy.

Graduation hit last year’s division champions and NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV finalists hard, but head coach Brian Golub will have another deep bench that he will use to wear teams down.

The Patriots have trusty point guard Nick Facendo and center John Carroll back. They will be the foundation of the 2015-16 team.

The important newcomers include Steve Staklinski (forward), Ryan Zyskowski (forward), Ja’Zeem Foster (guard), Tyler Von Nessen (center), Bobby Weise (guard) and Stefan Williams (guard)

The Patriots are not without talent and are relying on players making the jump from the junior varsity team to the varsity. How quickly they make the adjustment will determine just how good this year’s team will be.

Golub expects his team to remain competitive while still being a work in progress that looks quite different in February than it does in December.

“We have more size than we’ve had in the past and are still pretty athletic, but we are a long way from championship quality,” the coach said.

“Hopefully in February, we will be much better and much more experienced.”

COLTS NECK

At Colts Neck High School, veteran head coach Lou Piccola is poised to have another season that goes into March.

“We have a number of upperclassmen with experience,” he said. “We’re seniorbased. It should be a fun year.

“We should be competitive. It comes down to staying healthy.”

Senior guard Lloyd Daniels could be ready to join the Shore’s elite this winter. The 6-foot-3 Daniels has proved to be a clutch shooter for the Cougars and can score from the inside or outside.

Senior forward Tom O’Reilly, who is 6 feet 4 inches tall, and 6-foot-2 Kyle Gordon and 6- foot-5 senior center Khalid Moustafa give the Cougars more size up front than recent squads.

Piccola said his club will look for mismatches with their size. Moustafa provides inside power, which is an added dimension for the team.

Seniors Jordon DeGroot, Tom Cavrak and Brandon Yutko will look for those mistakes and help out with the scoring.

Because of their front-line size, the Cougars will look to push the ball up the floor off defensive rebounds.

Juniors Chris Aquinas (forward), Brendan Clarke (guard/forward), Ronnie Anderson (forward) and Brandon Danis (guard) and sophomore Robby Hill (forward/center) complete a Cougars team that will be in the hunt for the B North Division title again this season and look to make a deep run in the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournaments.

HOWELL

It was a historic year for Howell High School, which secured the first home state playoff victory in program history.

The Rebels qualified for both the Shore Conference Tournament and state sectional playoffs. As they look to duplicate last year’s success, they will do it without five graduated players, including highscoring Aaron Trimble and Will Kocsis, who are both playing for Brookdale Community College.

Matt Morton, a senior guard who played in every game last winter, is the most experienced returnee. Also back are senior forward Steven Palumbo, who saw limited playing time last year, and Matt Morton’s young brother, Alex, a sophomore guard who gained valuable experience as a freshman.

“We are a young and inexperienced team and are building for next year and the year after,” head coach Patrick Ramsey said.

Ramsey is looking to a number of players from last year’s 19-5 jayvee squad to build this year’s team around.

Senior Connor MaCleod (guard); juniors Dan Cacciatore (guard), Bobby Cavallero (forward), Kyle Ferraro (guard), Tyler Hoops (forward) and Jordan Jones (guard); and sophomores Brandon Wilson (forward), Alex Bahjor (guard), Eddie Morales (guard), Ryan Mazik (forward) and A.J. Yagel (forward) make up the roster.

With the graduation of Trimble, Ramsey expects the Rebels to spread the scoring.

MANALAPAN

Rick Garretson’s Manalapan High School team, winners of the Huskies Holiday Tournament last year and a Shore Conference Tournament and state qualifier, also lost a lot to graduation, including Kyle Mullen, who was Huskies MVP and a big inside force.

For experience, the Braves have seniors Anthony Schimbeno (guard), Scott Scherer (forward), Justin Seeman (guard), Tim Broderick (forward) and Nick Carrolli (forward); and juniors Rocky Garretson (guard), Cody Wiener (guard), John Lugo (guard) and Sean Kinniburgh (guard).

