Lions are A North contenders as Eagles look for improvement

By Wayne Witkowski

The Middletown High School North boys soccer team looms as one of the leading contenders in the Shore Conference A North Division, with senior goalkeeper Scott Weigel leading a group of solid returnees from last year’s 14-8 team that ended its season in a 4-2 loss to Hopewell Valley Central High School in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group III semifinals.

Middletown High School South, meanwhile, is looking to make strides from a two-win season last fall.

Seniors Jordan Stratton and Jeff King will lead Middletown North’s defense to minimize scoring threats on Weigel, who held 16 opponents to one goal or less, including four straight shutouts in one stretch. He made 168 saves.

Junior Liam McGregor at forward and midfield and senior midfielder Elliot De la Rosa, who scored eight and seven goals, respectively, last season, lead the way on the attacking end.

Also figuring among the top returnees are seniors Justin McKenna playing in the midfield and at forward and Ryan Harmon at midfield, and junior midfielder Ryan Binn.

Junior Ryan Rhatigan on defense and senior Zack Bent at forward come off solid preseasons and are expected to contribute to the team that finished 8-6 in the division under coach Fred Napoli, who starts his 24th season.

The team opens its season at Red Bank Catholic High School at 3:45 p.m. Sept. 8. The Lions look to go beyond last year’s quarterfinals round in the Shore Conference Tournament, where they lost to Shore Regional High School, 4-0.

Middletown South took its lumps with a young team last year that coach Patrick Petretta hopes will start coming of age behind senior goalkeeper Ryan Naclerio, who replaces graduated goalie Luis Mouro. Petretta points to a nucleus of senior center midfielder Jake Skribner and juniors James Glynn and Brandon Kalika on defense, Mike Zito in the midfield and Connell MacLellan at center midfield and forward to lead the way.

Senior Dave Sangermano, the team captain who missed last season with an injury, and freshman Tyler Jerome will help anchor the defense.

“This year, we look pretty decent. I like the chemistry and camaraderie, and these are pure soccer players who play the game year-round,” Petretta said. “They’re fun to coach.”

Middletown South had a solid preseason scrimmage schedule against Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, New Egypt High School, Shore Regional and Neptune High School, as it prepares for its Sept. 9 opener at Wall High School at 3:45. The Eagles host Mater Dei Prep the following day, tentatively starting at 10 a.m.

“After a difficult season last year, the players worked hard in the offseason. They’re hungry and anxious to turn heads in the new [realigned] B North division,” Petretta said.

Middletown South will play in a 4-5-1 formation for much of the season and switch into a 4-4-2, as juniors Andy Segovia and Christian Sigura can play in the interior part of the midfield, while Brendan Magner can play on the outside. Juniors Kyle Robinson and Gio Troia also will rotate into the midfield.

Dan Minze is part of a strong freshman class, and he may work his way into a starting position at forward. Another freshman, Jack Obszarny, also is practicing hard for playing time. Depth will help this year’s team, including seniors Mike Jarostchuk and Matt Russo at forward and Tyler Johnson on defense, as well as sophomore Nick Cataneo at forward.