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Nov 01, 2022

Middletown North Boys’ Soccer Team Racking up Shutouts

By Tim Morris

The Middletown North’s boys’ soccer team has always been a “tough out.” Just ask any of the schools in the rugged Shore Conference A North Division, and they will attest to the Lions’ hard-working, aggressive style. It has made North a tough team to play, but that hasn’t translated to many victories for them. This fall, the Lions would like to flip that script.

“We’ve always been right there in the close games,” said Head Coach Eric Morley. “We’d like to close that gap and be on the other side of the close games.”

North left September with a promising start: a 5-4 record.

The Lions won just six games last fall, and the team returns all but two starters from that squad. That experience and depth are reasons for Morley’s optimism about ’22.

“This is a competitive group,” noted Morley. “We were young last year. It was good that the kids got experience in our style of play. They’ve come back faster and stronger.”

Morley said his team takes pride in its blue-collar reputation of outworking teams. This year is no exception, and it all starts on the backline.

“We’ve always been good defensively,” Morley pointed out.

Four-year starter CJ Crolius has been the backbone of the defense throughout his career. His coach said that Crolius is one of the best defenders in the state.

“CJ is a unique athlete. He’s relentless,” said Morley. “He’s physical, smart and calculating.”

Sophomores Liam O’Keefe and Ryan Barnao, both returners from ’21, will be alongside Crolius.

The defense has been nothing less than outstanding. All four of North’s wins have been shutouts, including a 1-0 win over A North foe Marlboro, the kind of win the Lions are looking for this season. Juniors Tommy Valinotti and Travis Soto return at midfield where they are field generals, pacing the Lions’ attack. Freshman Cameron DelGrosso has stepped in and is contributing as a facilitator from midfield.

Up front, the Lions are relying on their depth and spreading the scoring wealth around. North has had 10 players score points this season led by senior Michael Colantino (10). Colantino had six goals, and Barnao scored five. Crolius is the top playmaker with six assists.

“We have a lot of options,” Morley said of North’s offense.

Josiah Stepney (Jr.) has scored four goals and has worked well with Colantino. Both, Morley said, have explosive speed and are also tactical. Matt Silva (Jr.) and Nick Dinella (So.) have also been finding the back of the net.

Andrew Marinelli (Sr.) and Landon Terrell (Jr.) are sharing the goal duties. Morley remarked that both are tremendously athletic. Middletown’s four clean sheets are proof that that two-goalie rotation is working.

“I have confidence in both,” said Morley.