The feeling-out process is ongoing for the Sacred Heart High School boys’ soccer team.
Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Lower Cape May dropped the Lions to an even .500 on the season with a 3-3 record. First-year head coach Joe Sterchele made no bones about the team’s up-and-down start to the 2012 campaign.
“Primarily, our youth is dragging us down a little bit right now,” Sterchele said. “We lost a ton of seniors, we have two freshmen in the lineup and a bunch of sophomores, and they’re still getting acclimated to the varsity game.”
There isn’t one part of the group Sterchele could point to as excelling or struggling more than another.
Instead, the team is benefiting from balance.
“We have a goalie (sophomore Dom Patitucci) who has never played goalie before and our young guys are scoring the bulk of our goals,” Sterchele said. “So, we have something to build on.”
Freshman forward Tyler Lunsford has been among the most pleasant surprises in the area this season.
The first-year varsity player is tied for the team lead in goals with seven with sophomore Steven Tobolski.
“It’s really amazing what he’s been able to do,” Sterchele said of Lunsford. “A lot of his goals are hustle goals. He really has a habit of outworking the other team.”
Most of Sacred Heart’s work so far this season has come on the road.
Counting today’s game at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology, five of the Lions’ seven games have been away from home.
The road trips are something Sterchele said has actually helped the team.
“It has been a month basically on the road, but the kids get hyped for the away games,” Sterchele said. “They like the bus ride, I think it helps them bond. At the same time, we’re looking forward to some home games.”
Vineland’s struggles continue
A season-opening win against Egg Harbor Township on Sept. 7 is all the Fighting Clan have at the moment.
However, Vineland’s 2-7 record can be a bit deceiving.
The team was literally seconds away from beating St. Augustine on Sept. 10 before the Prep forced overtime and pulled off a stunning 2-1 win in the second extra session.
The Fighting Clan have since lost six straight games and suffered a big blow along the way with starting senior goalkeeper Cody Freese going down with a broken foot that could cost him five weeks.
“He’s a team leader,” Vineland first-year coach Dan Kuzma said of Freese. “Mentally and with his play, he brings our team a lot of confidence.”
Outside of a 7-3 loss to Atlantic City on Sept. 12 and a 3-0 loss to Ocean City on Monday, five of Vineland’s losses have come by less than two goals.
The downside is Vineland has been outscored 20-7 this year.
“I feel like we could have beaten any one of those teams,” Kuzma said. “Right now, it feels like we’re having trouble finding motivation.”
It doesn’t help that Kuzma had to move former starting forward Brandon Alvarez into goal to replace Freese.
For now, Kuzma is mixing and matching his lineup to see what works. Two players who have stuck out in expanded playing time are junior Jimmy Hague and freshman Josh Davidson.
“We’re having trouble scoring, but those guys are showing promise,” Kuzma said.
Freshman giving Delsea life
It is well-documented that Delsea entered the 2012 season with a lot of hype.
At 4-4-1, the Crusaders aren’t exactly where they want to be yet. Playing in the Tri-County Conference Royal Division also is no easy task.
Couple that with a difficult non-conference schedule that to this point has included Haddon Heights, and there is reason to believe Delsea will be just fine.
Aiding that effort is freshman midfielder Jordan Lawrence.
When Chris Zeck went down with a broke foot, Delsea coach Tom Freeman needed a spark plug for his struggling offense.
Lawrence was the answer.
He had two assists in Delsea’s 3-0 win over Paul VI on Sept. 20. The Crusaders are 3-1 since his insertion into the lineup.
“He has a great technical skill set,” Freeman said of Lawrence. “He’s really settled us down on the field.”
Area Elite Team Rankings *
1. Millville (5-1-1) — The Bolts continue to hold their own in the CAL American.
2. Buena (3-1) — Big date at Millville today in a CAL crossover game.
3. Cumberland (4-2) — The Colts have lost two in a row as schedule toughens.
4. St. Augustine (2-3-1) — Hermits played South Jersey power Shawnee well despite a 2-0 loss.
5. Delsea (4-4-1) — Crusaders have won 3-of-4 games to begin their climb.
6. Sacred Heart (3-3) — The Lions continue to hover at .500 for the time being.
* Records through Tuesday