Diverse Wildcats Could Be a Force in Class B South Division
In 2014, the Pinelands Regional boys soccer team scored nine victories. Last season, the Wildcats made improvements and won 11 games. So, logic may have it that coach Jason Asch’s squad has a few more wins in them this fall.
“We can compete with anybody in the division,” said Asch, whose Wildcats are gearing up for a new season with nine players returning from last year’s crew. “But how many games can we win? It’s hard to say, but I’ll go with at least one more than 11.”
Between the players returning and newcomers to the roster, on paper the Wildcats certainly have the capability to win at least that many and possibly run the table in the Shore Conference Class B South division, which includes Lacey, returning to the fray after eight years in A South.
“We’ve made steady improvements the past two seasons with the bulk of this team, and I’m expecting the same this season,” Asch said. “But this is the first season since I’ve been here that we haven’t had a freshman on the varsity roster. We have a lot of experience and a lot of depth.”
Heading up the roster of experienced players is senior midfielder Matt O’Connell, who Asch dubbed as “one of the top guys in the Shore Conference.” As a sophomore, O’Connell buried 16 goals and doled out 10 assists. Last year, he delivered 26 goals and 14 assists.
“Matt has started every game since his freshman season,” Asch said. “Matt’s a top-level player who can do it all. He’s at a level like no other kid I’ve ever coached.”
Fortunately for the Wildcats, O’Connell’s going to have a lot of solid support players around him, including senior forward Jordan Humphreys, sophomore midfielders Kieran Sundermann and Aniello Lubrano, sophomore forwards Dom DeSantos and Anthony Diaz, as well as a pair of returning seniors who will make an impact off the bench – forward Tim Kelleher and Deni Salgado, who scored 10 goals in 2015.
On defense, Pinelands is equally as strong, with seniors Corey Cusack and Bryan Marcella, junior Caden Sundermann and sophomore Frank Aguilara patrolling the backfield in front of senior goalkeeper Brian Kelleher, whom Asch said “could have started for any other team in the division last year.”
“Yes, we lost David Lunn, who was an incredible athlete, but Brian Kelleher is a fantastic keeper,” Asch said. “So for as good as Dave was for us, we’re not concerned at all about a drop-off in goal.”
And the best part about this season’s group of Wildcats is their versatility playing in multiple formations. Asch said he has no qualms about pushing four forwards ahead, or using five midfielders to control the midfield play. The only thing he won’t do is put O’Connell in goal.
“If Matt played the right back spot, everything would still run through him because he’s that good,” Asch said. “But seriously, we can play any style of game we want, and I’ll probably do all sorts of things with them, depending on the situation. We have an extremely versatile team with a lot of guys who play very well together. And we’re not going to miss a beat when we’re substituting guys in and out.”