The newcomers are senior Kyle Trinidad (guard) and sophomores Brian Broderick (forward), Zack Crockett (guard), Tyrel Horne (forward), Justin Lynch (guard), Naim Mayfield (guard) and Matan Zucker (forward).

The Braves have size with 6-foot-4 Scherer, 6-foot-4 Tim Broderick, 6-foot-3 Carrolli, 6-foot-4 Brian Broderick and 6- foot-3 Zucker.

“We are a young but talented team that can compete with anyone in our conference,” coach Garretson said.

MARLBORO

Marlboro High School head coach Michael Nausedas has steadily been building the program to the point that it is a consistent postseason qualifier, and he expects that growth to continue this year.

The last couple of seasons have been about developing talent and overall athleticism so that the Mustangs can go to the bench without a dropoff in play. That development will be on display this year.

“Our strength is our depth. We can play 12 guys,” Nausedas said. “We hope to be a quick team on both sides of the ball.

“Our goal is for our defense to ignite our offense. Because of our depth, we are hoping to play that style.”

The coach added that depth will be needed because of the nightly challenge that the A North Division presents.

The Mustangs have a mixture of seniors, juniors and sophomores.

The seniors include guards Nicholas Valenti and Noah Kiczales, guard/forward Michael Jastrtzebski, center/forward Brian Reilly and Chris Carlone.

Junior center P.J. Ringel gives Marlboro a strong inside presence. Guard Ryan Larocca, guard/forward Emir Anda and forward Dan Weiss are the other juniors.

Sophomores Elia Malara (guard) and Bran Levine (guard) and freshman Dylan Kaufman (center/forward) round out the 2015-16 Mustangs.

FREEHOLD

At Freehold High School, head coach Jesse Ryan will count on the experience the young Colonials gained last winter to be a difference-maker this season. The Colonials played several sophomores and freshmen in 2014-15, and they are now a year older and experienced.

The Freehold roster has just three seniors: guard/forward Jake Curry, guard Justice Jubilee and forward Chris Hannigan, who at 6 feet 3 inches tall provides the team with inside height.

The large junior class includes forward Richard Hurler, guard Jermaine Moore, guard/forward Jadakiss Thompson, center Joe Elias, forward Chris Cassandra and forward/ center Markee Gill.

Completing the squad are sophomore guards Ashante Worthy and Kani Anderson.

The Colonials are a very athletic and quick team that will look to wear teams down with their depth. Worthy appears to be the player who can give the team doublefiguring scoring each night. Ryan, though, will look to get scoring contributions throughout the lineup in order to get back to the postseason and compete in A North.

Another thing working for the Colonials is that they have players like Curry, Worthy and Gill, who are proven winners in other sports (football).

SPORT SHORTS

Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, which provides venue management, food services and hospitality and ticketing and fan engagement to Mercer County’s Sun National Bank Center, announced a partnership with River Horse Brewing Co. to sell their local craft beer at the Sun National Bank Center.

The newly branded pub area, which is located near section 109 on the Sun National Bank Center concourse, debuted Dec. 8 at the Premier Boxing Champions event and featured River Horse’s IPA, Special Ale and Tripel Horse craft beers.

Lancers await challenges as defending Non-Public A champs

ST. JOHN VIANNEY

By MATTHEW ROCCO
Correspondent

The St. John Vianney High School girls basketball team, armed with a full slate of returning players, will embark on the new season with high expectations.

All of the Lancers who carried St. John Vianney to the NJSIAA Non-Public A title last season will be back in action. So a year after surging to the Tournament of Champions with zero seniors on the varsity roster, the Lancers are stocked with experienced, talented players. It does not come as a surprise, then, that St. John Vianney is ranked by MaxPreps.com as the No. 1 team in New Jersey.

Still, a merciless schedule awaits the Lancers. As in past seasons, the Lancers have penciled in as many powerhouses as they could fit in the regular-season calendar, strengthening a schedule that already includes games against the Shore Conference’s fiercely competitive A Central Division. The Lancers are well aware that the path to defending their state championship will be a rough one.

