McAuliffe boys claim Blue Division crown


It is not often when a boys soccer team repeats as Ocean County Middle School League champion.

The Christa McAuliffe Middle School boys soccer team from Jackson celebrates its 2010 Ocean County Middle School League Blue Division championship. The team’s record this fall was 11-1-1. The Christa McAuliffe Middle School boys soccer team from Jackson celebrates its 2010 Ocean County Middle School League Blue Division championship. The team’s record this fall was 11-1-1. But in 2010 the boys soccer team from the McAuliffe Middle School (11-1-1) in Jackson reached double figures in victories for the third straight year en route to a second straight Ocean County Middle School League Blue Division championship.

Can you spell dynasty?

“We had a great year where everyone had a part in it,” said coach Pat Novak, whose team finished a half-game ahead of Lakewood Middle School and a full game ahead of Central Regional Middle School.

McAuliffe convincingly clinched the division title in its final game, a 4-0 win over the Brackman Middle School of Barnegat.

“We beat tough teams and had key injuries and guys who stepped up” in their place, said assistant coach Mike Saulnier.

What made the 2010 team’s accomplishment even more impressive is that 10 players on the 2009 squad that went 11-0-2 were graduating eighth-graders. This year will see 15 players departing. Some of the players who were on the McAuliffe team as sixth-graders experienced only three losses in three seasons — a 33-3-4 record.

“The eighth-graders are the ones who really started this back then,” said Saulnier.

Both coaches were especially pleased with the steady improvement of the team throughout the season, especially in the face of injuries, as McAuliffe avenged its only loss, 2-1, to Central Regional with a 4-2 victory on the road.

The McAuliffe squad also beat Lakewood, 1-0, a team it tied earlier in the season, 1-1, in a game that made the difference in the final standings. Greg Amaty, one of the eighth-graders who rotated into the lineup after injuries took their toll, scored the deciding goal in the hard-fought victory over Lakewood.

“He’s a guy who can play anywhere,” Saulnier said of Amaty. “These kids play soccer all the time. Even though they play certain positions for their club teams, we were able to put them where they best fit for us, and they accepted their roles. We had a lot of skilled players in the right place, and the kids had a lot of fun, along with discipline.”

Three eighth-graders enjoyed another game in the spotlight when they played in the league all-star game at Toms River East for the Blue Division — defenders Nick John and Brett Ribellino and center forward Adam Haidi.

Haidi was one of the team’s big scoring threats along with eighth-grader Greg Pugh at right forward and Amaty.

In the all-star game, the Red Division team won, 2-1, as Haidi assisted on the goal for the Blue Division team.

For McAuliffe, goalkeeper Aiden Benbrook and defender Raoul Thuroff also were part of a defense that was the starting point of the team’s success.

“We pride ourselves on our defense,” said Saulnier. “When we had the loss at the beginning of the season, it was a shock. We had so much confidence, and when we came out of the loss to Central Regional, we were concerned. But the boys played their hearts out every game.”

During the team’s surge through the second half of the season, Dylan Koehler controlled the play and deftly distributed the ball as a center midfielder.

The good news for the coaches is that Koehler and right midfielder Braden Iorke are seventh-graders and will be the starting point for rebuilding in 2011, along with left forward Yural Thuroff, Raoul’s brother.

Also in the lineup were eighth-graders Greg Paugh at right forward and Jeremy DeBoer at left midfield. DeBoer’s older brother, Ryan, was an integral part of the previous successful seasons.

“We had nicknamed Ryan ‘Rye Bread,’ and when Jeremy came along, we called him ‘Crumbs,’ ” said Saulnier, pointing out some of the fun the coaches and players had this season.

Two other substitutes who made significant contributions for the team were eighth-grader Joseph Pasqualini, who played in the midfield and at forward, and seventh-grader Nick Pellegrino on defense.