High school is back and so are high school athletics. The following is a look at several teams from within the Diocese of Trenton that have potential for a big season.
CHRISTIAN BROTHERS ACADEMY BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
The Lincroft school regained its state dominance last year by winning a record 25th Meet of Champions title along with its 31st Non-Public A championship, 37th Shore Conference crown and 53rd Monmouth County trophy.
Junior Joe Barrett returns after winning the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Non-Public A Group championships. His time of 14:59.8 in the Shore meet was the second best 5000 time in New Jersey last year. Barrett finished seventh in the Meet of Champs.
Other key returnees are seniors Jack Falkowski and Alex Kemp. Falkowski was 15th in the MOC, seventh in Non-Public A and fourth in the Shore Conference meet. Kemp was sixth in the Shore Conference and 12th in the Groups. Several other runners are ready to step up and maintain the incredible tradition CBA has established in cross country.
“The boys have worked extremely hard this summer,” coach Sean McCafferty said. “I believe they have the potential to be better than last year and one of the best teams in CBA history. If they stay healthy and continue to care about each other, they will be tough to beat.”
DONOVAN CATHOLIC GIRLS TENNIS
The Donovan Catholic tennis team suffered two key losses but also return plenty of talent from a squad that won the Ocean County Tournament and finished 17-2. Team members are (from left to right) Jess Placa, Sheryll Tamakloe, Kat Schuler, Bella Ayres, Stephanie Stulich, Gianna Rao, Mia Bagabaldo, Emma Cookson. Courtesy photo
The Toms River school lost its first and third singles players but talent remains from last year’s 17-2 Ocean County Tournament champions.
Senior Bella Ayres goes from second to first singles after reaching the OCT finals in 2022. Senior captain Gianna Rao moves from second doubles (where she won the Ocean County Tournament with Kat Schuler) to second singles, and sophomore Stephanie Stulich is at third singles after playing volleyball last year.
Three doubles players return in seniors Schuler and Jess Placa and junior Sheryll Tamakloe. Placa-Tamakloe were unbeaten and won the OCT title at second doubles last year. Sophomore Emma Cookson completes the doubles team, while sophomore Audrey Barrett, freshman Sophia Wall and currently injured senior Mia Bagabaldo could also make an impact.
“I still think we will be in contention for a conference title and am hoping we can repeat as Ocean County Champs,” said coach Tom Connerton, whose team has won 70 straight Shore Conference matches. “We will be pushed, but our scrimmages have looked encouraging so far. It says a lot about our program to lose our one and three and still be competitive. My JV coach, Bill Dudley, does an excellent job of preparing our young players.”
NOTRE DAME GIRLS FIELD HOCKEY
Katherine Bauman (33) and Kailie Zebick (17) are two of the key returnees to a potentially dangerous Red Bank Catholic volleyball team this fall. Jen Harms photo / jharmsphotography.com
The Lawrenceville squad returns its top three scorers from a 12-6 team and if some young defenders step up, look out for the Irish.
Offensive firepower will come from Amanda Dressel (11 goals, 6 assists), junior Ellie Marrone (10 goals, 10 assists) and sophomore Clementine Bowden (9 goals, 5 assists).
“Those three were wonderful last year as they were willing to play different positions depending on the needs of the team and what would work best against each opponent,” coach Cheryl Harris said. “Amanda's got great stickwork, Ellie is my rebounder and Clem has a great final touch.”
Also back is senior goalie Adeline Ihlefeld, who made 108 saves last year “and is coming back this season stronger and more confident. She will be taking control of our new and rising defense.”
Senior Mia Wallace is the lone starting defender returning, while senior Kalyn Rosica is a returning All-Conference performer who led the Irish with 11 assists.
RED BANK CATHOLIC GIRLS VOLLEYBALL
With seven seniors returning from a 15-9 team, the Red Bank Catholic volleyball team is hoping to celebrate even more victories this season. Jen Harms photo / jharmsphotography.com
The Caseys went from 7-13 in 2021 to 15-9 last year, and with seven seniors returning the win total could grow even higher this season.
RBC returns its top statistical leaders in juniors Katherine Bauman (141 kills, 186 digs) and Kennedy Miller (32 blocks) and senior Kailie Zebick (339 assists). In assessing the trio coach Jessica Redmond said “Katherine is showing dominance in her offensive game and has also improved her defense greatly. Kailie has been connecting well with our hitters and controls the court. Kennedy has an impressive presence on the court eating up overpasses and making each one count.”
Redmond feels contributions will also come from senior middle blocker Madeleine Carpenter (returning from injury), who’s “expected to be a heavy hitter,” junior libero Talia Snedeker, “who moves well on the court and fast to dig balls” and sophomore middle blocker Charlotte Haynes who “has great potential to make an impact on this team.”
The coach likes her squad’s chances for success, saying “The determination to get better and make each other better is very apparent on the court. These girls are hungry, and I have no doubt that we will give many teams a great challenge.”
ST. ROSE BOYS SOCCER
With the top three scorers returning from an 11-4-3 squad, the Belmar-based Purple Roses will look to build on the success they had last year as Non-Public South Group B champion.
The three-pronged senior attack features Diego Nieves (9 goals, 5 assists), Aidan Bonczek (8 goals, 2 assists) and Jack Tiernan.
“It's always a double-edged sword because everybody knows about the players you’ve got so it’s like ‘We have to deal with them,’” coach Simon Muckle said. “But the lads we’ve got are capable, dynamic and very talented, so they’ll be able to deal with that extra attention.
“I think these boys have a taste for it now. We did so well last year, they want to go that far again; even farther. They know what it takes to get to that level.”
Also back is senior goalie Jack Harmon, who had 10 shutouts last year. Harmon, Matt Alexis and Andrew Restiano are all four-year varsity performers. Junior Henry McClean is in his third year on varsity.
“We’re fortunate that we have a good concentration of players,” Muckle said. “They’re really eager and hungry to keep the tradition going that we’ve set the last few years. I think our expectation has to be to at least win sectionals again.”
ST. JOHN VIANNEY GYMNASTICS
The St. John Vianney gymnastics team lost three key performers but coach Tracie Vaz feels that this could be the Lancers best year yet with some solid returnees and outstanding newcomers. Courtesy photo
The Holmdel squad graduated three standouts, including NJSIAA Individual All-Around champion Kylie Sitty. They are still searching for that elusive team state title and despite the graduation losses, coach Tracie Vaz said “I think this is the best team we’re gonna have yet. I’m extremely excited.”
Part of that optimism stems from the return from injury of high-level sophomore Christina Fallon, who Vaz said “is very, very talented. She will be one to watch for sure.”
Also back are sophomore Reese Albano and junior Lillian Murphy. Vaz is especially excited about an incoming freshman class that features high level gymnasts Kate DeSimone, Dayton Stringer, Mia Giordano and Francesca Patino. Other newcomers are sophomore Giovannina Beltra and senior Victoria Fitlin, who attend Ranney, Tinton Falls but can compete for the Lancers because Ranney doesn’t have a program.
“We have never had this many high-level girls in All-Around before,” Vaz said. “We’ll probably be putting out full lineups each meet, that’s how stacked we are. Our team is the largest it’s been with 17 girls. If we don’t get the (state title) this year, there’s something wrong.
“It’s almost unbelievable the amount of talent we have. It’s going to be interesting.”