NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - As the New Providence Pioneers boys soccer teams preps for the upcoming season, head coach Jon Panella can’t help but be optimistic regarding his team’s prospects.
And with a returning veteran cast that consists of five seniors and five juniors, no one would question why he feels that way.
“I’m very optimistic about this upcoming season,” Panella, who’s entering his fourth season at the helm said. “We have a number of key returners. We’ll have outstanding goalkeeping, four seniors starting in the back including our goalkeeper, a very organized midfield in addition to strong quality upfront.”
The big takeaway from Panella’s quotes is the emphasis he placed on his goalkeeper, who happens to be senior Dillon Konzelamann. Konzelamann may be the team’s most important piece as it sets out to improve upon last year’s 11-9 record.
Konzelamann, who will be a rare four-year starter, had the second most saves in the state among goalie returnees and will likely lead the state in that category this season.
“Dillon is the best goalkeeper in the state,” Panella said. “Last season, he led us to the Group 2 sectional quarterfinals, was second team all-county, and is just an overall unbelievable player.”
Joining Konzelamann in the backend of the Pioneers lineup will be fellow seniors Joe Crisafi and Dylan Pizzi at center back to go along with Tyler Bradley and Matt Byrnes as the outside backs.
At midfield, will be senior Chris Kang and juniors Ben Peng, Devin Mulligan and Brendan Regan.
The Pioneers should also be strong up front with senior Shane Mahlstadt and juniors Sebastian Everton and James Miller.
One positive about this team that Panella is ecstatic about is how close they are which has led to a solid preseason.
“The preseason has gone really well which is due to our great chemistry,” Panella said. “Everyone got better on and off the field in some capacity.”
“Dillon, Joe Crisafi, Dylan PizzI, and Shane Mahlstadt have all provided great senior leadership and that’s one reason this team has great chemistry.”
The Pioneers will face their usual Union County foes during their regular season schedule which Panella admits is always tough.
“Our schedule this year is very similar to previous years,” Panella said. “Every game will be competitive and getting off to a good start will be key.”
“If everyone can stay healthy, which we struggled to do last year and it caught up to us, I’m even more optimistic about this season.”
The Pioneers kick off their season on the road Thursday, September 7 against Union Catholic with a 4 p.m. start. Their home opener is Tuesday, September 12 against Jonathan Dayton at 4 p.m. Click here to view the New Providence High School Athletic Schedule.