NJSIAA Non-Public A Championship

Sunday, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.

At Kean University

Christian Brothers Academy (23-1) vs. Seton Hall Prep (19-2-2)

From the time the final horn sounded signaling the end of last year’s NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game, CBA’s returning players have had their sights set on the game that awaits Sunday night at Kean University. Eight starters from the 2015 team that lost to Delbarton in the group final returned this year and that experience has helped spark a dominant season for the Colts heading into Sunday’s final.

CBA has lost just once this year – a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Marlboro on Oct. 19 when the Colts were missing senior center back Scott Misson. Ten days later, a full-strength CBA beat Marlboro, 2-0, in the Shore Conference Tournament final to take the season series from the Mustangs, 2-1.

While the Colts have a well-rounded roster that includes a strong back line and a quality goalkeeper in Aeden Boriotti, the defining characteristic of this year’s group has been its well-rounded attack and ability to score. That prowess was on full display in Thursday’s 5-0 win over St. Augustine in the South Jersey Non-Public A final, during which four different players scored a goal, with senior forward Patrick Kollman scoring twice.

CBA senior Patrick Kollman. (Photo by Matt Manley)

With those five goals, this year’s CBA team set a program record for goals in a season to go with its single-season school record 23 wins so far this year. The 21-0 team of 2011 scored 84 goals in three fewer games.

Kollman enters Sunday as the team’s leading goal-scorer with 18 goals on the season to go along with nine assists, while senior midfielder Matt Thorsheim is the overall scoring leader with 13 goals and 22 assists. Senior midfielder Matt Mawson has been arguably the team’s best player during the postseason with four goals in four games during the Shore Conference Tournament and a goal in each of the Colts last two state tournament wins. Mawson has 12 goals and eight assists on the season.

While Kollman, Thorsheim and Mawson have been the heaviest offensive contributors for CBA, seniors Aaron Robertson (seven goals) and Ryan O’Connor (five goals) have also been consistent threats on the attack, while sophomores Joe Lozowski and Jack Gill each have eight goals off the bench.

Even CBA’s defense has contributed to the scoring. Senior outside backs Tom Judge and Colin Lankau have been productive offensive threats and Judge has been particularly productive with six goals and seven assists. Misson and John Askin – the latter of whom is the lone junior in the starting lineup – have also had their moments on offense despite playing largely defensive roles. Askin scored the second of CBA’s two goals in the Shore Conference Tournament final.

CBA senior Matt Thorsheim. (Photo by Larry Murphy)

The Colts’ unsung x-factor is senior Ryan Nigro, who despite modest goal-scoring numbers to go with seven assists, is a workhorse at the defensive center midfield spot and a crucial distributor for CBA. While Thorsheim has the gaudy assist number, Nigro is the primary facilitator in the Colts buildup and has the ball at his feet as often as anyone on the field.

Were it not for the regular-season loss to Marlboro, this CBA team would be playing to join the conversation as the greatest team in program history along with the team from five years ago. As it stands, these Colts are looking to establish a school record 24 wins and add a sixth overall state championship to its trophy case.

Seton Hall, meanwhile, is playing in its first Non-Public A final since the Pirates beat CBA for the state title in 2009. The Pirates – like everyone else in N.J. – could not navigate their way past Delbarton from 2012 to 2015, when the Green Wave won four consecutive state championships. The Wave was also in the 2011 final and lost 1-0 in overtime to the undefeated CBA team.

The Pirates are led by senior forward and Indiana University recruit Mason Toye, who has recorded a team-best 21 goals and 12 assists over the course of the season. He scored early in Thursday’s shootout victory over Delbarton in which Seton Hall coughed up a 2-0 lead before pulling out the win in the round of kicks.

The shootout was one of two draws Seton Hall Prep earned this season – the other coming in a 0-0 tie against West Orange in September. The Pirates’ losses were both lopsided – once by a 3-0 margin to Peddie and the other by a 4-0 count to Newark Eastside in the Essex County Tournament final.

CBA senior Ryan Nigro (16). (Photo by Larry Murphy)

The CBA-Seton Hall Prep matchup has been a favorable one for the Pirates during their state final history. Seton Hall Prep won its first ever state title in 2007 by beating CBA and again beat the Colts in 2009 when the Colts had a senior-heavy team. The Pirates lost their first two trips to the group final, which came in 1977 to Notre Dame and in 2005 to St. Augustine.

Prediction

One concern for CBA heading into Sunday’s game will be Seton Hall Prep’s athleticism up front, particularly that of Toye. The teams that have given the Colts the most trouble – Marlboro, Freehold Township and St. Joseph Metuchen – have been able to find some vulnerabilities either in the attack or on CBA’s defense because of the athleticism that those teams offer. Misson and Judge are both superior athletes as well, but if Toye creates any apprehension for outside defenders to push up on the attack, it could detract from CBA’s offense.

On the flip side, CBA has looked unstoppable whenever the Colts have been on artificial turf. CBA’s lone loss of the season came at home (on a natural surface) while during the postseason, they have a goal differential of 13-2 in three games on turf and 12-2 in four games on grass. It’s only a slight difference overall, but the Colts are averaging nearly a goal more per game on turf in the postseason despite the fact that those teams they are playing on turf have been the higher-ranked teams.

Despite picking up a pair of shutouts to start the North Jersey Non-Public A Tournament, Seton Hall has shown a propensity to concede against good offensive teams. Newark Eastside scored four goals in the Essex final, Peddie put up three and Montclair scored a pair in a 3-2 Pirates win. They have also, however, thrown up shutouts against the likes of Westfield, West Orange, Kearny and Newark Eastside, so while scoring avalanches have happened against Seton Hall Prep, it’s not exactly a trend.

With its 10 senior starters, CBA has been gearing up for this game for about a year now and everything the Colts have done in practice and even in games has been with an eye on winning this match. Seton Hall Prep, meanwhile, just knocked off the four-time defending champions in the prior round and will be coming down off an emotional high to get back into game mode Sunday.

Who does that favor? Who knows? There is the pressure of being 80 minutes from the end goal, so perhaps Seton Hall Prep might benefit being a little looser than CBA. Then again, if the Colts are the well-oiled machine that outscored opponents 8-2 in the final two games of the SCT, that pressure should not be much of a factor.

With two dangerous collections of scorers on the field, this game has the makings of an offensive showdown that won’t necessarily be over if a team jumps out to a 2-0 lead – although that would likely favor CBA more than it would Seton Hall. As the nightcap to a long day of championship action at Kean, it seems fitting both these teams hang around a little longer to decide a champion. The Pick: CBA, 3-2 in overtime.

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