“It’s exciting in one aspect to have the attention and everybody looking at us, but we have to understand that we are going to get everybody’s best when we step out on the court. We are going to go through a full season of getting everybody’s best,” head coach Dawn Karpell said.

With that understanding, the Lancers believe they are up to the task. The Lancers will go to battle with a star-studded senior class that includes point guard Kelly Campbell, who is entering her fourth year as a starter. The DePaul University commit averaged 14.7 points last season.

Campbell will be joined in the backcourt by fellow seniors Kellie Crouch, Tina Lebron and Vanessa Pinho. Senior forwards Gigi Caponegro, Zoe Pero and Megan Furch, along with junior Kim Evans, will be part of a formidable frontcourt. The 6-foot- 3 Evans was second on the team in scoring a year ago.

The Lancers will benefit from a strong junior class that consists of Evans, Courtney Dobrzynski, Julia Ramos, Riley Kehoe and Abby Anderko. Freshman Sarah Karpell and sophomores Madison Doring and Sarah Furch will also contribute to a deep roster for the 2015-16 season.

“I’m excited that we not only have a lot of seniors, but juniors. We have a lot of experience back — many girls who have been through our program for two and three years,” Karpell said.

The number of veterans allows the ninth-year head coach to push the Lancers further than she did last season, focusing on more than just the fundamentals.

“I can get on them for the little things,” Karpell said. “We know that we are going to be heavy favorites on most nights. We want to make sure that we take advantage of mismatches.”

St. John Vianney will be thrown right into the fire. The quest for another state crown begins on the road Dec. 19 in a showcase against Matawan Regional High School. The opener will be followed by a divisional game at home vs. Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School Dec. 21. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The Lancers will then travel to Orlando, Florida, to face elite teams from around the country at the KSA Holiday Basketball Tournament after Christmas.

From the gym at St. John Vianney to Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the Lancers do not expect any breathing room to start the new season. Their January schedule includes Christ the King High School, Eastside High School (Paterson), Gill St. Bernard’s School and Manasquan High School — one of the team’s strongest A Central opponents. The first matchup of the season between St. John Vianney and Manasquan will come Jan. 8.

“We’re going to get challenged early on. With such a veteran group, we set things up to challenge ourselves,” Karpell said. “We’re going to play some of the top-tier teams in the state when we get back from Orlando.”

The Lancers drew up their daunting schedule in order to be 100 percent ready for the postseason. After all, St. John Vianney has a big goal in mind: back-to-back state championships.

Changes being considered by NJSIAA for non-public schools

By WARREN RAPPLEYEA
Correspondent

High school football in New Jersey may change dramatically in 2016 as a result of the NJSIAA’s vote to create a separate conference for non-public high schools.

NJSIAA members voted, 215-128, Dec. 7, with two members abstaining, to make the change. However, there is a possibility that the decision could be overturned by state Education Commissioner David C. Hespe.

In addition, the NJSIAA voted, 216- 212, to create two non-public districts and one non-public region for wrestling.

“If the commissioner believes this is not in the best interests of the schools, he can rule against it,” Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School Athletic Director Joe Montano said.

While such a decision is not likely before Jan. 1, Montano noted that there is a precedent.

In 2009, a rule that would have public and non-public schools competing in separate divisions at the district and region tournaments was rejected by Lucille Davy, the education commissioner at the time.

For his part, Montano, who is also the secretary for the Shore Conference, said he was disappointed by the NJSIAA vote. He added that the votes were sparked by a push from several dominant Big North Conference schools that have long done well in both sports. “At RBC, we take great pride in being a member of the Shore Conference, and we work hard to follow all of the rules,” Montano said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues with the rules throughout the state for public and non-public schools.”

Should Hespe accept the vote, Montano said RBC would first consult with the diocese and then possibly other schools to determine a course of action, if any.

“What’s next?” he asked. “Another sport? Total separation? How far can this go? I don’t know what this means for the NJSIAA. That is a private governing body, and schools are voluntary members. Any school can leave if it wishes. St. Benedict’s left to play as an independent and play schools from out-of-state. I respect what they did.”

