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3 Oakcrest grads will have to wait until spring to make collegiate soccer debuts

3 Oakcrest grads will have to wait until spring to make collegiate soccer debuts

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Former Oakcrest High School boys soccer players Gabe Paz, Mason Stokes and Shawn McCourt are college freshmen looking to continue their success.

But they’ll have to wait a few months.

Paz, Stokes and McCourt, all first-team Press All-Stars last fall, have each seen their fall college soccer seasons moved to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paz, a forward who was The Press Boys Soccer Player of the Year in 2019, is at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Stokes, also a forward, attends Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. McCourt, a center back, is at Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio. All three soccer teams are NCAA Division II programs.

The three Oakcrest graduates are all 18-year-old Mays Landing residents who were four-year varsity players for the Falcons.

“It’s really disappointing that they moved the season to the spring,” Paz said. “It’s definitely weird because I’ve never played in the spring, but it’s still something you can prepare for. I’m ready to get out there. We might have the opportunity to have a year added on. It’s still in discussion.”

Paz is receiving a partial athletic scholarship that covers most expenses. He committed to Jefferson this winter.

“Jefferson is really the only college I visited,” Paz said. “The campus is nice. It’s really close (to home), and my parents (Luis and Johanna) can come watch me play. Jefferson plays competitive soccer, and they had my major (physical therapy), so it looked like the right spot.”

Paz scored 27 goals and had a team-high 16 assists in 2019 to lead Oakcrest to an 18-4-1 record and the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament championship. He scored the winning goal in overtime to give the Falcons a 2-1 win over St. Augustine Prep in the CAL Tournament final. Oakcrest finished ranked No. 5 in The Press Elite 11. The Falcons also won the CAL National Division title.

In four years for Oakcrest, Paz had 72 goals and 32 assists.

Thomas Jefferson went 7-11-1 last fall, but the Rams had winning seasons the previous two years. Jefferson competes in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.

“The coach is looking for a big season,” Paz said. “We got a couple Division I transfers and five or six freshmen.”

Stokes is starting out with a partial academic scholarship. He committed to Shippensburg in the summer. He’s majoring in business.

“I got close with the team when I visited Shippensburg, and it reminded me of Oakcrest, like a family,” Stokes said. “I stayed two days, and they showed me around.”

Stokes scored 12 goals and had 13 assists in 2019. His four-year totals were 26 goals and 28 assists.

Shippensburg, a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, went 10-3-4 two years ago but dropped to 2-10-3 last year.

“They had a lot of injuries last year and didn’t do too well,” Stokes said. “This year, there’s about eight freshmen and six sophomores and a good mix of juniors and seniors.

“When coach (Jeremy Spering) told us we weren’t playing this (fall) season, I was devastated. But it is what it is. I’ll try to stay in shape for the spring. I think we’ll be decent. They plan to have a half-season.”

At Tiffin, McCourt will receive a partial scholarship that’s both athletic and academic. He committed in March and is majoring in sports management.

“I wanted to go to a school with a strong soccer program, and they’ve made the NCAA Tournament the last couple years,” McCourt said. “I also wanted to travel out of New Jersey. It’s (Tiffin) a pretty good area, and the campus is small and nice. The school is an hour from Lake Erie, which has a giant beach but no waves.”

As a defensive leader for Oakcrest, McCourt helped the Falcons earn seven shutouts in 2019, and 23 during his four years. He added a goal and two assists last fall and had four goals and eight assists in his scholastic career.

Tiffin, a member of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, went 11-5-5 in 2019 and won its second straight conference championship. The Dragon has made the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years.

“We have a second team and a first team, and I’m with the first team right now,” McCourt said. “It’s different to play in the spring, but we’ll have more time to get ready.”

Contact: 609-272-7210

GGargan@pressofac.com

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Staff Writer

I’ve been at The Press since January of 1983. I cover all sports in general, but mostly lifeguard racing, and high school field hockey, football, swimming, basketball, crew, baseball and softball.

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