GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Sunday was an easy day of recruiting for Richard Stockton College men's soccer coach Jeff Haines.
Rather than traveling all over southern New Jersey and beyond, Haines and the Ospreys brought 20 of the area's top high school teams to their own backyard for the annual Stockton Classic.
"We love this day," said Haines, who also played the role of grill master. "It's a fundraiser for us and a day off for our guys.
"It's great. We get to watch 20 high schools from here in South Jersey, which is nice for recruiting purposes and trying to see guys again."
Stockton players worked the concession stand and ran the lines for the games, which were held on the college's intramural fields at the Stockton Observatory.
Eleven of the 20 scholastic teams were from the area.
St. Augustine Prep's Ryan Ward, Ocean City High School's Steve Pashuck and Lower Cape May Regional's Marco Aguado were all making return trips to the Classic.
Ward, Pashuck and Aguado are senior leaders on their respective teams and said the preseason tournament is good for a number of reasons.
"You get to play against a lot of teams we don't normally get to play against," Ward said. "We get an opportunity to try out some new combinations and see what our starting 11 is going to be. We're just trying to get everybody accustomed to each other and some of the little things that we do."
The Hermits are consistently among the best teams in the area and appear ready for another solid campaign.
Pashuck and the Red Raiders are among the Prep's top rivals in the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference.
Ocean City returns most of its team from last season.
"It's good to get good competition early on," Pashuck said. "You want a nice preseason to see where you're at. You get to work on your tactical game and get to know your formations."
Each team at the Stockton event were set to play four shortened games in pool play with the top two teams in each pool advancing to the playoff.
Play started at 8 a.m. with the finals not expected to start until after 6 p.m.
"We've been going two-a-days almost every day during the week, so for us it's just another day at it to get better," Pashuck said.
Aguado was played in the tournament for the third time.
"I love it," Aguado said. "It's great before the season to get some touches and some actual play instead of just going against practice squads."
And Aguado, Pashuck and Ward all hope to parlay solid play in the preseason and days such as Sunday into success during the year.
"We're shooting for the best," Aguado said. "We're just trying to upset some teams because we know we're capable of it. We want to go out with a bang for our senior year."
Pashuck and Ocean City hope to make a deep run in the playoffs this season.
"I think our goal coming into the season is to win South Jersey," Pashuck said.
Ward said the Hermits' goals are simple.
"We're just going to try and win as many games as we can," Ward said. "I think we have a good shot at making some noise this year."
Note: Haines said due to the level of interest from high schools, the tournament may be expanded in 2014 from 20 to 32 teams in a World Cup-style format.
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