When asked if RBC could leave the NJSIAA, Montano said, “First, we’ll wait for the commissioner to make a decision. Then we’ll look at what our options are and make a decision.”

The RBC athletic director added that until a decision is final, it will be difficult for schools to finalize overall athletic schedules as football dates will have a ripple effect for field usage and transportation.

“This is not just about football and wrestling; it affects every sport,” he said. “Still, no matter what happens, the teachers, staff and coaches here at Red Bank Catholic are going to make sure it’s a great situation for our kids.”

Field hockey season belonged to district’s Patriots, Colonials

There is something in November that brings out the best in the Freehold Township High School field hockey team: the state playoffs.

For the second consecutive year and fourth in the last five, the Patriots captured the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship.

This year, they did it the hard way on the road as a lower seed.

As the No. 4 seed in their section, the Patriots had to play at top-seeded Rancocas Valley Regional High School in the semifinals.

Marie Pietracatella and Renata Baute scored first-half goals, and Freehold Township held on from there to beat Rancocas Valley, 2-0.

The sectional finals were played at No. 3-seed Jackson Memorial High School. The game went into overtime and was won on Jessica Pietracatella’s goal in the extra session, 2-1.

Freehold Township needed a goal by Jessica Applegate in the final eight minutes to tie the game at 1-1 and force the overtime.

For Jessica Pietracatella, it was the second state sectional game-winning goal of her career.

She scored the only goal of the game in 2014 when the Patriots beat Cherokee High School, 1-0, for the Central Jersey Group IV crown.

Freehold Township had gained momentum heading into the Central Jersey Group IV tournament, reaching the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals by knocking off previously undefeated Southern Regional High School, 1-0, on Applegate’s goal.

The Patriots finished the season with a 14-6-1 overall record, saving their best for the tournaments.

It was another championship season for Freehold High School, which held onto its A North Division crown.

Freehold marched through the regular season unbeaten.

The Colonials’ season came to a heartbreaking conclusion in the North Jersey II Group III finals at home. They fell to Summit High School in a shootout, ending the season at 13-2-2.

The positions of both the Patriots and the Colonials as two of the best programs in the state are the reason they dominate the News Transcript’s 2015 All-Freehold Regional High School District Field Hockey Team.

The forwards are Jessica Pianko, Tori Tiefenthaler and Clare Luttrell of Freehold; Jessica Pietracatella, Sara O’Malley, Madison Hoskins and Raegan Dunn of Freehold Township; and Kristi Schandall of Colts Neck High School.

The defenders are Marie Pietracatella and Kellie Hennessy of Freehold Township, Katelyn Pianko of Freehold and Julia Earley of Howell.

The goalies are Freehold’s Belly Reynoso and Colts Neck’s Gianna Mannino.

The Shore Conference coaches picked Marie Pietracatella as the A North Player of the Year.

Rebels expect to be tested defending A North mat title

By TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

 Howell High School’s Kyle Slendorn, top, who defeated Colts Neck High School’s Joey King for the NJSIAA District 21 championship last year, is one of four wrestlers returning to the Rebels’ lineup who qualified for the state championships in Atlantic City. Howell is looking to win its 11th consecutive Shore Conference A North Division title this winter.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN Howell High School’s Kyle Slendorn, top, who defeated Colts Neck High School’s Joey King for the NJSIAA District 21 championship last year, is one of four wrestlers returning to the Rebels’ lineup who qualified for the state championships in Atlantic City. Howell is looking to win its 11th consecutive Shore Conference A North Division title this winter. SCOTT FRIEDMAN HOWELL

There aren’t many teams that can lose four NJSIAA District medal winners and still be a serious championship contender.

However, that’s where the Howell High School wrestling program is. It’s next man up at the school, and the holes get filled for the Rebels, who head into the 2015-16 season among the contenders for Shore Conference Tournament and state sectional championships.

