Sayreville War Memorial High School could go either way in boys’ soccer this fall.
On the one hand, Sayreville returns four key players from an NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament playoff team. Sayreville lost in the first round of the state tournament to powerful Hunterdon Central Regional High School, 7-1.
But on the other hand, the Bombers need to fill seven open starting positions with inexperienced varsity players.
Maybe the four returning starters will go up a level and carry Sayreville back to the postseason. Or maybe their young teammates will need a year to take their lumps and develop.
Either scenario seems plausible.
As Sayreville’s coach Nick Cifelli put it, “we’ll see how things go.”
Sayreville will open its 2019 season on Sept. 5 at Woodbridge High School. Opening tap is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
“We have a lot of holes to fill but there’s some talent there,” Cifelli said.
The talent is the four returning starters, center midfielder Dylan Clerigo, center midfielder Brandon Amador, forward Matias Rosario and outside back Timmy Gary.
Clerigo, a senior, can play anywhere on the field. That’s why he’s ideal for center mid.
Amador, also a senior, sees the whole field and can run an offense, though he’s not used to doing that. He played outside mid last year and is switching to center because there’s an opening.
“I need everything to go through him,” Cifelli said. “If he can figure that out, we’ll be better.”
Amador will need to make plays, but Rosario, a junior, will have to finish them. The forward registered six goals and seven assists last fall, but in a complementary role to leading scorer Frankie Astarita, who graduated in the spring. Astarita scored 20 goals in 2018. Now Rosario will need to replace that production.
Cifelli thinks he is ready for that role.
“He’s skilled and fast and has a nice shot,” the coach said.
Gary, a senior, will anchor Sayreville’s back line. He missed the last two weeks of 2018 with a knee injury, but he returned at the beginning of the summer and is almost back in soccer shape.
“He’ll get back into form,” Cifelli said.
The rest of the lineup is one big question mark. But Cifelli at least has somewhat of a known commodity in goal. Junior Nick Czjawski was supposed to start in goal last year, but he injured his knee before the season and missed the whole campaign.
Now the goalie is back to claim his spot. He has been playing goalie since he was a little kid, and he knows how to play the position. Czjawski has shown an ability to cut down angles in Sayreville’s practices. He just doesn’t have any varsity experience yet.
“He’ll have to get used to that before he can settle down,” Cifelli explained.
Sayreville has talent, but it also looks like a team that will struggle early and get better as the season goes on. The Bombers are 0-6-2 in their last eight summer tournament games, against teams from both north and south Jersey. That said, Sayreville never lost a game by more than two goals in either tournament.
“We’re trying a bunch of new kids,” Cifelli reported. “But at least we’re competitive.”