Last year’s record; final ranking: 15-3-2; No. 20

Marquee game: Sept. 25 vs. Waldwick

Best Assets: The Defenders return all but one starter from last year’s North Non-Public B sectional semifinalist squad, including sophomore forward Rene White, who burst on to the varsity scene last season with 28 goals. “He’s got a great IQ for the game,” coach Tyler Van Dyk said. Senior midfielder Jake Hart is also back after posting double digit goals and assists in 2012, while four-year starter Matt Sanger will anchor the back line. Junior Stephen Gabriele also returns as “one of the team’s most skilled players,” according to Van Dyk. Back in net for Hawthorne Christian will be junior Caleb Hart, who posted 10 shutouts in 2012.

Biggest concerns: Like most small schools, depth is always a concern. The starting 11 will be talented, but health played a factor down the stretch at the end of last season when Chris Aust (11 goals, 13 assists), now a senior, went down with injury. “After that, we saw a loss in production,” said Van Dyk, who expects to contend with Waldwick for the league title this season. “We struggled to score. He was a catalyst for us up top.” The book is also out now on White, who could see extra attention from defenses after a breakout freshman campaign. “He might have caught some people by surprise,” Van Dyk said. “We might need to find a more balanced attack. I think the guys are up for that.”

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