Last year, Howell had an undefeated regular season, finished 26-2 overall and ranked ninth in the state. The Rebels lost in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals to Jackson Memorial High School and the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group V championship by just three points, 28-25, to eventual state champion Brick Memorial High School.

It would seem hard to duplicate that success, but this team has the potential to do that and more.

While head coach John Gagliano’s Rebels did lose those four District 21 medal winners, they have six returning.

Kyle Slendorn, the district champion at 106 pounds, is wrestling at 120 this winter, and Anthony Gagliano, who finished third in the district at 132, will wrestle at 138 as part of a deep, experienced lineup.

Slendorn had a marvelous freshman season, going 37-3 and qualifying for the states championships in Atlantic City, as did Gagliano, a senior, who went 33-8.

Kris Lindemann (145), who has battled injuries the last two years, has won a district title in the past. He was 25-10 last year and took third in District 21.

Lindemann and Gagliano, who have 86 and 80 career wins, respectively, should surpass the 100-win mark during the season.

Nick Ciaccia (132) and Eric Keosseian (220) were district runners-up. Ciaccia, a senior, was 24-9, and Keosseian, a junior, was 29-13.

Keosseian, Slendorn, Gagliano and Lindemann made it to Atlantic City last year.

The sixth returning district medal winner is junior Peter Dee (126), who took third in the district, and was 27-9.

Howell is loaded from 120 to 145 with Slendorn, Dee or Dan Esposito (a sophomore who went 14-4 last year), Gagliano and Lindemann. Teams will be hard-pressed to get through this juggernaut.

There is little question where the heart of the lineup is.

The Rebels’ most pressing concern is up top, where they lost three medal winners. Keosseian, at least, can be a stopper up top.

“I think our biggest concern this season is the lack of experience in our upper weights,” said John Gagaliano, who is in his 19th year coaching his alma mater and has a career win-loss record of 355-69. “We have kids up top that are working extremely hard and will keep improving as the year goes on.

“We have a few incoming freshmen that have a lot of experience and some upperclassmen that worked hard this past offseason and are ready to go. They are a hard-working group.”

Among the newcomers are sophomores Jesse Liptzin and Zach McConville at 103, freshman Darby Diedrich and sophomore Eric Megaroi at 113, sophomore Eli Orford at 120, junior Jon Friedman at 132, senior Cameron Ayesh at 138, junior Nick Sulkowski at 145, senior jack Kirk at 170, senior Zack Barnes at 182, senior Ryan Marter at 195 and junior Jacob Nash at heavyweight.

While Howell is among the preseason favorites for the Shore Conference Tournament and NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championships, the first objective is the Shore Conference A North Division. Howell has won the division the last 10 years and is taking nothing for granted as it seeks to begin a second decade of domination.

“I think A North will be extremely competitive this year with [Christian Brothers Academy (CBA)] returning the most returning varsity letter-winners,” the coach said.

“I also think both Middletown [North and South], Manalapan, both Freehold [and Freehold Township] and Marlboro return a lot and are much improved from last year.”

Howell opens its campaign Dec. 19 in a tournament at Paulsboro High School that the Rebels won last year.

The dual-meet season begins Dec. 21 at Freehold High School.

The Rebels will go to Brick Memorial for another tournament Dec. 28.

When 2016 begins, the dual-meet season takes off.

The key match of the A North season figures to be Jan. 7 when Howell hosts CBA.

On Jan. 12-13, Howell has back-toback matches with Freehold Township High School (home) and Manalapan High School (away).

MANALAPAN

Manalapan head coach Scott Pressman believes his Braves are going to make things interesting.

“We are a young, unproven group with a lot of talent,” Pressman said. “However, there is a ton of talent on the roster. This group had a great offseason.”

Although they also lost a lot to graduation — led by state place-winner Jake Kaminsky — the Braves have a balanced lineup that, while young, does have some experience.

Twenty-match winners Ronny Ghiada (152) and Joe Marano (195) are the key returnees. Marano is a senior and Ghiada is a junior.

Sophomore A.J. Sorotino (113) and junior Jake Staklinski (182) won 16 and 18 matches, respectively, a year ago.

