By Josh Lashley
'Lions Ready For A Fresh Start In Boys Soccer'
When considering this year’s version of the Pope John High School boy’s soccer program one word that may come to mind in quick order is newness.
Sure, each team in each sport look upon each season with a fresh sense of expectations that they want to reach in their chosen endeavor.
This happens to be especially true for the Lions and it starts with their new head coach Christian Ardila.
Key returning student athletes to the Lions’ roster this fall include Alexander Russo (goal keeper, senior), Robert Romano (defender, senior), Michael Skounakis (midfielder, senior), Kai Boyle (defender, senior), James Guarda (forward, senior), Brandon Felice (midfielder, junior), Anthony Crisafulli (midfielder, sophomore) and Parker Higgins (midfielder, sophomore).
Among the newcomers to the Pope John varsity roster are Thomas Alnor (defender, sophomore), Luis Ardila (midfielder, sophomore) and Jomar Banguero (forward, freshman).
Coach Ardila noted that Russo, Skounakis, Felice and Crisafulli are the team captains and will be sought upon to display their leadership abilities.
Pope John is looking to improve upon their two win total from 2018.
“[We want to] make an appearance in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament and advance past two rounds, maybe three,’’ Coach Ardila said. “[We also want to] make an appearance in the (NJSIAA) State Tournament Parochial B Tournament and be a contender in conference play.’’
The Lions compete in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) National Division along with Sparta, Parsippany Hills, Montville, Roxbury, West Morris and Morris Hills.
“We are working in early pre-season to be contenders in our Division,’’ Coach Ardila said. “Teams to beat this season will be Sparta, Roxbury, Montville.’’
The Lions are scheduled to start the regular season with a home NJAC National Division game versus Morris Hills on September 4. Two days later, they have an NJAC National Division road challenge scheduled at Sparta. On September 9, the Lions are slated to host NJAC National Division opponent Parsippany Hills.
On September 11, Pope John travels to play Orange and have another road challenge, this time at NJAC Division competitor West Morris on September 14.
Pope John returns home to face Montville on September 17 in NJAC National competition. They have a road NJAC National Division contest at Roxbury scheduled for September 19.
“[I’m a] first year head coach, with six returning seniors, three returning Juniors, eight returning sophomores and two incoming freshman,’’ Coach Ardila said. “We look to be competitive with a young group, add to this mix some senior leadership.’’