【N.J】 Mercer County Soccer Hall of Fame set to induct new class on April 15 – – – New Jersey News

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If you were a high school soccer fan in the autumn of 1975, Mercer County was the place to be.

At the peak of its heyday as a soccer mecca, in both New Jersey and nationally, Mercer produced an eye-popping four state champions that year – Steinert (Group IV co-champs with Kearny), Ewing (Group III co-champs with Tenafly), Lawrence (Group II) and Notre Dame (Non-Public A).

The quartet of super teams, along with The -’s Red Birch (special contributor), Gary Hindley, Al Leister, Kylee Rossi-Flynn and Saskia Webber, comprise this year’s induction class to the Mercer County Soccer Hall of Fame. The dinner, always a rollicking affair, will be held Saturday, Apr. 15 at the Hibernian Club in Hamilton. Cocktail hour is at 5 p.m. and $60 tickets can be purchased by calling 609-731-5906 or emailing bruce@mercercountysoccerhof.com.

For Notre Dame, it was a second straight state title under coach John Wagner. The team defeated Holy Cross in the semifinals on two goals by Jim Springer and one from Dave Ungrady. Bobby Rhodes scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Seton Hall Prep in the Non-Public A final.

The Irish were led by tri-captains Bob Ploof, John Zegarski and Dave Dorozinsky. Zegarski, John Rugarber and Ungrady were up front with Rhodes and Don Schuler on the flanks. The midfield was manned by Mike Wenczel, Schuler, Springer, Paul Ungrady, Jerry Meagher, Joe Martilotti and Ploof, while defenders Jack Woods, Tim Meagher, Tommy Barlow and Dorozinsky were stellar in front of goalies Jim Ciccone and Joe Immordino.

Riding the nucleus of players who grew up together in the West End Soccer Association, coach Andy Greener’s Ewing squad shook off the sting of losing in the 1974 Group III finals. Behind tri-captains Mike Cacciabaudo, future TCNJ women’s coach Joe Russo and John Gusz, the Blue Devils went 17-3-1 with two losses coming to fellow state champs Steinert and Lawrence.

In the Central Jersey Group III final, Gusz, Rick Robinson and Ed Winsor scored in a 3-1 win over Basking Ridge. Winsor’s goal produced a 1-0 semifinal victory over Lakewood, and goalie Buff Munley’s shutout in a scoreless final with Tenafly gave Ewing a share of the state crown. Also aiding the cause were Jim Prunetti, Jeff Pageau, Bill Klank, Eric Bone’, Mike Van Wagner, Joe Angelini, Mark Forst, Jeff Hill, Lou D’Angelo, Richard DeBlasio, Dan Morocco and Chris Franzoni.

Steinert also shared its title by tying Kearny, 1-1, in the Group IV final. Team captain Joe Fink scored the lone goal. The Spartans (18-1-1) played much of the game short-handed due to a red card. In a memorable Saturday at Mercer Park, over 3,000 fans watched the Spartans beat arch-rival Hamilton 3-2 in the CJ IV final as Gary McIlroy scored twice to erase a 2-1 deficit. Jim Bowen had the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Shawnee in the state semifinals. The Spartans were named the state’s No. 1 team that year by New Jersey coaches.

It was the first of four state titles for coach Paul Tessein, who was in his second year as Steinert’s head man. Midfielder John McDowell was the other team captain, Sam Maira and Kevin Haney split time in goal while Fink, Rick Picatagi, Dave Andres and the late Brian “Maynard” Welsh were in the back. Dan Povia and Ruben Rivera were midfielders, with John and Jim Bowen, Rick Wiener and McIlroy up front. Wiener replaced Kenan McCoy, who broke his ankle early in the season. Reserves featured Tom Moffat, Dominick Castaldo, Tom Fink, John Leigh, Dan Downs, Jack Blair, Steve Tondreau, George Jolly and the late Bobby and Mike McVicker.

Led by captain and All-State defender John Zimmer, Lawrence rolled past Garfield, 8-1, in the Group II championship game. It was the sixth state title in nine years for Lou Angenbranndt’s team. In a wild state final that saw several ejections, Zimmer and Jim Slavkosky had two goals apiece while the late Tim Snyder, Bruce Brodkowski, Ed Myslinski and Rob Lowthian also tallied. Lawrence finished 17-2-1, outscored opponents 107-17 and was named the state’s No. 2 team behind Steinert.

