HOLMDEL, N.J. - New season, new coach for the Holmdel High School girls soccer team. James Gelpke will be the coach leading the Hornets out on this field this fall and is looking forward to helping the Holmdel girls soccer program get to being Shore Conference and State Championship contenders.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to coach here at Holmdel,” Gelpke said. “We’re a young team, but experienced. We have strong senior leadership on our team. I feel the best is ahead of us with the talent we have in our program.”
Gelpke comes to Holmdel after stints at Raritan and Mater Dei where he coached both girls and boys soccer. He’ll be tasked to try to help Holmdel improve from a 4-10-3 record in 2017, which also saw the Hornets lose a tough 1-0 game to Rumson-Fair Haven in the opening round of the state tournament.
The 2018 Hornets squad will be made up of seven seniors, one junior and most of the rest of the team filled with underclassman.
On offense, senior Francesca Peloro will be leading the attack for the Hornets at forward, coming off a 2017 season where she scored 8 goals. Peloro scored a career-high 10 goals in 2016.
“I’m really looking forward to this season” Peloro said. “The team has worked hard all summer trying to get better and improve from last season. Hopefully we will be able to compete.”
Joining Peloro up top at the forward spot, who the team has high expectations for this season, is sophomore Sophia Mancino or, as they call her the “Hurricane”, for her aggressive style of play and the ability to use her toughness to make plays.
Speed will be a big strength for Holmdel out in the wings with Margaret Wojie, Julia Hall and Julia Brusco playing at the flankers spots this season. Wojie earned all-state honors as a hurdler for the Holmdel track and field squad, while both Brusco and Hall bring a lot of athleticism and leadership at flanker for Holmdel.
The team’s only junior, Gabriella Porchetta, will hold down the fort as the center midfielder for Holmdel, with freshman Alexandria Wojie and sophomore Lindsay Guarnaccia flanking her at the other two midfield spots.
On defense, senior Catherine Cino will lead the way as the team’s sweeper in the back. After missing last season with an injury, Cino has really impressed with her ability to play quick and step in hard to stop the other team’s offensive attack.
“I’m really excited to get back out there and see what this team can do with the new players we have,” Cino said. “On defense, I feel our group has a good bond out there on the field. We’ve communicating well and have a good understanding where we need to be.”
Caroline Rebele and Lindsay Cannon both return at outside back positions for the Hornets. Freshman Kathryn Vassilakos and seniors Megan Hanson and Grace Tesoriero are all expected to see time on defense for Holmdel this season.
The biggest competition in preseason camp for Holmdel has been at goalkeeper. Hailey Sharpe, Emma Lionette, Katrina Walier and Olivia Ferranti have all shown great flashes in goal during the preseason. Sharpe and Lionette are at the moment the two leading the starting goalkeeper spot said Gelpke.
Holmdel is in the midst of two losing seasons, following back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015 when they won the NJSIAA Group II state championship.
Gelpke feels the program has the talent they need to get Holmdel back to be state championship contenders.
“Our program has a higher ceiling than most I believe,” Gelpke said. “Just like those state championship teams a couple years ago, our program has an infusion of great talent and a couple strong classes.”
This Hornets team may need more growth to be a state championship caliber team, but Gelpke believes the team can hopefully put themselves in that category towards the end of the season.
Gelpke has been impressed by the team’s play through its first four scrimmages, which included an even match against last year’s Group II finalist Wall.
With tough games against Middletown South and Freehold Township to start the season, Gelpke said his team will be at least battle tested to start the season.
“I think our team is in a good spot going into the season,” Gelpke said. “Our goal this year is to compete in every game this season and I believe we can do that. Our first two games of the season will really help show us what we need to work on and what we can build on going into the rest of the season.”
Holmdel will open up the season against Middletown South at home on Tuesday.
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