The Sussex County Community College men’s and women’s soccer teams qualified for the NJCAA Region XIX postseason tournament this past week with wins over the County College of Morris and Essex County College. Boasting records of 10-4 for the men and 9-3 for the women, both teams are looking to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.
This season, the men’s team are led by Tom Parry (Hereford, England) who has scored 22 goals, ranking him 1st in the nation for Division III players. Averaging over one and a half goals per game, Parry has led the line for the Skylanders and made them one of the most potent offenses in Region XIX. Parry’s supporting cast has also been tremendous this season. A healthy mix of both local and international talent have come together to thrive in Sussex’s 4-2-3-1 system. Alejandro Patino (Newton) and Ben Armstrong (High Point Regional) have excelled in midfield alongside internationals Mario Umanzor (San Jose, Costa Rica) and Fraser Morrison (Perth, Scotland). Head coach, Frank Vernacchio believes this is arguably one of the most talented teams to come through SCCC. “The local guys and internationals really complement each other. We have a great balance of high technical skill, athletic ability, and physical presence. This is one of the most complete teams that I have had the pleasure of coaching.”
Matt McAvoy in possession
SCCC’s defense has been just as strong as their offense. With Sussex’s defense comprised of sophomores, poise and maturity are easily seen in every game they play. Newcomers Cody Bartsch (Vernon) and Euan Fraser (Perth, Australia) have adapted well to the pace of play and have become defensive stalwarts with sophomores Matt McAvoy (Adelaide, Australia) and Alex Colcheedas (Melbourne, Australia) providing cover from their flanks. “All of our defenders are playing at a high level at the moment,” states Vernacchio. “We have great competition for each position in our back four, and I can rely on every defender I have to do the job. Whether it’s Zak [Novak], Cody, or Euan playing at centerback, I know the other team won’t be able to break through our defense.”
On the women’s side, the Skylanders have won eight straight games to bring their record to 9-3 and are looking to repeat as Region XIX Champions. Scoring 57 goals and only giving up 16 this season, the women’s soccer team are both prolific and defensively solid. Gabby Sarni (Kittatinny Regional) and Jill Pullis (Vernon) have led the team offensively. Sarni, who now holds the school record for goals in a season, has scored 26, ranking her 4th in the nation for Division I players. Pullis also broke the college’s records for assists in a season and a career with a tally of 18 assists so far this season, ranking her 2nd in the nation. Head coach, Frank Vernacchio was quick to praise his attacking duo. “Gabby and Jill have been outstanding this year. It’s not often that you see the records for both goals and assists broken in the same season. Our offense has really clicked this year and everyone is playing a part. When you look at our team, we don’t have just one goal scorer who we rely on. Yes, Gabby has scored quite a bit and has played great, but our entire offense is scoring and creating chances. I think we have 10 different goal scorers this year and that really shows how well we are playing collectively.”
Sussex has dominated defensively as well this season. Returners Kirsten Maurizi (Pope John) and Poppy Bignell (Northampton, England) have helped newcomers Eden Brown (Northampton, England) and Camille Constant (Aix les Bains, France) settle in and thrive in Region XIX competition. Constant has been a goalkeeping standout and is ranked 2nd in the nation for goals against after only giving up a total of one goal in all of her games. Vernacchio adds, “The partnership of Eden and Kirsten in the back has been outstanding. Both players read the game so well, and in my opinion, are the two best centerbacks in the region, if not the nation.”
Adding more defensive presence is Brittany Todd from Wallkill Valley High School. Todd has found herself playing both center midfield as well as centerback and has impressed at both positions. “Brittany is a fantastic player,” states Vernacchio. “We rely on her as much as we do Camille, which is saying quite a bit. When she is in the midfield we are a more composed team because she can both keep possession as well as break up the other team’s attack. She has been very effective for us this year and is an underrated player for sure.”
The Region XIX Tournament starts Saturday, October 22 for both the men’s and women’s brackets. Sussex will know their opponents after the Region XIX Seeding Committee releases the tournament matchups on Wednesday October 19.