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TOMS RIVER – Christian Brothers Academy freshman Matt Thorsheim is not only the youngest player on the Colts varsity soccer roster this year, but he is one of only four freshmen to ever start for CBA in the storied history of the program.

CBA freshman Matt Thorsheim (29) dribbles against Monsignor Donovan's Mike Dalton. (Photo by Matt Manley)

In a program known for its trust in experience, the freshman midfielder was called upon Friday to execute the biggest penalty kick of the season, perhaps because he is as experienced in postseason play as most of his teammates are.

Thorsheim buried an overtime penalty kick in the 84th minute as fifth-seeded CBA downed No. 4 Monsignor Donovan 2-1 in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A quarterfinals.

“I had complete confidence and I knew my teammates had confidence in me,” said Thorsheim, who also scored two goals in a 4-0 win over St. John Vianney on Tuesday. “I’ve taken penalty kicks all year and in that situation, I’m just treating it like any other penalty kick. There were definitely more nerves, but once I focused, it was just like any other kick.”

A year after CBA’s first losing season in the history of the program, which included an overtime loss at St. John Vianney in the first round of last year’s tournament, CBA continued its bounceback campaign Friday behind a new generation of players that is quickly catching up to the Colts' tradition of winning.

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“We’re new to the tournaments, but we’re not new to soccer,” Thorsheim said. “We’re all experienced players and we know how to play with one another, so the lack of experience doesn’t hurt us as much. We’re still learning and we’re still getting better, but we know we’re good enough to win.”

The win ended with a mob around Thorsheim, but started with a lineup that included only two seniors – both of whom were the only players to play significant minutes on the varsity team last year. Junior Russell Romano staked CBA to a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute by running onto a perfect through-ball from sophomore Colin Mulligan and slotting the ball into the lower right corner of the goal.

Romano has been the Colts most dangerous scorer this season and even with Monsignor Donovan keying on the junior speedster, he struck for the game’s first goal.

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“I’ve definitely noticed defenses playing me differently as the season has gone on,” Romano said. “At first, they didn’t know who I was, but as my name started to appear in the goal scorers, I guess word got out and they’ve been marking me tighter. It’s just made me learn to give the ball up when I get it and look to make my runs without the ball. We’ve got great players all over the field and any of them can get me the ball at the right time.”

“The thing with Romano is he’s completely opened up the field for us,” CBA assistant Jeff Matson said. “Defenders have to play so deep to counter his speed that the whole middle of the field is open, which is where we want to play.”

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Monsignor Donovan rallied to tie the game in the second half, at which point the Colts began to apply pressure on the Griffins' goal once again. Senior center fullback Jackson Irwin bounced a free kick from midfield off the crossbar and shortly thereafter, Tom Lozowski ripped a shot from 15 yards out that Monsignor Donovan senior goalkeeper Paul Kelly saved with a leaping stab.

Lozowski again got a chance to make a play in overtime and this time drew contact inside the 18-yard penalty box, prompting a foul call and a penalty kick. Thorsheim got the call and sneaked a line-drive shot to the left side of the goal past a diving Kelly for the win.

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“Tommy took the ball going toward the net and it was a clear takedown,” Thorsheim said. “It was definitely a foul, and it was the right call.”

“Of course it’s a heartbreaking way to end the season,” Monsignor Donovan coach Ken Oliver said. “You never want to see any game end on a penalty kick, much less the last game of the year, but it’s a call that could have gone against either team on any given day. You play the game hard, sometimes you get fouled and sometimes you commit a foul. That’s the nature of the game and we were on the wrong side of it today, but it just as easily could have been us on a different day.

[onescreen item="5161278"]Video provided by Patty Dalton

“I’m just proud of the way our guys battled back in the second half. They gave it everything they had.”

Monsignor Donovan scored the equalizer in the 65th minute off a long throw-in by junior Dom DiSalvo. Senior Jake Maxwell flicked the throw out of the air with a header to the middle of the 18-yard box, where junior Connor Grant touched the ball to the ground and volleyed a shot by Colts goalkeeper David Krall.

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“We didn’t play a very good first half and I told them at half time that it was time to either step it up or this was going to be it,” Oliver said. “We played a good possession game in the first half, but we lacked a little bit of fire and in the second half, we played with a lot more energy. Losing is tough, but I liked that my guys came out fighting and kept playing.”

Both Krall and Kelly made their share of saves to keep the score even. Krall stopped four shots, whole Kelly saved five. CBA outshot Monsignor Donovan 11-6 and the two teams were even with five corner kicks apiece.

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While this group of CBA players is mostly new to the tournament, the two goal-scorers from Friday are not completely unfamiliar. Both Romano and Thorsheim, as well as Mulligan, have older brothers who played in the program. Romano has two older brothers – Kevin and Michael – that played key roles in recent years, the latter starting on CBA’s 21-0 Non-Public A championship team as a senior in 2011.

Thorsheim’s older brother, Chris, also started on that team and was named the All Shore Media Player of the Year that season.

CBA will travel to top-seeded Pingry on Tuesday for the sectional semifinals and as the highest seed remaining in the bracket, the Colts will continue playing on the road until their season is over. Although set up to win more over the next two seasons, the Colts have a chance to win right now, starting with the trip to face the defending Non-Public A runner-up.

“We’re young, but we’re hungry,” Thorsheim said. “There’s no reason we can’t do it this year. We’re young and maybe we don’t have as much experience as some of the teams we’re going to play, but we’re a team that likes playing against good competition. We all came here to win a championship and that’s what we have a chance to do if we can keep winning.”

 

Box Score

CBA 2, Monsignor Donovan 1 (OT)

1

2

OT

F

CBA (13-4-2)

1

0

1

2

Monsignor Donovan (14-5-2)

0

1

0

1

Goals (Assists): (CBA) Romano (Mulligan) 23’, Thorsheim (PK) 84’; (MD) Grant (Maxwell) 65’
Shots: CBA, 11-6
Saves: (CBA) Krall 4; (MD) Kelly 5