Junior Mike Goebel (126), sophomore Anthony Coposky (132), junior Matt Mustillo (138), junior Nick Coposky (145), senior Joe Thompson (160) and junior Justin Obermeyer (170) were all starters last year and recorded double-digit win totals.

Transfer Masimo Miello is expected to make an impact at 126.

Pressman likes the team’s depth and balance this year.

“At many weights, we have multiple guys that can win varsity matches,” said Pressman, who added he expects his team to improve over the course of the season and be dangerous by later stages of the dualmeet campaign.

Manalapan will start its season off in the tournament at Nottingham High School. The Braves face an early season test Dec. 22 when they wrestle at CBA.

On Dec. 28, they will be at the Middletown South Tournament.

FREEHOLD

Matt Shepherd’s Freehold wrestling team took a major hit to graduation. The Colonials lost 112 wins from their five graduated seniors, including District 21 champion Colin Monahan (113). That has the team in rebuilding mode.

“With only have two seniors in the program; we will have an extremely young lineup,” Shepherd said. “The young guys do have some varsity experience, and we put in a good offseason of work. We are looking to improve throughout the lineup.”

Junior Dom Theodosatos (138), junior Liam Tibbett (170) and junior John Downey (182) are the biggest returning winners with 17, 17 and 16 victories, respectively, last year.

Junior Sean Neely and freshman Jake Mostowsky at 120; junior Noah Weiss and freshman Tony Dushku at 126; junior Lucas Staples, sophomore Bobby Meyers amd junior Brendan Connelly at 132; Billy Theodosatos at 145; junior Joe Cavaliere at 152; juniors Andres Cardenas and Jerry Torres at 160; junior Kevin Hranj and Dan Giovanazzo at 195; junior Reid Oslin at 220; and junior Javier Cuatlatl at heavyweight complete the starting lineup. All saw varsity action last year.

Freehold is in the Princeton Classic at Princeton High School Dec. 19. The Colonials will also compete in the Holmdel High School Tournament Dec. 29.

COLTS NECK

Colts Neck High School, which competes in the B North Division, was a state tournament qualifier last year, and head coach Brett Jankos thinks his club is ready to take the next step and be a top-10 team in the Shore area this year.

The Cougars return a lot of experience from last year’s 15-9 team, led by Joey King (113), a District 21 and Region 6 runnerup at 106. King was one of the outstanding impact freshman last winter, going 36-4 and qualifying for Atlantic City.

The Cougars return a number of wrestlers with outstanding win-loss records in sophomore Dyon Womack (120), 20-11; sophomore Ben Sammarco (132), 12-6; junior Steven Kramer (138), 19-11; sophomore Liam Hoagland (152), 25-9; senior Pat McAteer (195), 24-6; and junior Steven Barsky (220), 19-7. Junior Dominick Esposito (126) is back after going 20-12 in 2014.

Sophomore Jerry Lleshi (106), junior Nick Ciela (145), junior Garrett Thesing (160), sophomores AJ Royle and Anthony Galason (170), senior Dylan Valente (182), junior Spencer Susino (195), sophomore T.J. DiMario (220) and senior Joe Machu (heavyweight) complete the lineup. All saw action on the mat last season.

This is a team, while still young, that has a lot of experience and will be very dangerous.

The Cougars go to the tournament at Brick Memorial Dec. 19 to kick off their season.

Their big division matches are Ocean Township High School at home Jan. 2 and Long Branch High School at home, Jan. 5.

SPORT SHORTS

Due to popular demand, the Mansfield University baseball program will host an expanded nine sessions of its Christmas Baseball Clinics this year, including a Mini Camp option for those seeking a more intensified experience.

A long-time stocking stuffer tradition, the seven sessions are broken down into age groups of 5-6, 7-8, 9-11, 12-14 and 15-18, and they are offered Dec. 27 and 28 and Jan. 2.

Costs for the clinics range from $30 to $80 per player. Registration is available by calling Harry Hillson at 570-404-2632. Call for team rates.

