New C.H. East coach sees quick turnaround

Players from Cherry Hill East celebrate their win in the South Jersey Coaches Tournament. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)
Players from Cherry Hill East celebrate their win in the South Jersey Coaches Tournament. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 20, 2013

It's a message that Dennis Stein has preached since he took over the Cherry Hill East boys' soccer team earlier this year.

And it's a message that was most clearly revealed in, of all places, the team's first loss of the season.

"This doesn't have to be a rebuilding year," Stein said after the Cougars' 1-0 defeat Tuesday against Washington Township, the No. 1 team in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings.

Cherry Hill East entered this season after winning the Coaches Tournament and advancing to the semifinals of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament last year.

But the team graduated all but one starter. And, more glaring, coach Karl Moehlmann retired after 24 seasons.

Most expected, at the very least, is an adjustment period for the Cougars this season.

But after his squad stood toe-to-toe with the area's top-ranked team, Stein said that rebuilding doesn't have to be part of Cherry Hill East's vocabulary.

"I think that the players have made huge strides," Stein said. "And I've seen it even in the last couple of weeks. The Washington Township game was kind of like a respect game for us. . . . I think it showed that we can compete with anybody."

Moehlmann was known for his relentless dedication to controlling possession. Stein is more defense-minded.

But Stein, who came to Cherry Hill East (1-1) after a 10-year stint coaching high school soccer in California, said that a lot of his style complements what Moehlmann's.

"Fitness is huge for me," Stein said. "The attention to detail in all the small things, all the simple fundamentals, is something I'm very big on. And I don't think that has changed too much from last year."

A big part of the seamless transition, Stein said, is the play and leadership of his one returning starter, midfielder Jake Russ. The senior scored four goals in the team's 5-0 opening-game win over Camden Catholic.

"He's helped me along the way, and he's really helped the rest of the team along and helped them to buy into what they need to make them successful," Stein said.

Parity continues. Once again, it looks as if parity is defining boys' soccer in South Jersey.

While the girls' Top 10 remained stable after one week, there is already a new No. 1 team on the boys' side after unranked Rancocas Valley tied previous No. 1 Moorestown, which fell to No. 3.

Other notable Week 1 matchups included No. 8 Cherokee's tying unranked Eastern. Previously unranked West Deptford debuted this week at No. 6 after knocking off Haddon Heights, which had been ranked No. 6 at the time.

Unranked Williamstown topped Clearview, ranked No. 8 at the time, before falling to unranked GCIT. And unranked Cherry Hill East gave new No. 1 Washington Township all it could handle in a 1-0 loss Tuesday.

Selection into the Coaches Tournament is determined largely by the rankings of the South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association. And, just as with The Inquirer's rankings, the decision on seedings again could be a tossup this season.


Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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