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MIDDLETOWN, NJ: - An excellent start to the 2019 season continued for the Middletown North boys soccer team in its matchup against Shore Conference B-North Division foe St. John Vianney on Tuesday afternoon.  Coming off its only blip of the season in a 2-1 overtime loss to Steinert over the weekend, the Lions bounced back with a hard fought 2-0 victory over St. John Vianney to improve to 6-1 on the season.

“We have a really nice group of kids that work hard and support each other,” said Middletown North boys soccer coach Fred Napoli. “It’s tough to come back from an emotional game, but I thought our guys did a good job of regrouping and played well in the second half to win.”

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Senior Aiden Cardella got Middletown North off to a booming start, scoring his team-high sixth goal of the season in the first three minutes of the contest to put the Lions up 1-0 early.

“I want to score more and keep getting goals for my team,” Cardella said. “So far, the season has been going pretty well. Definitely better than last year. We all came together and worked hard during the summer to show what we can do.”

Cardella’s goal stood the rest of the way in the first half as both clubs couldn’t knock one into the net.

St. John Vianney’s John Troiano’s shot rolled just wide of the net that would have tied the game with about five minutes to go in the first half. Middletown North had two chances off free kicks in the final two minutes of the half that both missed the mark.

The Lions did get a shot into the back of the net to extend its lead to begin the second half thanks to Alex Perez.

After hitting a shot just over the crossbar in the first few minutes of the second half, Perez was able to connect on his next chance to give the Lions a two-goal lead. The junior banged home a roaring shot off a second chance opportunity that stemmed from a Middletown North corner kick for his fourth goal of the season in the 46th minute to make it 2-0.

“It was a lucky bounce and a perfect hit. The goalie couldn’t do anything about it,” Perez said. “I was definitely a little bummed out from missing the shot before, but once I hit that ball perfectly it was like a sigh of relief.”

The two-goal lead was plenty enough for the Lions, who kept the Lancers out of the goal column for their first shutout of the season.

Junior Kyle Puzo tallied an assist for the Lions in their win. 

Junior goalkeeper CJ Vaubel had five saves in the win for Middletown North.

St. John Vianney’s goalkeeper Jonathan Moreira was great in net for the Lancers, keeping his team in it while under fire with a barrage of shots on goal.

The sophomore had six of his game-high nine saves in the second half to keep Middletown North from blowing it open.

St. John Vianney drops to 0-5-1 on the season. Playing better in its last game, coach Ryan Tetro believes his St. John Vianney boys soccer team is close to putting it all together and putting some games in the win column.

“With a young team, sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t reflect how you’re playing and improving,” said St. John Vianney boys soccer coach Ryan Tetro. “I think we’ve been playing better soccer and our effort has been better. I’m happy with how we’re improving.” 

The Lancers will next host Colts Neck on Thursday.

Middletown North (6-1) is off to its best start in at least the last 10 years.

The Lions have a big test in front of them to try to keep their early season success going with two tough games in a row, starting with a division matchup against a one-loss Wall team on Thursday and a battle with rival Middletown South next Monday.

Napoli is preaching a one-game at a time mentality to his club and that starts with getting mentally prepared for a tough game against Wall.

“We have to be ready to play a good Wall team on Thursday,” Napoli said. “They’re tough and they’re well coached. It’s going to be a battle.”

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports