It’s a new year and a new look for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
Seven boys soccer coaches changed during the offseason, with several new head coaches inheriting the program and a couple of familiar faces returning to the sidelines.
The EPC schedule was also overhauled in the offseason, much to the delight of the conference’s coaches. Each of the 18 EPC programs will play other conference schools once during the season. No more divisions. As before, the top eight teams will qualify for the postseason tournament.
“I like the new schedule,” said John Carey of Emmaus, head of the conference’s main program.
“That is fair; everyone plays with everyone and you can clearly see where people stand. I know I’m going to lose a non-conference game, but I was willing to sacrifice that to make sure things were fair. I think everyone has taken to it, really.”
Cari’s Green Hornets are preseason favorites to win the conference and District 11, Class 4A crowns.
However, they can expect a lot of competition.
Several of the EPC’s top soccer schools are debuting new head coaches. Scott Mang, a longtime assistant to Patrick Byrnes, inherits the Parkland job, while newcomer Tyler Nolan takes control of the Freedom, last season’s conference champion under Matthew Reitler.
Let’s take a closer look at the EPC landscape:
Emmaus. Surprise? Surprise? No, not at all. The Green Hornets (14-5-5 overall last year, 10-2-4 EPC) have played in 11 straight District 11 finals and won the last three.
They lost some talent from last year’s team, especially the imposing defense that featured two-time all-state pick Jayden Amato. But seniors Ivan Delgado (defense), Ryan Latchford (midfield), Max McGrath (goalie) and Blaze Verastra (utility) are poised to keep the program elite.
Junior Ryan Kiernan scored 14 goals as a sophomore and is a proven forward.
“Pedigree,” coach John Carey said of the team’s calling card. “These kids understand the expectations and the desire to be the best. It’s a pretty cohesive unit that will move the ball and score goals.”
1. Central Catal
It should be interesting to watch this team and score goals in the groups. The Vikings have the EPC’s top scorer, Maxime Comperda (34 goals, 5 assists), remaining on the senior team.
Coach Taylor Holk’s squad (18-4-2, 13-1-2) reached the conference semifinals and won the District 11 Class 2A crown a season ago. They should be dynamic again thanks to Camperda, Pierce Wagner, Raphael Wolf and Danny Patruno. Together, they scored 41 goals and provided 15 assists.
Young players will need to pick up the slack as Central Catholic looks to repeat as district champions.
“We intend to defend our title,” Holka said, “and we consider ourselves a top-five team in the conference.”
Coach Jerry Petrozelli has turned a struggling program into a consistent championship contender in his fifth season.
The Blue Eagles (15-5, 13-3) return two top-tier talents from last year’s team in Nolan Booth (goalie) and Zach McKinney (midfielder). They return eight experienced seniors, including the stalwart Cole (20 goals, 5 assists) and defensive ace Sam Roberts.
Nazareth will be a tough team to beat. Again.
“Our mix of experienced returning players and exciting newcomers will help us challenge any team we face this season,” Petrozelli said.
3. Park zone
Mang is human. After double-digit years as an assistant, Scott Mang is the new face of the program.
A year ago, his Trojans (19-4-1, 14-4-1) reached the EPC finals and District 11. They lost 13 seniors, and eight of the 13 are now playing at the collegiate level. It’s going to be a bit of a rebuild, but don’t worry about the new coach because they’re rebooting at Parkland.
A hungry class of nine seniors is ready to pick up the slack, including proven scorers Ty Sosik and Brian Sladkowski.
“Everybody knows what to expect from playing and coaching at Parkland,” Mang said.
Coach Chris Bastidas is switching Cement Belt schools, moving from Whitehall to rival Northampton (6-12, 6-10).
Bastidas inherits a great body to work with in junior Jackson Wajda (22 goals, 8 assists), a talent the coach calls “the MVP of the conference.” Julian Briodi (defence), Brady Dolak (forward) and Sebastian Melo (midfield) are the other key building blocks.
“The players have been showing up all summer and putting in the effort,” Bastidas said. “They’re excited to show off their hard work.”
1. Tobias Golab, East Stroudsburg South. No. 1 returning talent among Monroe County teams. Golab, a senior, had 17 goals and 17 assists for a Cavaliers team that qualified for the EPC and D11 playoffs.
2. Cole Hilarczyk, Nazareth. As a junior last season, Hilarchyk seemingly came out of nowhere, scoring 20 goals and adding five assists for the Blue Eagles. He will be counted on for similar production and veteran leadership this season.