You may also register on the Mansfield baseball webpage at www.GoMounties.com and click on the baseball page and then on the Camp and Clinic page.

Top Notch Training Academy is holding a Winter Team Training Series. Contact to schedule a time and date for team training this winter at 866-315-5313 or info@topnotchsportscenter.com.

Top Notch Sports also offers goalkeeper training at its new training center at 111 Route 35 in Aberdeen. Training is offered on a year-round basis.

Training employs Brazilian methods that are renowned worldwide. Learn the correct goalkeeping techniques used by the professional goalkeepers. Classes held from beginner to collegiate player level.

Items for the Sport Shorts column may be sent to tmorris@gmnews.com. Please send items at least two weeks prior to a registration deadline or tryout date.

Young Jersey Blues positioned for region hoops tourney run

By TIM MORRIS
Staff Writer

 Brookdale Community College’s Aaron Trimble, left, a Howell High School graduate, looks to pass the ball to an open teammate after the Ocean County College defense collapses around him during the Dec. 10 game played in Brookdale’s Collins Arena. The Jersey Blues, who are off to a 9-2 start, edged the Vikings, 71-69.  STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR Brookdale Community College’s Aaron Trimble, left, a Howell High School graduate, looks to pass the ball to an open teammate after the Ocean County College defense collapses around him during the Dec. 10 game played in Brookdale’s Collins Arena. The Jersey Blues, who are off to a 9-2 start, edged the Vikings, 71-69. STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The Brookdale Community College men’s basketball team has had an almost complete turnover of its roster from last year.

Long Branch High School graduate Terrel Cox, who plays point guard, is the only returnee.

Yet, despite having nine freshmen on the team, Paul Cisek’s Jersey Blues are sporting a 9-2 record and are very much in the conversation about the best teams in Region 19.

“We’ve started off pretty good,” said Cisek, who is in his 25th year as Brookdale’s head coach. “We’re young and we’re learning from our mistakes.

“These kids are talented. I’m not surprised at our start.”

Sophomore Mason Jones, from Manchester Township High School, played for Brookdale two years ago and his return is giving the Jersey Blues a lift.

“[Jones] has a lot of potential,” Cisek said. “He’s shooting the ball well from three and he gets to the basket. He’s quick.

“He can do it all, and he plays at an intense level.”

Jones’ impact on the team has been big. He leads the team in scoring with 21.8 points per game and assist with three per game.

Jones gives Brookdale a second ball handler to go with Cox, which is even more important this year because of the new college rule changes.

The shot clock is now 30 seconds (down from 35), and there is no five-second rule. A ball handler can now hold onto the ball, which brings the dribble-drive into play even more.

“It’s hard to defend,” Cisek said. “It’s changed the game. It rewards quick guards.”

In Cox and Jones, the Jersey Blues have guards who can take advantage of the new rule. Brookdale is running more and getting easy baskets because of its backcourt.

Those breakouts and fastbreaks are made possible because the Jersey Blues have been able to control the backboard.

“This is the biggest team we’ve had here,” Cisek said.

The 6-foot-8 Jordan Little (Perth Amboy Tech) and 6- foot-5 Dillon Salva (Bishop Ahr) provide a strong, physical inside presence.

Between them, they are averaging more than 21 rebounds a game. Little has 12.2 boards per game, while also averaging 3.4 blocked shots a game.

The duo is also giving the team 29 points a game, as they both average 14.5.

Sky Harris (Cardinal McCarrick) is the team’s small forward. At 6 feet 4 inches tall and athletic, he can rebound and finish. He’s averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds.

Brookdale’s freshmen are making their presence most felt off the bench. They add both production and depth.

Already, the depth has made a difference in games with Brookdale wearing teams out and wining games in the second half.

“We’ve been fortunate because of the depth of our young freshmen,” Cisek said.

First off the bench is Howell High School graduate Aaron Trimble, who is a scorer. He’s adjusting to college ball and getting better with each game. His Rebels’ teammate from last year, Will Kocsis, helps out up front. He’s 6 feet 5 inches tall.

