The Central League traditionally produces a strong crop of potent boys’ soccer teams from the Main Line, and last fall was no exception, with league champion Conestoga (14-0), Central League tournament runnerup Lower Merion (9-3), Radnor (9-1) and Harriton (7-5) among the top teams in a season shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of the players from those teams are returning this fall to compete for more glory in what hopefully will be a longer season than 2020. Here’s a look at the five Main Line Central League squads:
Lower Merion has a solid cast of returning players, starting with senior goalie Michael O’Gara, who received first team All-Central League and All-Main Line honors last fall. In 12 games last fall, he allowed only six goals and posted a half-dozen shutouts.
Other key Aces include senior winger/striker Reid Joseph, a three-year starter who received All-Central League and second team All-Main Line honors last fall; senior attacking midfielder Nathan Bradway; junior center back Thanos Daniilidis and senior center back Luke Vaughan, both of whom will anchor the Aces’ defense; and junior center midfielder Justin Poles.
Lower Merion head coach Nico Severini said, “Nathan builds our attack and creating goal scoring opportunities. Thanos is a good passer and decision-maker. Luke is a strong defender, makes good passes and has good timing. Justin uses his creativity and tactics to control the midfield.”
Harriton has a strong goalie in senior captain Daniel Katz, who last fall record five shutouts in 12 games and allowed only 1.05 goals per contest, playing all but 12 minutes during the season. He was a first team All-Main Line selection and a second team All-Central League goalie last fall (as a sophomore, he was a first team All-Central netminder).
Other key Rams to watch include sophomore captain Eddie Wright, who started every game as a defender last year and received All-Main Line honors; senior striker and two-year captain Zach Kades, who received All-Main Line honors last fall; and junior center midfielder Gugi Sola, who started every game last year.
Conestoga has a strong core of key returning players, including senior midfielders Sebastian Tis and Colin Wurth and senior center back Simeon Dorsey. Tis received first team All-Main Line and All-Central League honors last fall, and was considered a dominant defensive center-midfielder whose ball winning and passing helped control the middle of the field. Dorsey, another first team All-Main Line selection, was considered the anchor of the Pioneers’ defense and is noted as a fast, skillful center back who controls the ball on the ground and in the air.
Pioneer head coach Dave Zimmerman said, “Sebastian is a terrific 1v1 take on artist, and will play attacking center midfield and be the catalyst for our attack. Sim is silky smooth on the ball and cool under fire, and his superior speed, size and footwork make him extremely hard to beat. He will anchor our defense. Colin is gritty, tough and a great ball winner. His pinpoint passing and efficient style of play will power our possession game.”
Senior goaltender Charlie Smith is back after surrendering just 0.76 goals per game in 2020, and senior Lorenzo Vargas-Clarke scored three times and dished out eight assists despite playing on defense.
Radnor, which posted a 9-1 record last fall, has a couple of key returning senior captains in forward Drew Warren and center back Sebastian Kaper. Warren received first team All-Main Line boys’ soccer honors last fall as a midfielder, dishing out half-a-dozen assists in 10 games.
“Drew who put in the work during the offseason as a forward, so his technical skill and vision has made him into an attacking threat,” said Radnor head coach Joe Caruolo. “Sebastian organizes the defense and looks to set the tone every game with his aggressiveness and leadership.”
Two other Radnor players to watch are senior forward Nick Lucchesi and senior central midfielder Tyler Quinn.
“Nick will bring his athleticism and energy to the attack, creating havoc for opponent defenders,” said Caruolo. “Nick will also lead the team in big-time games after his experience with lacrosse winning a state championship title. Tyler will look to control the pace of the game for the attack with great technical skill to create space for himself in tight areas.”
Haverford High School has a quartet of leading returning players, including senior midfielder Max Hartke, senior defender Mason Baylis, junior defender Devon Runk and junior midfielder Sean Boyle.
Ford head coach David Cassanelli said, “Max is a strong, skilled central player that is a key player for us. He is a very complete player that will help us control the play through the midfield and create scoring opportunities. Mason is a great leader and four-year starter that has improved every year. He is a very smart player that can defend, distribute, and score. Devon is an excellent communicator in the back that is strong on the ball and in the air. Sean is a skilled central player with great size and ability in the air. He is able to score in a number of ways.”
Here’s a look at other Main Line boys’ soccer squads:
Episcopal Academy has three solid returning seniors in forward Mark Dzwonczyk, center midfielder Tristan Walker and Sam Malloy.
