Brianna Brennan and Ryan Mitzel have been selected as the 2017 New Jersey Youth Soccer Youth Referees of the Year.
They will be honored at the organization’s 30th annual awards dinner Friday night.
Brennan credited her love of soccer to one of her first coaches, Bea Marx, and that passion grew further whileplaying for the Marlton Shockers. She learned under the tutelage of current New Jersey ODP technical director James Galanis and Socrates Nicolaides, who operates Matchfit Australia. The two coaches encouraged her to become a student of the game. She also received encouragement from her club coaches to try out for New Jersey ODP in the sixth grade, and she played in the program for six years.
As a member of the Matchfit Dolphins, Brennan helped her team win a Super Y-League national championship. She also played varsity soccer at Holy Cross High School and earned an athletic scholarship to Northeastern University in 2007. She finished her soccer career at The College of New Jersey in 2010.
Brennan began officiating five years ago in the Northern Counties Soccer Association under the guidance of Ed Seavers and Carl Dietze. This past year, she was selected to officiate in the NCSA Spring Cup as well as the NJYS Commissioner’s Cup.
“I am honored to receive this award,” Brennan said. “By being a referee, I love that I am still able to be involved in a sport that I enjoyed playing for many years.”
Mitzel has been a soccer referee for 10 years and was a player for 20 years. The New Jersey native suited up for NJYS clubs Voorhees Soccer Association, Cherry Hill FC and Glassboro Elite. He also played high school soccer for Paul VI where he was the captain during his senior year.
He became a starting defender at Wells College under head coach Dan Kane. Wells College reached its conference finals in 2015 behind a defense that was ranked in the top 10 nationally. Mitzel also played for the South Jersey Elite Barons Under-23 team and worked as an assistant coach at his alma mater for one year. Since obtaining his undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from Wells College, Mitzel has begun working on his Masters Degree in Sustainable Energy Systems at SUNY Cortland.
Mitzel began officiating at the recreation level and has worked NJYS State Cup competitions and U.S. Soccer regional events. He also enjoys rock climbing, skiing and surfing.
“My journey has taken me from an apprehensive kid on a U-8 game to being confident with games involving the highest age levels that youth soccer has to offer,” Mitzel said. “Refereeing has allowed me to stay connected to the game I love as my competitive playing career has come to an end.”