Expectations were high entering the season for the St. Mary’s High School boys soccer team after last year’s Monsignor Martin B Division championship. And so far, the Lancers have lived up to those expectations.
The Lancers are off to a 6-0-2 start and firing on all cylinders.
“I think we can go all way,” captain Nino Marino said. “I don’t know if we’re ever going to lose again. We’ve got a good group of kids here, we’ve got a lot of character, a lot of hard-workers and we have what it takes.”
The Lancers were 9-6-1 overall last year but 5-0 in division play. The bulk of that team has returned this season – so the expectations are much higher.
“We were in first place last year and we certainly hope we’re going to repeat that,” St. Mary’s coach Al Franjoine said. “We’re going to stay undefeated, that’s the goal anyway.”
Six seniors from last year’s club needed to be replaced and the Lancers seem to have found some talent. Several sophomores have stepped into larger roles and thrived for the Lancers, including attacker Luke Szablewski who has scored 16 goals, tops the division. He’s been sidelined recently by a back injury but said he expects to be back for Monday’s showdown against Central Christian.
“It’s been a great season other than this little setback with my back,” he said. “I like how the season is going.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Noah Winiarski has allowed five goals in eight games and leads the league in goals against average. He came up large in a non-league win over Walsh on Tuesday, making a number of tough stops in the second half in a one-goal game before an empty-netter made it a 3-1 win for St. Mary’s.
“It’s a lot of fun playing for this team,” Winiarski said. “Our whole team is good. Defensively, they’ve been protecting me and protecting themselves. I hope to get a championship, that’s always the goal.”
Another sophomore, attacker Liam Regan, has three goals for the Lancers.
But it all starts with Marino, a four-year starter who was All-Catholic last season at the midfield position. The senior has 10 goals on the season.
“The little guy there is a big reason why we’re doing so well,” Franjoine said as he motioned towards Marino. “He’s the general in the midfield for us.”
Defensively, the Lancers are led by junior Matt Valone, who Franjoine called “the top defender in league” as well as classmate Anthony Larosa. St. Mary’s also has two strong senior stoppers in Josh Ciesielski – last year’s goalie – and Jeff Rosner.
“We’re playing well as a team which is great,” Szablewski said. “The coordination we have is really good. We’re like a family, the relationship we have as a team is fantastic.”
A year ago, St Mary’s lost the Monsignor Martin A crossover game to Christian Central, which was in the A division last year but dipped to the B division this season. CCB comes to Westwood Park to play the Lancers on Monday.
But the way St. Mary’s has been playing, the Lancers have every reason to be confident against anybody.
“We’re playing real tight defense and the offense is working well ,” Franjoine said. “ We’ve got a very small squad but everyone is playing well.”