LAKEWOOD – The soles of the sneakers worn by Georgian Court University women’s soccer coach James Moore have begun to show wear and tear.
Not that the Lions’ 14th-year mentor minds.
Moore sported the sneakers during the team’s 27-0-1 Central Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season streak. And he plans to continue to wear the sneaks until the end of the streak.
“If it gives the team a boost … whatever works,” said Moore, whose program won its fourth straight CACC regular-season title and fifth overall this year. “The left sole is almost completely ripped off. I have kind of worn them out. My wife (Kate) won’t let me wear them in any other place than the field. I don’t want to mess with the mojo right now. If our players catch me coaching a conference game without those sneakers on, I think they will call me out on it.”
It was another banner regular season for the Lions of NCAA Division II.
They were 12-3-1 overall. And they captured the crown at 11-0-1.
“The thing that made this year’s title unique was we lost five seniors to graduation from last year’s team,” Moore said. “A lot of our opponents felt there would be a drop in our level of play this year. Because we lost those players, people felt we would take a step back. The girls accepted the challenge to continue the success that our program has had. It was real satisfying to get to the finish line with a title when we were doubted by many of the opponents we faced.”
A key reason for the Lions’ success was the play of freshman Krystal Hund, a forward out of Toms River High School North. Hund earned All-CACC Rookie of the Year and first-team honors after scoring 13 goals and adding nine assists for 35 points during the regular season. She led the CACC in assists during the regular season.
“She is a dynamic player,” Moore said. “She is an extremely creative player with the ball and she is very quick. She has a very high skill level.”
Moore said Hund missed her senior season with the Mariners because of a knee injury.
“She is playing at the same level when she was a junior when she was one of the top goal scorers in the state,” he said. “Her ability to take on players one-on-one is excellent. She gets in front of the net to score and is real accurate inside the box when she is able to get her shot off. She has added the ability to pass the ball. She is not just scoring the ball. She’s also setting up her teammates, which has made our offense diverse.”
Hund does not lack for company on the field.
“A lot of teams played her one-on-one at the beginning of the year, but that has changed now,” Moore said. “She faces more double teams and defenses are shading to her side as coaches have seen her play in person and on film. They now know she will win in one-on-one situations more often than not. Coaches send defenders over to her to get the ball off her foot and that has opened opportunities for our other players. We have been able to handle that very well.”
Moore said Hund chose Georgian Court over several other schools.
“A number of Division I schools, including Stony Brook, Elon and Charleston Southern, looked at her,” he said. “She was real comfortable with our program and myself. She wanted to have her family watch her play and she wanted to get a great education.”
Moore and Hund are far from strangers.
“I have known her for many years, seeing her play at the youth level,” he said. “I saw her potential and how it would translate at the college level. I am always looking for creative forwards who can score the ball. I felt she would be a perfect fit for our system of play. Fortunately, she has lived up to each of my expectations.”
Junior central midfielder Anissia Fucci, a Manchester product, made the All-CACC first team for the second straight season after netting eight goals and handing out three assists during the 2018 regular season. She led the Lions in match-winning goals with five, including one in an overtime conquest of visiting Holy Family University that gave the Lions their latest CACC regular-season title.
“She has just an unbelievable work rate,” Moore said. “She did not receive a lot of recognition during her youth and high school days, but I felt she was another player who I felt worked to make her game successful at the college level. She is an excellent two-way player. She gets forward and scores goals and works her way back and defends as well as anyone in our conference.”
Earning All-CACC second-team honors was former North player Nicole Turelli, a freshman defensive midfielder who handed out two regular-season assists.
“Nicole is one of my favorites,” Moore said. “In high school, she did not get much playing time, but I knew her from the youth level. I saw great potential in her. I knew she would thrive in our system. She has worked so hard to get into great shape. She has turned herself into an excellent college player.”
Other contributors to the Lions’ regular-season success were junior midfielder Kaitlin Lister (Toms River East), junior defender Kristen Lister (East), junior forward Dana Fontana (Brick Memorial), freshman midfielder-forward Emma Carney (Brick Memorial) junior midfielder-forward Samantha Wiles (Freehold Boro), freshman defender Melissa Fontana (Brick Memorial), sophomore midfielder Nora Stapleton (Monsignor Donovan, now known as Donovan Catholic), senior midfielder-forward Shannon Kelly (Point Pleasant Boro), sophomore center back Erin Wimmer (Sayreville War Memorial), senior captain Carolyn Stanton (Communications High School of Wall Township), junior keeper Natalie Axelsson (Absegami) and senior forward Heather Arbachesky (Brookdale Community College, Wall).
Kaitlin Lister put home five goals and added seven assists for 17 regular-season points.
“Kaitlin is the best outside midfielder in our conference,” Moore said. “She is one of the best at her position in the country. She has had another fantastic season. She has the ability to create opportunities for the rest of our offense. Her serves are spot-on perfect. She has a great combination of speed and leg strength. She has excellent vision as a distributor and is a dangerous player any time she steps on the field.”
Kristen Lister finished the regular season with two assists.
“She does not get a lot of numbers, but she has been a real solid defender at left back,” Moore said. “I am real proud of how far she has come as a player.”
Arbachesky was named the CACC Player of the Year. She was a first-team All-CACC selection after scoring 13 goals and handing out seven assists for 33 points. She won four regular-season matches with goals. She played two seasons at Brookdale before joining the Lions.
Arbachesky provided early regular-season inspiration for the Lions.
“Our slogan is, ‘Let’s go. It’s time to go to work,'” said Moore, assisted by former Manchester and GCU player Jessica Constantine. “Heather made it up. It was born early in September. Our team was a little tired and dragging and she said it with energy. Everyone laughed at it at first and then a couple of girls began repeating it. We say those words on a daily basis.”
Axelsson, an All-CACC first-teamer, was named the conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year after allowing 1.20 goals per game during the regular season.
Success is nothing new for the Lions.
Under Moore, they put up a 168-47-15 record in CACC play through the 2018 regular season. They enjoyed 13 consecutive winning seasons and made 13 straight trips to the CACC Tournament through the 2017 campaign. Entering this season, the Lions won three CACC tournaments.
Entering this season, Moore has produced 32 All-CACC players, 13 Division II Conference Commissioners Association players, nine National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-East Region players and six CCA All-Americans. Moore was named the CACC Coach of the Year in 2006, 2015 and 2017.
“It’s all about bringing home the hardware,” Moore said. “That statistics stuff is nice to talk about, but it’s about bringing home the hardware. It’s wonderful to watch this growth in the program. As good as we are this year, I feel we will be infinitely better next year as we have so many young players who are emerging. Our goal in the next couple of years is to qualify for the Sweet Sixteen (in the NCAA Division II Tournament) or the Elite Eight. We are very close to achieving those goals.”
Moore said he recruits players who play with plenty of fire.
“I look for players who have a desire,” the senior staff member and the director of goalkeeping at the Toms River Football Club said. “Do they have a desire to excel at the college level? I recruit players who are often overlooked. They did not get the recognition they felt they deserved at the younger levels of the game. They play with a chip on their shoulder. They have talent, but I look for what will set them apart from the other players. I want them to want to succeed. I want them to excel to reach higher levels of greatness. We want players who are willing to put in the work.”