Three New Vikings Lead OCC Teams

Photo courtesy OCC

OCEAN COUNTY – It’s an often used saying.

“You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.”

At Ocean County College, the motto could be, “You can’t tell the coaches without a scorecard.”

There are three new coaches, including one who leads two teams.

The Vikings’ head women’s soccer coach is Jennifer Ritter.

Coaching their men’s and women’s cross country team is former Barnegat High School, OCC and Monmouth University standout Jen Nelson.

At the helm of the men’s basketball team is Patrick Boylan, a Brick Township native.

Ritter Returns To College Coaching

OCC’s head women’s soccer coach Jennifer Ritter (Photo courtesy Ocean County College)

Ritter, an assistant women’s soccer coach at Lafayette College in 2000 and 2001, is happy to return to the college level.

“I feel like I am whole again,” she said. “I missed coaching at the college level. This job opened up and I can still teach and coach (Ritter teaches health and physical education at Point Pleasant Borough High School). I really wanted to get back into college coaching again. I really enjoyed my first experience. I am confident I can do this. I have made a real good decision.”

Ritter finds recruiting more relaxed at OCC than it was at Lafayette.

“It is different,” she said. “At Lafayette, it was a little more intense because it is an NCAA Division I program. I had to constantly travel, see the players and go to tournaments. Here, it is more word of mouth. I have been reaching out to the area’s high school coaches. I want to build an atmosphere where this is a comfortable place to play.

“I want players who genuinely love to play soccer. Soccer is a passion of mine. I am looking for players who are passionate and are willing to work hard.”

The team’s captains are Leena Keghlian, a sophomore midfielder from Toms River East; sophomore defender Allison Krebs, a Brick Township graduate, and Brielle Morella, a sophomore midfielder who resides in the Whiting section of Manchester Township and played at Delsea Regional. Ritter chose each captain.

Keghlian banged home two goals in a win over Nassau County Community College.

“She is a natural born leader on the field,” Ritter said. “She takes control of the game and makes some really good plays happen. She makes something out of nothing. She is very good at creating scoring opportunities. She has a good way of carrying the ball and taking the chance when she sees an opportunity. She always wants the ball at her feet.”

Krebs leads the defense.

Cross country coach Jen Nelson (Photo courtesy Ocean County College)

“She is the silent leader,” Ritter said. “She does not have to say much. She outworks everyone. A lot of her teammates want to be like her. She wants to try new things. She has a great way of listening, taking things in and adapting.”

Morella played Division II soccer at Davis and Elkins in West Virginia as a freshman before becoming a member of the United States Navy for two years.

“She constantly talks,” Ritter said. “She constantly directs and she is like having a coach on the field. She sees things happening and anticipates things happening. She is a Godsend. She works and works and works. She plays in the middle and is involved in every single play.”

Other players on the team are freshman keeper Fiona Borrelli (East), freshman midfielder Emily Molitor (Central Regional), sophomore midfielder Rosa Maria Galindo-Avila (Lakewood), sophomore midfielder Crystal Caruso (Toms River South), sophomore forward Lexi Urban (Southern Regional), freshman defender Kristyn Adams (Island Heights, Bordentown Regional), freshman midfielder Crystal Guthrie (East), sophomore forward Danielle Harter (Point Pleasant Borough), freshman midfielder Alexis Novotny (Jackson Liberty), sophomore forward Maria Rojas (Jackson Memorial), sophomore midfielder Robin Fiorentino (Point Pleasant Boro), freshman defender Genna Palumbo (Berkeley Township, Woodbridge), sophomore defender Allison Oberg (Toms River, Cherokee), freshman midfielder Jenna Andujar (Point Pleasant Borough) and freshman defender Alexandria Brow (Brick Township).

“I would like all of our players to be big scorers,” said Ritter, assisted by former Georgian Court University player Tori Capestro. “It’s just a matter of them coming into their own and believing in themselves. I want to see us build the ball out of the back and play the ball wide. I am teaching our players how to move without the ball. We want to play possession soccer for most of the time as opposed to driving the ball down the field and running after it.”

Ritter is a graduate of Wayne Valley where she was an all-state player. She starred at East Stroudsburg University, setting school career records for points and assists. She helped ESU win its first Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference title in program history. She is a two-time inductee in the ESU Hall of Fame in 2008 and 2012.

Ritter studied for one semester in Leeds of the United Kingdom where she played on a women’s football team. She coached Point Pleasant Borough to an NJSIAA sectional title. She coaches an under-12 travel team in the Brick Township Soccer Club.

Nelson Features Impressive Background

Nelson brings a well-rounded background to the Vikings. If she can impart at least some of her knowledge to her teams, watch out.

A member of Barnegat High School’s first graduating class, she competed in soccer and indoor and outdoor track for the Bengals. She attended OCC for two years in the New Jersey Stars program and was a member of the Vikings’ 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association Division III championship team in women’s cross country under then-coach Ed Baynes, the former South distance standout she replaced as the Vikings’ men’s and women’s coach.

Nelson won All-America, Academic All-America and Female Athlete of the Year honors at OCC.

Nelson, 27, earned a scholarship to Monmouth University where she starred in cross country and track, competing in the 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs. She graduated with school records in the 5,000 and 10,000 and won numerous athletic and academic honors. She graduated in 2012 with a bachelor of science degree in biology with a concentration in molecular cell physiology and dual minors in chemistry and health studies.