Kerry Kirkwood (Neptune) is the backup point guard, and he has the speed and ball handling the position requires.

Another impact freshman is Old Bridge High School graduate Dante Whipple, who Cisek described as a raw talent.

These five freshmen are still figuring out the game, according to Cisek.

One area where youth is most visible is defense, which needs continuity and familiarity. It has made Cisek stray from his preferred man-to-man “We’ve been forced to play zone, 2-3 and 1-2-2,” Cisek said. The solid start by the Jersey Blues (7-2 in region play) has them well positioned for a high seed in the Region 19 Tournament, which is Feb. 27-28 at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

As Cisek knows, the Jersey Blues have a lot of basketball to play before then.

“There’s a lot of parody [in Region 19] this year,” Cisek said. “You have to win at home and beat the teams you should on the road.”

The Jersey Blues have a decided edge playing at the Collins Arena, where they’ve been close to unbeatable. Brookdale opens 2016 at home Jan. 9 against Sussex County Community College at 2 p.m. Union County College visits Jan. 16 at 12 p.m.

Cougars, Patriots headline All-District girls soccer team

Even by the lofty standards set by previous Freehold Regional High School District (FRHSD) girls soccer teams, 2015 was unforgettable.

On Nov. 21 at Kean University, Colts Neck High School and Freehold Township High School captured their first state championships.

From the start of the season, Doug Phillips’ Cougars seemed destined for greatness. They had all the components back from the team that had reached the NJSIAA Group III tile game in 2014 and were led by the remarkable Frankie Tagliaferri and a cast of standouts.

The Cougars marched through the season unbeaten at 24-0-1. It all culminated at the state championship finals, where they dethroned Northern Highlands Regional High School, 1-0, on Tagliaferri’s penalty kick and the sparkling play of goalie Lauren Feaster.

In all, Colts Neck won four championships — B North Division, Shore Conference Tournament, NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group III and Group III — in 2015.

For Dave Patterson’s Patriots, 2015 was all about winning something. The seniors, led by Nicole Whitley, had won a lot in their careers, but they had no championship to show for it. That all changed on a rainsoaked pitch in the Central Jersey, Group IV finals, where the Patriots rallied from a 2-0 deficit at halftime to beat Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 3-2, on a header from Lacey Powell in the final half-minute of play.

Freehold Township carried that moment over to the Group IV tournament, defeating Shawnee High School, 1-0, on Whitley’s goal and tying undefeated Ridge High School, 0-0, in the state finals to win the Group III co-championship.

Colts Neck and Freehold Township made the Shore Conference an all-district affair, playing for the tournament crown won by Colts Neck, 1-0, on Tagliaferri’s goal.

Led by one of the most dynamic players in the state, Arianna Ferraro, Manalapan High School won the Shore Conference A North Division championship by outlasting Freehold Township. It was a fitting swan song for Ferraro and her fellow seniors, who, like the Patriots, had gone without a championship during their career.

Freehold High School was as competitive as ever, as was Howell High School. Howell handed Freehold Township its only A North losses. Both teams were postseason participants.

Tagliaferri, a forward, heads the News Transcript’s 2015 All-FRHSD Girls Soccer Team. Joining her at forward are Whitley, Ferraro, Freehold Township’s Jasmine Colbert, Howell’s Betty Feinstein and Manalapan’s Ariella Kaplan.

The midfielders are Colts Neck’s Allison Russo and Kayla Lee, Freehold Township’s Nicole Sasso and Lacey Powell, Freehold’s Ashley Latona and Emma Smith and Howell’s Nicolette Runko.

The defenders are Colts Neck’s Amanda Visco and Bridgette King, Howell’s Rebecca Hamilton, Freehold’s Jenna Huskey, Freehold Township’s Caleigh Farrell, Manalapan’s Brianna Waring and Marlboro’s Charis Chukuka.

The goalies are Feaster and Freehold Township’s Kaela Chadziutko.