3. Maksim Kamperda, Central Cat. A goal-scoring machine as a junior, Camperdo had a conference-leading 34 tallies a season ago. He needs 29 goals to break the program’s career record.
4. Jackson Vaida, Northampton. New coach Chris Bastidas, the conference’s leading sophomore in scoring a season ago, believes Vaida’s best days are still ahead of him. Last year, Vajda led the Konkrete Kids with 22 goals and eight assists.
Freedom (19-4, 13-3) is the defending conference champion (they blanked Parkland 5-0 in last year’s final), but the Patriots are debuting a new coach and trying to replace two all-state players (P.J. Tichy and Sebastian Garces). .
Tyler Nolan takes over as first-year coach. Seniors Tristan Wiley (goalie) and Owen Lin (defense), junior Corey James (forward) and sophomore Michael Delouchery (forward) played key roles on last year’s title-winning team.
Freedom (4-13, 4-12) is another Bethlehem school and another program with a new coach. Well, sort of. Jason Horvat returns after a five-year absence. Horvath enjoyed success as the Hurricanes’ coach from 2006-16. He will try to rejuvenate a program that has endured back-to-back seasons.
His nephew, junior defenseman Tanner Horvath, is one of the best in the EPC and will anchor the back line.
Allen (1-16, 1-15) is home to the EPC’s longest-tenured head coach in Jarrad Max, who enters his No. 21 season at his alma mater.
Max’s Canaries will win more than one game this season as they return, among others, seniors Ivan Jans and Jose Barrios Suarez, as well as junior Baraka Moise, a Congolese native who was the team’s MVP a season ago.
Dierof (5-13, 3-13) took a big step forward last year under coach Mazen Eraifeg, who is entering his third season at the helm.
The Huskies look to continue their upward trend with leading scorer, senior team captain Brian Santiago, leading the team once again. Senior goalie Aaron Tyson is a three-year starter. Edmo Sheriff (midfield) and Anwar Abu Junb (defence) also return.
Whitehall (10-8-1, 9-6-1) welcomes home 2011 graduate Chris Malone as the program’s head coach.
Malone likes the direction of the program and its future. He will rely on seniors Gio Mazzola (forward), Zach Onsinho (forward), Abdul Ojulari-Suliman (defense) and Cole Gurney (goalie), among others, to lead the Zephyrs to their fourth consecutive D11 postseason appearance .
Catholic of Bethlehem (6-12-2, 4-11-1) is young and inexperienced with high hopes for the future, according to coach John Hohn.
Senior leaders are Paul Taylor (midfield) and Noah Zachariah (defense).
Easton (12-8, 11-5) advanced to the conference and district tournaments a season ago.
Coach Steve Gorski, who is entering his sixth season at his alma mater, did not respond to repeated requests for information about his Red Rovers.
East Stroudsburg South (13-7-1, 10-5-1) was the top team among Monroe County schools a year ago.
The Cavaliers, returning eight starters, should be dangerous again. They are led by the senior team of Tobias Golab and Aaron Jushinski, who have combined for 28 goals and 37 assists. Seniors Noah Bowers (defense), Johnny Clough (forward) and Collin McAllister (goalie) are among the returnees for coach Daniel Lewis’ club.
East Pocono Mountain (8-9-1, 6-9-1) is under fourth-year coach Tucker Reinhardt. His Cardinals return a solid trio of seniors: Carlos Morris (forward), Ethan Lovelace (goalie) and Jakub Pokhron (defense).
Stroudsberg (9-9-1, 8-7-1) is a historically strong soccer school, and Coach James Beebe’s Mountaineers will be led by seniors Nick Milonos (midfield) and Tyler Musser (forward) and junior Logan Weitzman (midfield ) and Nick Radoy (forward).
Pleasant valley (10-8-2, 9-5-2) and West Pocono Mountain (1-16, 1-15) both welcome new coaches to their respective programs. Isaac Blagagy, a 25-year-old graduate of Sayreville High School (NJ), takes over for Pleasant Valley, while John Tambasca, a 2017 graduate of Pocono Mountain West, returns to his alma mater.
Michael Blues is a freelance writer.
Tyler Nolan, Liberty
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Jason Horvath, Liberty
Chris Bastidas, Northampton
Scott Mang, Parkland
Isaac Blagagy, Pleasant Valley
John Tambasco, Pocono Mountain West
Chris Malone, Whitehall
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