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A Middletown Mix – Tintle, Zupancic, Raspanti refine their skills with Boca
August 1, 2002

Asbury Park Press
Published August 1, 2002

Tintle, Zupancic, Raspanti refine their skills with Boca

CONSIDER the number of high schools drawing students from the Middletown area. Imagine the athletic prowess of a team that could combine the talents dispersed among Middletown North and South, CBA, St. John Vianney, Holmdel, Mater Dei and Henry Hudson.
Consider the club soccer team Jersey Shore Boca, and such fantasies turn out not to require much stretching of the imagination after all.

At present, Boca, which practices in Sea Girt and plays games at Ocean County College and Toms River North, is far from being a Middletown all-star team. Recruiting players has been a challenge, and the program has had to look throughout the state for top players, ages 11 to 23, to fill its teams. The under-14 to under-18 squads compete in the Super Y-League, North America’s premier youth league with teams ranging from Miami to Vancouver.

But Boca’s Under-16 team features three 16-year-olds from Middletown … Doug Tintle, Kyle Zupancic and Nick Raspanti. They have known and played with one another for years, and at defense, halfback and striker, they lend a full array of tools to the Boca U-16s. Making the commitment to play for Boca poses its own challenges of time and travel. But for these players, it has been well worth the effort.

Tintle, the defender, attends Christian Brothers Academy. A player who possesses good size and an excellent soccer mind, Tintle is described by Bill Carroll, the Boca U-16 head coach, as one of the team’s most consistent players and a provider of silent maturity on the field.

”Doug has never not started a game in his entire career with me,” said Carroll, who first started coaching Tintle and the others on a league select team about five years ago. Tintle started on CBA’s freshman team last year and saw some time at junior varsity, which Carroll expects him to play this fall.

Zupancic, who was considered not good enough when he was 10 to play on a Middletown Celtics team with Tintle and Raspanti, is now perhaps the most technically skilled of the trio. Off the field, the Middletown North sophomore can be quite a team prankster, Carroll said, but Zupancic has made a strong commitment to the Boca team and when his spikes hit the turf, he is as serious as anyone. Carroll moved him to the outside midfield position, and he has developed a precise touch for booting the ball to strikers from 60 yards out or taking a shot for himself.

”I have a nice shot outside … it’s not really as accurate as I would like it to be … but I like to think that my strong point is passing,” Zupancic said. Raspanti, who also attends and plays for Middletown North, gives meaning to the term striker. Carroll moved him up from center midfield and defense to take advantage of his speed on offense.

”He adds a tremendous dimension of game speed that we do not enjoy when he is not with us,” Carroll said. “”He has a high intensity when he is on the field that other players can feed off of.”

Carroll finds frustration in trying to manage his team while his players handle a sometimes tricky balancing act between playing for Boca and playing for their high schools. High school coaches generally follow an informal guideline of requiring their players’ services as of Aug. 15, which fits fine with the Boca season wrapping up at the start of the month. However, more and more, Carroll said, those guidelines have eroded, with the high school coaches wanting players earlier and in some cases year-round. With their Y-League season finale two days away, the Boca U-16s had to make do with only eight players at a practice last week.

However, the players clearly recognize the value in playing for Boca, with its teams organized to have small rosters and players of similar skill levels, and under Carroll, who is an A-license soccer coach, the same level as U.S. National Team coach Bruce Arena. And they enjoy it immensely.

”Coming (to Boca) was the best decision I made, because it taught me a lot more than I would have learned in Middletown,” Zupancic said. “”It’s a lot more technical, and the tactics, too. You play with a lot of teams who can juggle with the ball 500 times, each player can deke around 11 guys, and then you come here, and we’re all on the same level. We just bond really well as a team.”

”It’s increased my love for the game. He’s a great coach. He taught me a lot,” Raspanti said of Carroll, adding that he likes the way Carroll maintains a fun atmosphere by incorporating physical training and soccer skills work.

Carroll does not try to push soccer ahead of schoolwork, either. “”Bill expects them not to be there … their schoolwork comes first. He’s strict with that,” said Bridget Raspanti, Nick’s mother. “”He always feels that’s the most important thing before soccer.”

With a 5-2 loss last Saturday to Chesapeake Athletic, Carroll’s Boca team finished its season 3-9-1. It was a respectable mark considering the opposition. The division’s top team, D.C. United (10-0-1), is an affiliated farm team for the Major League Soccer team of the same name, and draws its players from a pool that numbers in the hundreds, Carroll said.

Carroll was in the process of finding a tournament for his team to play in the next week or so. After that, the Boca team splits up for the high-school season, after which it recommences practices, around the end of November.
Nathan Hale: (732) 643-4040 or