There are 26 upperclassmen in Matawan Regional High School’s boys soccer program.
Twenty-four are juniors.
Only two, Michael Porcelli and Mal Mehari, are seniors.
Coach Tyler Isaacson lost five starters from his 2017 team, which reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 state sectional tournament quarterfinals. Isaacson described all five players as “core guys.”
Matawan is a question mark going into 2018.
So Isaacson’s challenge will be to figure his Huskie his team out.
Matawan will be the host to the Ranney School in its season opener Sept. 7. The Huskies open Shore Conference play Sept. 12 against Colts Neck High School.
“It’s almost like I could do a hockey type rotation. Take them all off and put new guys on,” Isaacson said. “But I do have a lot of depth, young depth, and versatility.”
The Huskies do not have to replace their entire core. Their two seniors, Porcelli and Mehari, and their third captain, Chris Dietrich, can control the middle of the field at all three levels. Porcelli is a forward. Mehari plays center midfield. And Dietrich holds down center back.
“We have a really strong center this year,” Dietrich said. “We should be able to control the team.”
Mehari played every minute of every game last year.
“Mal will be the leader. He’s very talented, skillful, smart and a good athlete,” Isaacson said. “He’s all around just a strong player.”
Matawan’s juniors are not totally inexperienced. Most got a lot of playing time, either on varsity or junior varsity, as sophomores last fall.
“The junior class, there will be a bunch that step up. They are all really good,” Isaacson said. “I’m not sure who yet. It could be one of a number on this list.”
Isaacson mentioned midfielders Marsello Colonna, Anthony Peters and Marco Nadel, defender Luke Ziddell and goalkeeper Michael Mallozzi as juniors with potential. The captains were really excited about Colonna.
“Marsello is going to be a huge factor this year,” Mehari said, as his co-captains nodded in agreement. “He’s going to be playing center mid.”
“He’s just really, really talented,” Porcelli said. “He gives so much energy to us and makes us want to do our jobs, too.”
But they, like Isaacson, were not just excited about Colonna.
“Our junior class is going to step up,” Dietrich said. “They are so talented.”
Since Matawan is strong in the middle, the captains expect to control the ball, pass it around and play keepaway.
“Not as much kick and run,” Mehari said.
They expect ball control to lead to victories.
“I think we’ll be .500 or above,” Dietrich said.
“With a young team, mistakes will be made. But I think we’ll be competitive in most of our games,” Isaacson said. “Barring major injuries, we’ll be playing in the Shore Conference Tournament and states. Those are our goals, to make both, as we have the past three years. And once you’re in, you never know. It’s single elimination.”