MORRIS KNOLLS-MORRIS HILLS
Head coach: Tim Kepler, seventh season (84-46-12 career record)
Last year: Morris Knolls-Hills had another strong year, as it finished with a 16-9-1 record. It went 6-1-1 in the Mennen Division, clinching its first regular season division title since 2016-17. It reached the Mennen Cup final, where it fell, 4-3 to Morristown-Beard. It reached the state finals for the third-straight year (excluding the 2021 season where there was not a state tournament due to COVID-19), but fell, 2-0 to Gov. Livingston-New Providence in the Public C title game.
Key losses: Kyle Thornton, F (21 g., 19 a.); Dante Tironi, D (10 a.); Ryan Murcer, F (4 g., 4 a.); Christian Monaco, D; Matt Kuglin, F (9 g., 4 a.); Evan Kelly, F.
Top returners: Luke Dickerson, F, Jr. (26 g., 22 a.); Ryan Manz, F, Sr., (6 g., 4 a.); Jack Martinez, F, Jr. (8 g., 8 a.); Jake McCloud, F, So. (9 g., 18 a.); Michael Simone, F, Jr. (3 g., 10 a.); Allan Williams, F, Sr.; Bryan McCarter, D, Sr. (18 a.); Tommy Ryerson, D, Jr.; Ryan Walter, D, Sr. (3 g., 3 a.); Aidan Marvin, G, Sr. (.890 sv%).
Potential incoming impact players: James Napolitano, F, Sr.; Brendan Gleason, F, Jr.; Eli Singley, F, Jr.; Dylan Williams, F, So.; Brandon Strunck, D, Fr.
Burning question: Can Knolls-Hills remain one of the top contenders in Public C?
This program has historically been one of the top public-school programs in the state, especially in the last few years where it won back-to-back state titles in 2019 and 2020 before reaching the Public C final last season. Even in a year where Morris Knolls-Hills was relying heavily on younger players in its lineup, it still managed to make a deep run in the postseason last year.
Outlook: While this team graduated some key players in Thornton and Tironi, there is still a ton of returning talent coming back. Dickerson, McCloud, and Martinez, among others lead a strong group of forwards, while seniors Bryan McCarter and Ryan Walter are back to anchor the blue line. Aidan Marvin had a solid year in between the pipes last winter, and his experience in leading the team to Prudential Center should only benefit him going into this season.
As young as this team was last year, it did not shy away from playing top competition. It faced Top 20-caliber teams, such as Middletown South, Livingston, Seton Hall Prep, Ridge, and Rumson-Fair Haven in its out of conference schedule. While it took its lumps in those games, that should help this group as it continues to grow as it looks to compete for the Mennen Cup and Public C titles.
E-mail Mike Gurnis at firstname.lastname@example.org
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