MIDDLETOWN – The Manalapan boys soccer team has shown it likes playing in a big game, and no team has been on the wrong end of one of Manalapan’s big-game performances more than Christian Brothers Academy.

With Manalapan – No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 – looking to clinch the Class A North division title at the expense of No. 6 CBA Wednesday at the Academy, the Colts sent the Braves home with an unfamiliar feeling.

CBA senior Richie Leister set up the first of two CBA goals Wednesday in an overtime win over Manalapan. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Colts sophomore Matt Thorsheim drew a takedown inside the 18-yard box 5:21 into overtime, buried the ensuing penalty kick and denied Manalapan a division-clinching win by giving CBA a 2-1, overtime victory. CBA can win the Class A North division with a win Friday over Marlboro and a Manalapan loss to Freehold, while Manalapan can still win the division outright by simply winning that home game against Freehold.

“We knew they were playing for the division, but we were playing for it too, and we were the ones who couldn’t lose today,” Thorsheim said. “I know they have to lose another game, but we still want to win this division and the only way we were going to do that was by winning this game.”

Manalapan tied the game in the 68th minute when senior Adam Weisberger headed a corner kick from junior Mitchel Volis into the upper part of the net. Senior Ryan Hammer set up the corner kick by drawing a foul 25 yards away from the goal and striking the free kick on target, forcing CBA senior goalkeeper David Krall to push the ball over the crossbar with a leaping save.

CBA nearly won the game in the 75th minute when junior Tom Lozowski headed a corner kick toward the upper right corner of the goal before Manalapan senior Mike Cavanaugh deflected it away. Lozowski gave CBA a 1-0 lead 3:36 into the second half when he one-timed a chipped free kick from senior Richie Leister into the far left corner of the goal.

“I felt like I had been playing some good balls into the box all day and we just couldn’t get anybody on the end of them,” Leister said. “Fortunately, Tommy made the run and did a nice job getting to it and putting it in a good spot.”

Midway through the overtime period, Thorsheim saved the ball from going out of bounds over the end-line, and as he ran onto the saved ball, he tripped over the outstretched leg of Manalapan junior center back Mike McNicholas. After lining up the kick, Thorsheim buried the game-winner into the lower left corner to set off the celebration, a routine he has experienced before.

“I have been in that situation before at (Donovan Catholic) last year and even though I felt confident I could do it again, you still can’t take it for granted,” Thorsheim said, referring to the Colts’ NJSIAA Tournament win over Donovan Catholic last year that ended on an overtime penalty kick by Thorsheim – then a freshman.

Krall was instrumental in limiting Manalapan to one goal as the senior saved five Braves shots and helped offset an 11-6 advantage for Manalapan in shots. At one point, the Braves held a 10-3 advantage.

The Colts are now unbeaten over their last eight games, with just a tie against Freehold Boro preventing a clean eight-game winning streak. CBA began the season 2-0 before suffering consecutive losses to Freehold Township, Manalapan and a one-win Middletown South team that just scored a goal on Wednesday for the first time since beating CBA 1-0 back on Sept. 15.

“We had our rough stretch early in the year and we knew we just had to get better,” Leister said. “A North is a tough league and you can get beat by any team on any given day, and we had to learn from those losses.”

Manalapan can still win its second straight Class A North division title by beating Freehold on Friday, but its recent infallibility against CBA ended on Wednesday. During a Shore Conference Tournament championship season last year, the Braves swept the season series from the Colts and won the first meeting between the teams by a 3-0 score. Even in 2012, when both CBA and Manalapan finished below .500, Manalapan went 1-0-1 against CBA. Prior to Wednesday’s win, CBA had not defeated Manalapan since the Colts' 21-0 season in 2011.

“Manalapan is a very good, very aggressive team and you have to be able to match their energy,” CBA coach Dan Keane said. “(Assistant) Coach (Jeff) Matson changed our shape a little for this game with four in the back, two in the middle with that extra defender back there, which helped. Manalapan has always been a problem for us because they’re so energetic and I just thought we did a good job matching their energy today.”

During its 19-3-1 season in 2013, Manalapan lost just one playoff game, going 6-1 in the postseason with a 2-1 loss to Hunterdon Central in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV semifinals as the lone blemish. In addition to the postseason mark, the Braves clinched a share of the division title on the first try by beating Colts Neck and clinched the outright title the very next game with a win over Howell.

“They are obviously a confident team and I’m sure they’ll bounce back and be ready to play on Friday against Freehold,” Leister said. “Freehold has been playing well, as we saw first-hand, so it’s not going to be an easy game, just like Marlboro is not going to be an easy game for us. We are going to focus on playing another good game against a good team and hopefully it works out. The important thing is to play our game, and we’ve been able to do that recently.”

 

 

Box Score

CBA 2, Manalapan 1 (OT)

1

2

OT

F

Manalapan (10-2-2, 9-2-2)

0

1

0

1

CBA (9-3-1, 9-3-1)

0

1

1

2

Goals (Assists): (M) Weisberger (Volis) 68’; (CBA) Lozowski (Leister) 44’, Thorsheim (PK) 86’
Shots: Manalapan, 11-6
Saves: (M) Terr 1, Cavanaugh 1; (CBA) Krall 5