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Jersey Shore Boca a Haven for Local Soccer Talent
August 15, 2004

With the 2004 college soccer season just around the corner, award winning writer Joe Adelizzi from the Asbury Park Press takes an inside look at why and how the Jersey Shore Boca soccer club historically produces some of the best soccer players to ever pass through the shore who continue to play at the college level in this feature story published in the AP Press
Jersey Shore Boca a Haven for Local Soccer Talent

Published in the Asbury Park Press 8/15/04

TOMS RIVER — For a team born from the roots of professional soccer, Jersey Shore Boca has become the perfect place for amateur players to establish roots.

“Our original goal was to develop a pro team in the area,” said Al Schwartz, the team president. “But we couldn’t get sponsorship.”

So instead, they worked to develop teams that would allow the best in local talent to have a place to play.

“We’ve accomplished the goal of keeping the top players in the area. You hope that they develop into trainers for other local clubs so soccer improves,” said Schwartz. “The idea was to keep them around here playing.”

It’s worked brilliantly.

The recent completion of the 2004 summer season for the Jersey Shore Boca Under-23 and Under-19 men’s teams means Boca’s collegiate players can start to pack up and head off to their respective schools to begin training camp later this month for the upcoming college season.

Jersey Shore Boca will have 43 people who previously played for Boca — on either their Men’s, Super Y-League, Premiere Development League, Club or Youth teams — participate in NCAA intercollegiate soccer this fall.

Fourteen of them will be seeing college action for the first time as freshmen. Thirteen players will play at the NCAA Division I level this year. Three Boca players will also be making transitions from an old school to a new one.

Leading Boca’s freshman class are 2004 graduates Danny Haydu of Toms River (Toms River East), Joe Cutler of Stafford Township (Southern Regional) and Jon Curry-Edwards of Spring Lake Heights (St. Rose). All three of them are headed to NCAA Division I schools and played on the Boca U23 men’s team this past summer in the Mid-Atlantic Summer Showcase League.

Haydu, a tough defender, begins his college career at Monmouth University. Cutler, a forward, travels to Rider and goalkeeper Curry-Edwards heads to Old Dominion University.

“Danny, Joe and Jon all held their own this summer with our U23 team. They had the opportunity to play against some of the top college players in the region and did very well against them. I believe they were able to gauge what worked at this level and what they need to improve upon before their college camp begins,” said Walt Konopka, a member of the Jersey Shore Boca board of directors who coached the Boca U23 team this summer.

Jersey Shore Boca has been a fixture in the soccer community since 1978. It’s named after team Boca from Argentina, a world famous club. Jersey Shore Boca has become one of the most respected soccer clubs on the East Coast. The club celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003.

“I think the schedule of games we play, including a number of showcase tournaments, helps these kids find places to play in college,” said Schwartz. “I’m sure they were looked at in high school. But at these high-level tournaments, college coaches come to watch and get to see players against good competition.

“I know when we’re playing a team from the Washington area, we’ll call a couple of the area college coaches so they can see us perform,” added Schwartz.

Three Boca players who also played with Boca’s U23 team during the summer will be transferring to new schools this year. Sophomore George Gkionis (Jackson Township) who played last year at Drexel, will have three years of eligibility left as he joins his younger brother Nick at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Another sophomore, Will McMaster (Rumson), who played in all 18 games as a freshman last year at Randolph Macon College (Va.), hopes to gain a walk-on roster spot at Loyola College in Maryland and Senior John Mortiz from Tuckerton, heads closer to home from Caldwell College to Richard Stockton this year.

Two former Boca players, Chris Konopka (Toms River) and Chad Severs (Ocean City), who were inaugural members of Boca’s 2003 PDL roster, continued playing in a top amateur soccer league this summer and were signed by the Jersey Falcons and Reading Rage, respectively.

Severs, who enters his senior year at Penn State University, played in 11 games for the Rage this summer, scoring five goals and getting an assist.

Konopka, a 2003 graduate of Toms River East who will be entering his sophomore year at Providence College, started seven games in goal for the Falcons. He logged 594 minutes in eight total games, made 58 saves and allowed 15 goals in PDL action over the summer. He was also named to the roster of the Under-19 U.S. Soccer Regional Team three times during 2004 and has competed in 14 national and international games with the U.S. Regional Team in 2004.

“The goal of any collegiate soccer player over the summer should be to practice in a highly intense environment, keep their fitness and strength up and play games at the highest competitive level possible,” coach Konopka said. “Our club has historically provided this type environment to our college players and this year was no different. Any player who participated on our U23 or U19 teams this summer experienced some of that environment.”

Published August 15, 2004
Asbury Park Press