Young players hold key to NEHS soccer success


How soon New Egypt High School’s young but talented boys soccer players adapt to the varsity level will determine whether the Warriors can match or surpass the team’s 12-6-1 record of a year ago.

New Egypt finished second in the Patriot Division of the Burlington County Scholastic League last fall.

“It’s a very interesting year. In my eight years coaching at New Egypt, I have never had a team this young,” coach Sam Palumbo said. “We have 38 kids, but only one senior (defender Cody Meyers).”

Asolid nucleus returns from a team that lost only one game last season against a Group I school (a small school, similar to New Egypt), when the Warriors fell to Burlington City, 1-0, in their NJSIAA state tournament opener.

New Egypt’s soccer schedule includes matches against formidable larger schools such as Holy Cross of Delran, Bordentown and Willingboro. New Egypt had defeated Burlington City during the 2010 regular season.

“We got away from our game plan,” Palumbo said of the state tournament loss. “We are not big or strong, but we need to have a precise ball kept on the ground … We were popping long balls over defenders’ heads when we lost that state tournament game and didn’t finish it.

“We think we can do well, but this is the most question marks I have had going into a season in quite a long time. I look forward to working with the younger players in the future. For this season, if we commit to ball control and possession, we’ll be OK,” the coach said.

As he puts his 2011 lineup together, Palumbo is moving some players around. Sophomore Matt Dey moves from center midfield to sweeper. Sophomore Kennard Taylor moves from outside midfielder to the center. Junior Sam Chiaverini goes from defense to midfield. Forwards Adam Coyle, a junior, and Travis Ward, a sophomore, played in the midfield last year.

“We have high hopes for them,” Palumbo said.

Ken Stillwell, a sophomore stopper, is a key player for the Warriors.

“With his experience, we are looking for him to lead the defense. He understands the physical side of the game and the preparation needed. With so many young kids, we need someone to lead in practice,” the coach said .

Many of the Warriors’ young players joined the returnees at the Mercer County Community College team camp that was held in mid-August.

Palumbo said he was pleased by the players’ offseason commitment.

Most of the young players are competing for club teams, and Palumbo said he looks forward to their growing into the varsity level of play at New Egypt, which plays host to Allentown in its scrimmage opener on Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. and will open the 2011 season on Sept. 9 at Bordentown.

Two sophomores are back in goal after sharing time last year, Ryan Grasso and Connor Ingenbrandt.

Palumbo said Grasso is good at playing balls struck in the air, while Ingenbrandt has a firm grasp on when to come off the line to break up scoring threats.

“It’s very even between them,” said Palumbo, who plans to play each goalie for a half. “This should be a strength of ours.”

Freshmen Nick Sample and Vinnie Masitti will look to help.

The Warriors’ coaching staff remains the same, with Glenn Knigge coaching the junior varsity squad and John Palumbo working as the varsity assistant.