The excitement and energy surrounding the 2022 season for the Pope John High School boys’ soccer program is at a high level-and for seemingly very good reason. The Lions have a strong core of returning varsity student athletes, along with a vast number of newcomers looking to make an immediate impact on the varsity lineup.
Pope John tallied eight overall victories and advanced to the NJSIAA Non-Public A Sectional Tournament quarterfinal round last year. They are scheduled to open the regular season with a home match versus Morris Knolls on September 8.
“[We want to] work hard at every training and every game with faith, passion, belief, dedication, persistence and perseverance,” Pope John head coach Christian Ardila said. “[We have a] young energetic group that will look to be combative in every game. We have some key returning players in the starting lineup and some promising young talent.”
Key returnees for Pope John include Stevan Patino (forward, junior), Sam Wenger (goal keeper, junior), Ryan Mondragon (midfielder, senior), Jacob Burns (defender, senior), Lucas Pico (defender, senior), Jayden Angner (defender, junior), Greg Marino (defender, junior), Nicholas Cetani (defender, sophomore) and Davis Dingus (forward, senior).
Among those who are new to the varsity roster are Shaloom Bakinahe (defender, junior), Tyson Morro (defender, junior), Ethan Lu (defender, junior), Alexander Grubbs (midfielder, junior), Brandon Pincus (midfielder, junior), Boban Kovacevic (forward, freshman), Emmanuel Vargas (defender, freshman), Nicholas Acito (midfielder, freshman) and Sri Moorthy (midfielder, sophomore).
“The projected team captains for the season are Stevan Patino, Sam Wenger and Ryan Mondragon,” Ardila said. “These student athletes will follow responsibilities of the team captaincy. They will not only speak with words, but also with actions on and off the fields. They will look out for their fellow players before, during and after training and games.
“If any player is feeling down, either from a personal problem or a bad performance in a training or game, all team captains will encourage him to keep heading toward achieving personal and team goals. Team captains will be role models on and off the field at all times.”
The Lions compete in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference National Division this year.
“Morris Hills is the team to beat this season in our Division,’’ Ardila said. “Mount Olive, Sparta, West Morris and Morris Knolls... all very good programs that will be tough matches in Division play.”