The Sacred Heart High School soccer team is going to have a major impact on South Jersey soccer this season.
That's impressive for a school that closed its doors in June.
Underclassmen from the small Catholic school in Vineland were forced to find new schools this year, leaving standouts like Steve Tobolski and Bryce Aulffo to see how they looked in new uniforms.
So far, so good.
"It was heartbreaking," Tobolski said. "It was tough to go through because I then had to figure out where I was going to go to school."
Tobolski chose Vineland High School.
The 16-year-old junior said the Fighting Clan's preseason was more important than normal this season with all the changes.
"Coming in, we knew it was going to be hard," Tobolski said. "It's a tough thing to do. Chemistry on the field is very hard to come by and it's a process.
"You have to build it up and that's what we're working on right now. We're getting to know each other on and off the field. That's what our preseason was all about - building chemistry."
Tobolski was joined at Vineland by former Sacred Heart teammates Ernie Scoma, Matt Gladfelter and Lee Fiocchi. Scoma and Gladfelter are each seniors. Scoma is a midfielder and Gladfelter a sweeper. Fiocchi is a sophomore defender.
Goalkeeper Dom Patitucci is now at Cumberland Regional and Tyler Lunsford (also a standout basketball player) is at Schalick.
Aulffo, meanwhile, decided to spend his senior year at St. Augustine Prep.
"It was pretty rough, especially since we were supposed to be pretty good this year," said, Aulffo, 17, of Buena. "It was frustrating."
The Prep and Vineland each played in the preseason Stockton Classic to get ready for the season.
"We're slowly getting there," Aulffo said. "We just have to figure out some formation stuff and things like that. It took years to build that chemistry, but we're playing well."
Sacred Heart went 14-7 last season while winning the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference Division II title.
The Lions have been among the best teams in the CAL for the better part of the last decade. Sacred Heart won the state Non-Public B title in 2008 and more recently won back-to-back CAL National Conference titles in 2010 and 2011.
Tobolski and Aulffo will each play striker for their respective teams this season as well as seeing time as attacking midfielders.
Each has the ability to instantly impact their new teams.
Tobolski was a first-team Press All-Star last season and one of the top scorers in the CAL with 24 goals. He scored 41 goals in his two seasons at Sacred Heart. The 41 goals left him one shy of 2012 grad Mike Mazzochi's 42 for fourth place and just a hair past halfway to Nick Gazzara's school record of 81.
He said his new teammates have made the difficult transition much easier.
"I think they took into consideration what happened at our school," Tobolski said. "They knew what we were coming from and they welcomed us in right away.
"The first week of the preseason, I became best friends with everyone on the team. If we had problems with anybody on the team, they were all dropped. They accepted us right away, that was the best part about it."
Aulffo scored 12 goals last season and added 10 assists. He said putting on a Prep uniform for the first time was a bit strange.
"It was a little different but they welcomed us with open arms," Aulffo said. "Everyone has been great. I miss my squad, but the Prep took me in right away and I'm enjoying it."
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