Red Bank Catholic girls’ soccer team clicking earlier than expected

Red Bank Catholic High School midfielder Reagan Pauwels moves the ball up field during a girls' soccer game in Red Bank on Sept. 17.
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Red Bank Catholic High School midfielder Reagan Pauwels moves the ball up field during a girls' soccer game in Red Bank on Sept. 17.

The Red Bank Catholic High School girls’ soccer team is breaking in six new starters and a new system in 2019, switching from a 3-5-2, featuring five midfielders, to a 4-3-3, featuring four defenders.

This all should make for a huge adjustment period early in the fall campaign. Red Bank Catholic coach Frank Lawrence claims it is making for a huge adjustment period early in the fall campaign.

Except it doesn’t seem like the Caseys really need time to adjust. They look perfectly used to their new players and alignment.

Red Bank Catholic is off to a 6-1 start to the new season. It won a recent contest 9-0, over Raritan High School on Sept. 17 at home. It has outscored opponents, 26-5.

As a lot of people everywhere always say, all the pieces matter, and they are all thriving for the Caseys.

“I was thinking we could be good, but there were a lot of question marks,” Lawrence said. “We’ve overachieved.”

Red Bank Catholic has overachieved because its new players have seamlessly replaced the old ones.

Three freshmen, defender Kelsey Peduto, midfielder Gianna Romeo and midfielder/forward Noel Pauwels, are starting and playing like seasoned, elite varsity players. They never needed a growth period where they learned to take practice seriously and allowed the game to slow down.

The culture of soccer today, where young, talented players play for serious club teams year round, often ingrains the values of practice and slows the game down before kids even get to high school.

“They don’t look like freshmen out there and they don’t act like freshmen,” Lawrence said.

Pauwels’ older sister, senior Reagan Pauwels, is also a newcomer to the Caseys’ lineup. The two-way midfielder and Cornell University commit spent last year playing with the Players Development Academy club team. But once she committed to a Division 1 program, it made sense to return to high school soccer and play with her sister.

Lawrence was certainly ok with it, too. The decision landed him one of the best midfielders in the state. Pauwels has five goals and four assists in 2019. She also “wins balls,” Lawrence said, and helps the Caseys control possession.

The Caseys have three players in their lineup with at least five goals already. Reagan Pauwels is one. Returning starter Morgan Cupo is another. And the third is yet another newcomer, of sorts.

Senior forward Katelyn Bertoldo didn’t start or play up front last fall. She played defense when she played, but she was always good in the air. So this year, Lawrence moved her up to forward, and she has six goals.

Katelyn always can score,” Lawrence said. “She has worked hard this year to prove that.”

There were supposed to be growing pains this year because the Caseys lost a lot of talented players. Last year’s team went 16-4 and reached both the Shore Conference Tournament championship and the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A Tournament final, losing both.

Now though, after this start, Lawrence thinks these Caseys can enjoy a similar campaign, and perhaps even win those title games.

“We’re difficult to defend because we can attack in so many different ways,” he said. “You have to shut down five or six kids and I don’t know who can do that.”