EA head coach David Knox said, “Mark is very crafty with the ball and great with both feet. He is a bit of a throwback player who likes to dribble and attracts a lot of attention. I like him in the 10 spot but he can play a variety of spots in the middle and up top. Tristan is big, strong and reads the game very well. He wins many tackles all over the field and loves to go forward. Tristan has a cannon for a right foot and is a set piece specialist. Sam is a very smart player who intercepts a lot of balls coming through the middle and is quick to turn defense into attack. He has an incredible engine and is one of the leaders on the field, always talking and helping his team. Sam and Tristan work incredibly well together.”
Haverford School looks to return to the top of the Inter-Ac after an abbreviated 2020 season. Veteran striker and captain, Asher Laackman, heads up an offense and is joined up top by senior stiker Torin McClave. The offense finds its creative fulcrum in the strong central midfield play of seniors Matt Pressler and Sam Tryon and junior Joe Pariano. The quick counter of senior winger and captain Will Kendall and sophomore Sebastian Perez-Gasiba offer a goal scoring threat from the wing. Defensively, the Fords look to continue their run of strong defensive teams with the wingback play of juniors Z Nekoumond and Andrew Kirwan and central defender sophomore Thomas Kaplan. The Fords are excited to welcome sophomore shot stopper, Connor Cresswell, who joins them from the Philadelphia Union academy.
After playing no boys soccer games in the fall of 2020 due to COVID, Friends’ Central has some promising players this autumn, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The Phoenix have two fine goalkeepers in juniors Max Mattioni and Milan Pappas.
“Max is a tremendous shot stopper and has a knack for coming up with the big save,” said Friends’ Central head coach Galen Guindon. “Milan is poised with the ball at his feet, a good communicator and commands his box.”
Other key players for the Phoenix include senior defender/midfielder Dylan Posencheg, versatile senior Sam Gerber, junior defender Solomon Murphy and sophomore midfielder Mason McCrea.
“Dylan is a physical player and strong ball winner,” said Guindon. “Solomon’s composure in high pressure situations and high soccer IQ make him an invaluable player on both sides of the ball. Sam leads by example with consistent all around play and the ability to plug into different positions on the field. Mason is already a well-rounded playmaker, mixing pace and strength with intelligent runs and a nose for the goal.”
After posting an 11-5-2 record in 2019, Shipley played one game last fall and three games in the spring and ended up with a 3-1 record. The Gators have a number of promising players this fall, including senior striker Justin Curran, senior center back Jack Gillan, versatile seniors Matt Homan and Josh Uhl, junior goalie Alexi Amanatidis and junior midfielder Tanner Kelton.
“Justin Curran will lead the line for us this fall; he’ll use his size and speed and strong technical skills to set up goals and score goals,” said Shipley head coach Thom Schauerman. “Jack is both a strong defender and a great attacker, and his experience and skill will make us a dangerous team that can attack from the back. Matt can play center back, attacking mid or striker and he’s dangerous at every position. Josh thrives on defense and in the attack and enjoys tough 1 vs 1 battles.
“Alexi has great game management, is a great distributor of the ball and a great shot stopper. He has a ton of experience and will keep the Gators in every game. Tanner is a creative midfielder who has wonderful vision, great technical ability, great motor and makes smart tactical decisions.”
Malvern Prep, which posted a 6-3 record in an abbreviated season last fall, has some fine returning players, including senior holding center mid Johnny Diederich and senior center back Gavin Diegidio, who both received second team All-Main Line honors last fall.
Other Friars to watch include senior goalie Tyler Lauder, midfielder Andrew Carlson, sophomore forward Rhett Bower and junior forward Will Perez.
Malvern head coach Susan Barr listed her team’s key strengths as a full returning backline, a strong central spine of experienced players, depth from the bench and many creative attacking options from the forward line.
Among local Catholic League teams, Devon Prep earned its third consecutive District 12 title last fall, and will be led by senior midfielder Chris Walton, a four-year starter who was a first team All-Main Line and All- Catholic League pick last fall, leading the Tide in both goals and assists. Seniors Jack Friend and Deaglen Slattery are both three-year starters. Archbishop Carroll is led by four-year starter and senior captain Harry Angelis, a natural lefty noted for his excellent vision and passing ability.
Barrack Hebrew Academy features seven returning seniors in midfielder/forward and captain Daniel Wachs, midfielder/forward Danny Cohen, midfielder Isaac Klein, midfielder/forward Moriel Ben Abou, midfielder Ari Abramovitz, defender/midfielder Liam Cooperberg and goalie Hunter Kimmel.
“We’re looking forward to a return to play after last year’s season was canceled,” said Barrack head coach Aaron Silver. “With the move to the Penn Jersey Athletic League, we are eager to test our mettle against some new opponents this year, and to continue our traditional rivalries with the remaining members of the TriCounty League.”