By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
Six youth from the Diocese of Trenton took home top honors in the 2017 Knights of Columbus State Soccer Challenge Nov. 4 at the Ewing Township Municipal and Police Facility. Four girls and two boys hailing from Ocean and Mercer counties won trophies attesting to their accuracy in sending the black-and-white ball into the goal.
The competition was the final stop on the journey begun by scores of 9- to 14-year-old boys and girls earlier in the fall. Winners competing on the local, or council, levels received medals and certificates, while those victorious on the district and regional levels won trophies in each of the 12 age brackets.
The national competition sponsored by the Knights of Columbus is designed for players to demonstrate the most basic of soccer skills: the penalty kick, noted Vito Pulito, N.J. State chairman of the youth event for the past five years.
“The main purpose of the challenge is to promote health, physical fitness, competition and sportsmanship,” Pulito explained, noting, “The soccer players enjoy the skills-based competition, and usually compete every year they are eligible.”
The New Jersey state final in Ewing tested the accuracy of a field of six girls and five boys, one from each age group representing New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses; there were no competitors present for the 12-year-old boys’ category this year.
During the competition, each competitor took 25 shots from a penalty line 12 yards from the goal, which was divided into five scoring zones. Kicking the ball into the top two corners of the goal earned a youngster 20 points, while an accurate shot into the bottom two corners yielded 10 points. A successful kick into the center of the goal gave the competitor five points.
Winning girls from the Trenton Diocese were 9-year-old Alexa Sanchez of Hamilton (355 points); 10-year-old Fiona May of Point Pleasant (205 points); 13-year-old Katie Ciuffreda of Lawrenceville (250 points), and 14-year-old Jordyn Vazquez, also of Lawrenceville (110 points). The two male winners from the Trenton Diocese were 11-year-old Ryan Pasola of Point Pleasant Beach (190 points) and 14-year-old Nathan Whelan of Point Pleasant (140 points).
A pair of winners from the Archdiocese of Newark, 11-year-old Amanda Guanci and 9-year-old Jonathan Miranda, scored 235 and 260 points, respectively. The Diocese of Metuchen was represented in the winner’s circle by 12-year-old Miranda Corley with 215 points and 13-year-old Owen McComb with 265 points. The sole winner from the Diocese of Paterson was 10-year-old Aidan Saladino with 210 points.