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Lions Preying on Shore Conference Soccer Squads

Lacey boys team gunning for elusive division title

The Lacey boys soccer team has made the kind of progress over the last four years that makes it easy to take for granted its 8-0-1 start to the 2011 season. Still, there is plenty of motivation for the Lions to keep their proverbial claws drawn.

“We’ve had some good seasons, but we still haven’t won a division title,” seventh-year head coach Joe Humenik said. “Our guys are aware of that fact, and they want to finish the job. There’s still the postseason and all the other stuff, but the division’s the first thing, and that’s what they’re focused on.”

It has been 15 years since Lacey won a division title of any kind, and the drought carries with it a little added sting after the Lions missed a golden opportunity to win the Shore Conference Class B South championship last season. Lacey started the division schedule 7-0, but lost two of its last three division games and finished 8-2 to Central Regional’s 8-1-1.

This season, Lacey has been even more dominant to open the season and is one of three teams, along with Shore Regional and nationally-ranked Christian Brothers Academy, in the entire Shore Conference that are still unbeaten.

“The last two years, things kind of came to a screeching halt for us,” Humenik said. “So we know that we have to keep this going.”

Unlike last year, no team in B South is within striking distance of the Lions at this point. Lacey would have to lose three of its final four division matches in order to lose the division title, a hard scenario to fathom considering that Lacey has outscored its division opponents 20-2 in six games.

Before resuming the division schedule on Wednesday against Brick, Lacey will play NJSIAA Group IV power Toms River South on Friday, and Manasquan – the leader in the Class C Central division – on Monday. Lacey has made a name for itself around the Shore Conference by performing outside of its division, a resume that includes a win over Toms River South, the 2009 Group IV champion.

“Our team always gets pumped up to play teams out of our division, especially the Toms River games,” said Humenik, a graduate of Toms River South. “The win at South last year was a big thrill for us, and it really gave us confidence heading into the postseason. We have been on the road for five games, and we’re looking forward to playing a quality opponent on our home field.”

So far this year, Lacey already has wins over Wall and Jackson Memorial and a tie against Class A South leader Toms River East (6-1-1) and will look to add Toms River South to that list on Friday.

“I thought our game against East was the best we’ve played this year, and I’m hoping for that same effort and intensity against South,” Humenik said.

As much as Humenik insists he and his team expected another strong season similar to the 14-6 showing it had last year, even he has been impressed with his players considering Lacey had to replace senior leaders Max Dolphin and Dan Ratyniak, who scored 15 goals to go with eight assists.

For scoring, Lacey has turned, primarily, to junior Kevin Tonkovich and senior Chris Thompson. Tonkovich has tallied nine goals and four assists through nine games and has overcome some soreness in his hip, which caused him to miss a month of action last year.

“We were a little worried that he might be having trouble with the same hip, and we took it easy with him,” Humenik said. “But after a little rest, the soreness has faded, and he’s basically back to 100 percent.

Thompson, meanwhile, has seven goals and five assists and has transformed himself from a hustle player on the outside midfield to a goal-scoring threat.

Lacey has gone with a youth movement to replace three defensive starters, including Dolphin in the middle. Sophomore Tyler Dickson has taken over in the middle for Dolphin while classmate Evan Reitmeyer has stepped in as an outside back. Senior Mark Dalton is in his first year as a starter while fellow senior Dan Moore is the lone returning player on the defense.

Senior Logan McDonald moved from outside fullback to goalkeeper this year and has been a leader for the defense while recording four shutouts. Moore, Tonkovich, McDonald and senior center midfielder Joe Stapleton are the four captains.

“Having Logan back there gives us a senior to help us direct the younger guys back there,” Humenik said. “All of our captains have kept our practices intense and been big for us on the field. It’s tough to replace the guys we lost but our captains have been instrumental in helping us get back to where we need to be.”

cleanteeth September 30, 2011 at 11:08 AM
Nice to see a story about soccer in the Patch, the boys have worked hard and deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts. Now how about a shout out to the girls team who beat Manchester 2-0 just this past week.
USConstitution September 30, 2011 at 12:38 PM
Way to go LTHS Boys soccer!!! Kudos to Lacey soccer clubs for being an excellent training program that feeds our high school teams their stars! Parents, all those years of hours on the sidelines at Hebrew and Gille park are finally showing their worth. Thank you for your support! Also, please take note that Lacey soccer players are consistently showing honor and sportsmanship in their play. They are a credit to their parents and their community.
John G Corino September 30, 2011 at 01:18 PM
i`m with you on the girls winning.
cleanteeth September 30, 2011 at 03:49 PM
I agree USConstitution, Lacey Soccer Club, it's great board and even greater volunteer coaches do deserve a little credit it. They have managed to keep our children involved and focus, and have been a terrific gateway to the accomplishments of most of these players, if not all. Most of these players have been participating in the club since they have been five or six years old.
tr September 30, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Having had three kids play club soccer in NJ and two of them play NCAA Div. I here in NJ, I will tell you all, from experience, that acedemic or school soccer programs are the lowest level of competition that they played in. They were identified for college level play at the ODP(Olympic Development Program) not for their high school play. The college coachs start the ID process at ODP at the age of under-13 and follow the kids thru under-19. This requires year round commitment of both gifted athletes and their parents or other financial supporters. It does get rather expensive. Yes, thank the club system for your schools success or failures on the soccer fields. Traditionally, high school teachers(NJEA members) who get first crack at the coaching jobs and STIPENDS, by contract, are handed winning teams already prepared by dedicated club coachs.
crazycat October 01, 2011 at 11:46 PM
The fact is the majority of the boys playing for the LTHS soccer teams haven't played for the Lacey Soccer Club in years. The Lacey Soccer Club has become, at best, a travel Rec. program forcing players with a desire to compete at the highest level to leave their LSC team and play for a different club focused on high level player development (real development). The LSC leadership, especially the president, have unfortunately driven the club into the ground because of a close minded, self centered approach to youth soccer. So, the Kudos should go to the surrounding clubs (Alliance, Beachwood, Berkeley, Boca, NJSA, TRFC, Twin County, etc.) who have taken our Lacey boys and girls on to their club teams enabling them to play soccer at their full potential. The LTHS soccer program is benefiting from your hard work!!!
joe bloe October 02, 2011 at 01:29 AM
way to pat yourself on the back LSC, you should be ashamed
USConstitution October 03, 2011 at 12:01 AM
1. I am in no way affiliated with LSC 2. It is unfortunate that you had a negative experience with LSC Joe, but that is not the case with my children who now are in college. 3. There are countless parents and volunteer coaches who deserve credit for building our high school soccer players skills along the way. I honestly just wanted to recognize them (whatever club they are part of!) 4. LSC is still training our players from age 5 and up. Take a look a Hebrew park most nights, they are out there building a love of soccer. Perhaps improvements are needed in the system, but there are dedicated parents and coaches supporting the current system who deserve credit. 5. LTHS volleyball and lacrosse teams do not have this and there is a definite need for community based training (with its flaws and all). 6. I always say, don't complain....make a change. LSC board members are elected by the club members. Why not run for a position and improve the system crazycat?

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