Cumberland Regional (3-14-3) moves from the Royal Division to the Diamond Division and may be one of the area's most improved teams. The Colts return 15 letterwinners but are still somewhat young with mostly sophomores and juniors. Senior Brandon Shidner (nine goals) and Tyler Skye (eight) each return and could be the top scoring duo in the area. Goalie Brandon Bischer looked strong in the preseason. Fred Beck was the only member of the team to start every game last season and will see time in the midfield and defense.
Wildwood (8-9-1) looks to build off last season's eight-win campaign with five returning starters and seven seniors on the roster. Jared Irwin scored nine goals last season and joins with senior Anthony Madle to give the Warriors a solid duo in the midfield. Valentine Rodriguez had eight goals and five assists last season as a freshman. Oakcrest transfer Bobby Mascio will start at fullback.
Egg Harbor Township (15-4-1) graduated a senior class from last season's division and conference championship team that accounted for 52 of the team's 59 goals. Despite the loss of seniors, the Eagles expect to be in the mix once again. Goalkeeper Brad Watkins had seven shutouts last season and returns. Fellow senior Tim Pickett leads the defense. Grant Spoltore and Ryan Gentry each scored two goals last season and will take over in the midfield.
Absegami (12-5-2) won the Shawnee preseason tournament and is expected by many to be the team to beat in the division and conference races. The Braves lost their top scorer from a year ago (Anthony Maruca - now at Richard Stockton College) but return eight players who scored last year. Seniors Gianfranco Rifici and Payne Vazquez anchor the defense. Sean Milligan has the potential to control play in the midfield. Carlos Galeano has played well in the preseason and could emerge as a serious scoring threat.
Millville (8-7-3) returns 10 letterwinners and could be a dark horse in the division and conference races. The Thunderbolts return leading scorers Sirweah Quioh (nine goals) and Scott Price (five) from a year ago along with a talented defense featuring seniors Rico Rivera, Zarek Justis and Angel Moreno. Dylan Mills and Donald Daigle control the midfield.
First-year coach Dan Kuzma takes over at Vineland (7-10-2). Kuzma, an assistant with the team last season, is excited about the season. The Fighting Clan return their entire defense of seniors Don Money, Tony Irion, Louis Andrion and Craig Gerson. Goalie Cody Freese also returns. Rafael Klepacki looks to run the team's attack out of the midfield. Look for Keith Santini to emerge as a scoring threat.
Atlantic City (3-14) features senior forward Akwasi Adu, who led the team in scoring with 10 goals last season and is the only returning player who scored a year ago. Alexis Mendoza will carry the defensive unit and is a team captain along with Adu. The program had good numbers out in the freshman and sophomore classes this year and hopes to have more depth than it has in recent memory.
Defending CAL American Conference Division II champ Ocean City (17-3-2) may have been hit harder by graduation than any other area school. The Red Raiders graduated all 11 of their starters from a season ago but still look to be among the contenders. Zach Sakena and Brandon MacFarlane each had four goals and two assists last season. MacFarlane will miss the start of the season with an injury. Tim Hong moves into the stopper role. Junior Steve Pashuck and sophomore Ryan Beebe will need to control the midfield.
St. Augustine Prep (12-6-2), led by senior Mickey Smyth, looks to return to the top of the division. Smyth, who has played just about everywhere on the field during his four seasons, likely will start the season at an attacking midfield position. James Higbee had nine shutouts last season and is one of the premier backstops in South Jersey. Joe Gaunt, Sean Lynch and Velton Koons each scored last season and look for larger roles in the attack.
Mainland Regional (7-7-2), like others in this division, will go through some growing pains this season with only three starters and four players with varsity experience returning. Eric Lands is a physical presence and the leader of the defensive unit. Nick Sarkos will look to be the team's playmaker from his attacking midfielder position while Mike Mc- Glynn hopes to emerge as a legitimate scoring threat.
Bridgeton (9-6-1) moves from the National Conference to the American this season. The Bulldogs will need to replace their entire defense as well as 27-goal scorer Jose Mayo, who moved out of the district. Eloi Perez scored six goals last season and will need to do more this season in order for the team to compete in the larger conference. Senior Orlando Onofre and junior Jesus Tlaseca carry the defense. Moises Angel is only a freshman but expected to contribute instantly.
Oakcrest (10-10-2) returns only four starters from a season ago and looks to be rebuilding. Senior goalkeeper Ryan Costello is one of the area's best and will keep the Falcons in most games. Junior Quinn Hardrick scored four goals last season and will have an increased role in the offense this season. Delsea transfer Josh Bessette and sweeper Matt Mazzone lead the defense.
Hammonton (4-14-2) lost only five seniors to graduation and expects a stronger offensive unit this season. Jim Lamp'l scored a team-high six goals last season and will be joined up top by junior Shane Guyer. Captain Mike Lupinetti and sweeper Dan Donovan are charged with keeping the ball away from goalkeeper Drew Slater.