Nelson earned her Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2015 from Stockton University and served as an assistant coach in cross country for the Ospreys. She was an NJSIAA track and field official for four years and directed the Shore Athletic Club’s cross country program for five seasons.

She has completed two marathons, including the Boston Marathon, and two sprint triathlons. She was inducted into the Ocean County College Hall of Fame in 2016.

“I take bits and pieces from every coach I have had,” said Nelson, a physical therapist at the Kessler Institute for Rehab in Toms River. “This is my first real coaching gig and it is awesome. I have been involved in track and field for so long and have always been an athlete. This role is something I have always wanted to do. Now, I am on the other side of the sport instead of being a competitor and it is so interesting to have that different perspective. It brings me back to what my coaches have done for me.”

Nelson puts in long hours leading the Vikings.

“Coaching is a lot more demanding than I felt it would be,” she said. “I plan all of the workouts and do the behind the scenes things like eligibility and recruiting. It’s a ton of work, but it is fun.”

Which does Nelson prefer? Coaching or competing?

“That’s a hard question,” she said with a laugh. “They are so different. It is hard to compare them. Competitive-wise, my philosophy was to always listen to what my coach said and do what the coach said. Now, I have taken on the responsibility of being the coach the athletes listen to.”

Nelson said she feels pressure to produce winning teams.

“It would be fun to come back and win the nationals as a coach,” she said. “There is a little pressure on that end. I did not get much of a chance to recruit as I was hired during the summer. I am looking for anyone who is willing to give a full effort. Entering college, I was a soccer player and did not have any experience running cross country. On a whim, I went out for cross country and did well. Coach Baynes helped me reach my full potential and I wound up going to Monmouth.

“I am not even looking for someone who has running experience. I am looking for someone who is willing to work and try their best, someone who wants to reach their full potential.”

Heading the men’s team is sophomore Noah Reilly, who sped to NJCAA Division III All-America honors last season. He’s a Toms River North graduate.

“He has a fantastic work ethic,” Nelson said. “I can tell you he put in a ton of work during the summer. That is where the battle is, getting in the miles and the base training. A lot of kids don’t put in the work. He is ready to run fast and is so easy to coach. I can tell he has been well coached. He knows his body and his fitness level. He knows how to race.”

Nelson also helps for contributions from freshman Kyle Sarno (Barnegat), sophomore Xavier Ramirez (Brick Township), sophomore Zachary Ramirez (Brick Township), freshman Grant Tokarski (Calvary Academy in Lakewood) and freshman Dylan Antonelli (Lacey).

Meanwhile, Jessica Reis is the classic example of a one-woman team – because she is the lone member of the Vikings’ women’s team. The former North cross country runner and ex-Rowan University swimmer has turned to conquering hill and dale instead of ruling the waves in the wake of a shoulder injury suffered while competing for the Profs.

“She trains with our men’s team and is pushed each day,” Nelson said. “It is hard for her, but when all is said and done, she is really going to benefit from it.”

Baynes also coached the Vikings’ men’s team to numerous successes.

“I am just excited to be coming back to where I competed,” Nelson said. “I have a ton of respect for coach Baynes and I have big shoes to fill. I am willing to take on that challenge. I am excited. I am really excited.”

Boylan Promises Excitement

Men’s basketball coach Patrick Boylan (Photo courtesy Ocean County College)

Boylan, a former associate head men’s coach at Montgomery County College in Pennsylvania, said his Vikings will be far from boring to watch.

“We’re recruiting an athletic type of player and we want to have a fast paced offense and defense,” he said. “We want intense players whose ultimate goal is to play at the NCAA level. We are looking for players who are hungry and dedicated, players who treat the sport like it is a business. I believe we’re building an exciting team that the fans are going to be proud of.”

Boylan, assisted by former Toms River East player James Stockton, faces a rebuilding process as the Vikings graduated three sophomore players from last year’s team, which went 19-12 overall, including 12-8 in the Garden State Athletic Conference, under coach Andy Smith, who competed for Brick Memorial. Smith is now an assistant men’s coach at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon.

Gone are guards Mike Golden, who starred at Brick Memorial, ex-Toms River North player Ted Thelemaque and former Neptune standout Corey Thomas.

Golden, who scored more than 1,000 career points for the Vikings, now plays guard as a junior for the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Thomas, who paced OCC in scoring (20.9 points per game) and assists (5.1 per showing) is a junior guard at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon.

Thelemaque was third on the team in scoring at 17.8 points per game, helping OCC to an 11-4 overall home record.

OCC’s returner is 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Randy Laing, an ex-South player. He averaged 4.8 points and 18.9 minutes per game as an OCC freshman, appearing in 31 games and starting 14.

“We lost our three big workhorses and it will be an adjustment for us this season,” said Boylan, a former Pennsbury High School (Pa.), Bucks County College (Pa.) and Delaware Valley University player. “We will have either 10 or 11 freshmen so there will be a learning curve, but we are excited to get after it.

“This is a good program that is heading in the right direction. I am happy to be hack here as I have always loved the area and the shore. It made sense to me to return here basketball wise and quality of life wise as well. OCC is a good fit for me.”

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Chris Christopher covers sports for Micromedia Publications Inc. with knowledge, pride and passion. His beats are the high school, college, professional, youth and recreational scenes. A three-time New Jersey Press Association award winner for sports writing, Christopher was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015 for his work in the media. The Lakewood resident enjoys taking walks in Ocean County Park and on the boardwalks in Ocean and Monmouth counties and rooting for the New York Mets.