Angelo Bossio, Dom DiMeglio, George Tiger, Chris Fallon, Rico Scardelletti and Lew Wolfe were also impact players, while Ralph Angelotti was in goal backed up by Jeff Mehler. Also on the team were Scott Andres, Ron Bannister, Chris Carpenter, Kevin Fecak, Gary Gladwell, Ron Kraemer, Peter Lins, Dan McGroarty, Joe Pascarella, Dennis Tremontana and Joe Zimmer. The Cardinals defeated Haddon Heights, 3-0, in the Group II semifinals after losing to the Garnets in the 1973 semis. They outscored five state tournament opponents 24-5.

While Red Birch was too young to cover those teams, he came around shortly thereafter and has positively impacted the local soccer scene for the past 34 years. A member of Ocean City High’s first boys soccer team in 1980, Birch played college soccer at Seton Hall under the legendary Manny Schellscheidt; and the Pirates won three straight Big East tournament titles during Birch’s era.

His writing career began with The Setonian school paper, followed by a 17-year stint at the Trenton Times covering soccer at every level. Red then came to the -, where he has been for the past 17 years. Birch is four-time New Jersey Soccer Writer of the Year and five-time CVC Soccer Writer of the Year. He has covered over 1,700 high school soccer games, including 11 Mercer state champions and 13 state runner-ups. The Red Man is also on the selection committee for the Glenn Myernick Senior Soccer All-Star games.

Saskia Webber’s standout career as a Princeton High goalie was just the start of her fame in soccer. She set multiple records at Rutgers and in 1992 was an All-American, the Missouri Athletic Club Goalkeeper of the Year and a Herrman Trophy Player of the Year finalist.

Webber was the first female soccer inductee into the Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. One year later Saskia played for the legendary 1999 Women’s World Cup championship team and was a member of the 1996 Olympic Gold Medal team. After playing internationally and with the Women’s United Soccer Association, Webber was goalkeeper coach for Rutgers, North Carolina and UCLA. She has done analysis for ESPN and hosts “On Q Live” on Q television.

A native of Langhorne, Pa., Kylee Flynn became a four-sport star at the Pennington School, winning Prep B titles in softball, basketball, lacrosse and soccer. She collected 98 goals and 64 assists on the pitch and was two-time New Jersey Prep School Player of the Year, a multiple selection on various All-State teams and a 2004 All American.

Kylee went on to become the University of Tennessee’s all-time leader in goals scored (43), game-winning goals (15) and total points (102) while leading the Volunteers in scoring four straight years. Flynn was an assistant coach at both TCNJ and Monmouth before being named the Hawks head coach last summer and guiding them to a 13-2-3 mark her first season.

Al Leister was brought to Mercer County Community College in 1970 by Basketball Hall of Fame coach Howie Landa to help grow the athletics program. And did he ever. Leister introduced additional varsity programs, created a sports camp that featured some of the area’s premier soccer players, and grew MCCC into a national powerhouse in multiple sports. Perhaps none so much as in men’s soccer, which won two national titles during his regime, reached the NJCAA National Tournament 19 times, and produced 39 All-Americans.

In 1982, Leister brought the men’s National Tournament to MCCC, where it remained for the next 18 years. Countless fans flocked to the West Windsor campus during Thanksgiving week to watch some of the nation’s best do battle. The Viking women also hosted the nationals from 1984-93 and appeared in them all 10 years. Al hired legendary soccer coaches Stan Dlugosz, Shelly Dearden, Bill Drake and Charlie Inverso,

A graduate of Wall High School, Gary Hindley helped Trenton State College (now TCNJ) to the NAIA national title in 1965 and to the finals in 1966 with his stellar play in goal. After serving as an assistant for Middlebury’s soccer team, Hindley guided the TSC soccer and baseball teams from 1974-82. He forged winning records with both teams.

For the next 20 years, Gary coached at various professional levels in both indoor and outdoor soccer. He was named Coach of the Year in three different leagues and compiled a 433-305-30 record. From there he returned to youth coaching, where he has enjoyed success in Florida.

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