Defending CAL National Division I champ Middle Township (14-6-1) lost a talented senior class but still will be in contention for division and conference titles this season. First-team Press All-Star Jacob Cowan scored eight goals and added 12 assists from his midfield position. Alijah Broadnax had three goals and six assists last season and will have a larger role in the offense this season. Goalkeeper Steven Hand had 10 shutouts last season and will have a talented defense in front of him led by juniors Zach Buchanan, Adam Vaul and Cody Stanford.
Lower Cape May Regional (8-7-1) returns a talented nucleus led by Dom Vitale, who sparked the team with 11 goals last season. Eric Barikian and Erik Valencia are each four-year letterwinners and give the team some senior leadership. Nick Will and Marco Aguado each return to bolster the defense.
Buena Regional (8-12-1) has the potential to be the most improved team in the area. The Chiefs have 10 seniors, led by Miguel Hernadez (nine goals last season), Josue Guadarrama (five) and A.J. Gazzara (four) who have the skill and athleticism to give opposing teams fits. Look for fellow senior Taylor Cheli to mark the opposing team's top player out of the game. Jake Bleyhl returns in net for the Chiefs.
Holy Spirit (7-12-1) will have plenty of fresh faces this season, including first-year coach Jody Roberts. Roberts previously coached at Gloucester and Camden county colleges, as well as Chestnut Hill College and Philadelphia University. Roberts takes over a young team with as many as eight freshmen and sophomores expected to start. Tyler O'Bannon and Evan Sandt will play up top. Captains Nick Meusburger and Matt Assad will lead the defense and midfield, respectively.
Cape May Tech (3-12-2) will rely heavily on senior leader Mike Rutledge, who scored 10 of the team's 21 goals last season. The Hawks lost only four seniors from last season's three-win team.
Sacred Heart (16-3-1) lost five of its top six scorers but does return Steve Tobolski, who scored 17 goals last season as a freshman. Drew Mesiano and Bryce Aulfo will look to control play in the midfield, while sweeper Matt Gladfelter and stopper Ernie Scoma anchor the defense. The Lions have won back-to-back CAL National Conference overall titles and six straight CAL National Division II titles.
Wildwood Catholic (11-9) has the potential to challenge for the division and conference titles. John Gery scored a team-high 11 goals last season but moves back to stopper to bolster the defense. Jeff Wallace will look to distribute the ball out of the midfield. Sal Zampirri (eight goals) and Pat McGann (three goals) each started every game as freshmen and look to take another step forward this year.
Cedar Creek (7-10-1) has the school's first senior class this year, meaning the Pirates return nearly their entire starting lineup. Senior goalkeeper J.D. Langlois had six wins and three shutouts last season.
St. Joseph (2-14-1) may be the youngest team in the area with only two seniors expected to see serious playing time, but the Wildcats hope to be competitive in a wide-open division. Alec Craig led the team with four goals last season and will see time in the backfield this year to help strengthen the defense. Sophomore Thomas Tonia got playing time last season as a freshman and will play in the midfield alongside senior Mike Brady. Michael Kraus will look to give the team some scoring punch up front.
Pleasantville (0-15) will look to seniors Henry Sanchez, Jorge Ramos and Melvin Zelaya to provide leadership. Sophomore Manuel Paz and freshman Jorge Flores will contribute right away for the Greyhounds.
Atlantic County Institute of Technology debuts on the varsity level after going 6-2 on the jayvee level last season. Rich Owens, a 1990 Oakcrest graduate who previously coached at Lyndon State College in Vermont, will coach the team. Twins Nate and Andrew Henry will lead the team, Andrew up top and Nate in the midfield. Sophomore sweeper Carlos Cruz leads the defensive unit. Look for sophomore Kevin Padilla and freshman Juan Carlos Delmonte to play big roles.
Lacey Township (19-4-1) won the Shore Conference B South title last season and makes the move up to A South. The Lions, who went 6-1-1 against A South teams last season, are led by first-team Press All-Star Kevin Tonkovich. Tonkovich had 22 goals and nine assists last season. Nick Iapicco joins Tonkovich up front and gives the team a second legitimate scoring threat. John Halliday and Will Docherty provide leadership in the midfield. Senior fullback John Rutter leads a young unit in charge of protecting junior goalie Paul Lynch.
Southern Regional (8-8-1) is one of the area's most experienced teams with eight starters returning and 10 seniors on the roster. Erik Kretschmer had nine goals and two assists last season and is joined up top by Austin Pounds. John Starner hopes to control play and distribute the ball out of the midfield. Bayley Young anchors the defense and is joined by Robbie Dengel and Tommy Lynch in the team's flat-back three system.
Barnegat (7-13) should be improved this season with 12 seniors returning. The Bengals are led by Ryan Peters and Trevor Odgers.
Pinelands Regional (3-13-1) will look to improve on last season's win total.
John O'Kane, 609-272-7210