Boys Soccer – 2018 Shore Conference Tournament Final Preview
Shore Conference Tournament Championship
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m.
At Point Pleasant Boro High School
No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy vs. No. 4 Ocean
Christian Brothers Academy (15-3, 6-1 in Class A North)
Head Coach: Tom Mulligan
SCT Championships: 10
SCT Final Appearances (including this year): 12
Last SCT Championship: 2016
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 19 Lakewood 2-1, No. 11 Manasquan 2-0, No. 2 Jackson Memorial 2-1 in overtime
|20||Luke Pascarella (12 G, 3 A)||Jr.||Forward|
|19||Jack Gill (7 G, 10 A)||Sr.||Forward|
|21||Charlie Daly (4 G)||Sr.||For/Mid|
|2||Dominic Bellomo (7 G, 6 A)||Sr.||Midfield|
|16||Michael Casper (2 G, 2 A)||Jr.||Midfield|
|8||Joe Lozowski (5 G, 6 A)||Sr.||Midfield|
|29||Jack Hempstead (4 A)||Sr.||Defense|
|6||Connor Anderko (1 G, 1 A)||Sr.||Defense|
|28||Jack Longo (1 G)||So.||Defense|
|1||Eric Wnorowski (5 shutouts)||Sr.||Goalkeeper|
Ocean (14-3-1, 6-1-0 in Class B North)
Head Coach: John Terlecsky
SCT Championships: 4
SCT Finals Appearances: 10
Last SCT Championship: 2012
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 13 Toms River North 1-0, No. 21 Raritan 3-0, tied No. 1 Holmdel 2-2 (advanced on penalties 4-2)
|20||Santieno Harding (16 G, 5 A)||Sr.||Forward|
|3||James Schutz (7 G, 3 A)||Sr.||Midfield|
|2||Rob Lopes (5 G, 4 A)||Jr.||Midfield|
|10||Leonardo Montesinos (7 G, 5 A)||Sr.||Midfield|
|6||Luke Yates (1 G, 5 A)||Sr.||Midfield|
|8||Andrew Shaw (2 A)||Sr.||Midfield|
|7||Zach Sintic (2 G, 7 A)||Sr.||Defense|
|0||Max Winters (8 shutouts)||Sr.||Goalkeeper|
The two teams playing in Wednesday night’s final have combined to win 14 Shore Conference Tournament championships and play in 20 championship games prior to making it 22 once the next game starts. The only team to reach the final more than the 10 times Ocean has is CBA’s 12 and the Colts have gone 9-1-1 in their first 11 appearances while Ocean is 4-5.
Wednesday will mark the second time in four years that CBA and Ocean have played in the final, with CBA beat the Spartans, 2-0, when the two programs met in the final for the first time in 2015. Ocean seniors Santieno Harding and James Schutz were the only players on either team to see time as freshmen in that game.
Both CBA and Ocean survived extra time to advance to the SCT final – CBA with a golden goal by Luke Pascarella to beat Jackson Memorial and Ocean on penalty kicks to stun undefeated and defending champion Holmdel. The two victories add to the recent tournament success of each team, with both teams reaching the championship game for the third time in four years.
While CBA is 2-0 in its prior to trips to the final in 2015 and 2016, Ocean is 0-for-its-last-2 on the tournament’s last day. Last year, Ocean fought their way to the SCT final as the No. 5 seed, only to get crushed by Holmdel, 7-1. Monday’s win over the Hornets was redemption to a point for the seven returning starters from 2017, but the Ocean players still have to win one more game to completely bury that championship game experience from a year ago.
With a lineup packed with 10 new starters, CBA looked poised for a run to the SCT final last year as the No. 1 seed, only to stumble in the quarterfinals to Toms River South on penalty kicks. Like Ocean, seven CBA starters remain from last year and a hoping to win the tournament that CBA has made its playground for the last three decades, but not yet during their time as starters. Current seniors Jack Gill and Joe Lozowski played significant minutes on the 2016 team that went 24-1 to finish No. 1 in the state, but now have a chance to win a trophy as senior leaders.
Junior forward Luke Pascarella has been a breakout performer for CBA and is now leading the Colts in scoring with 12 goals after scoring the game-winner to go with an assist on Monday night. Pascarella, junior midfielder Michael Casper, junior center back Connor Anderko and sophomore outside back Jack Longo are the four non-seniors in CBA’s lineup heavy on seniors. Lozowski, Gill, Pascarella, and seniors Dominic Bellomo, Charlie Daly, Jack Hempstead and Liam Mulvey were all starters last season, with Anderko playing heavy minutes and senior goalkeeper Eric Wnorowski getting some spot time on the field both as a sophomore and as a junior.
On the other side, this group of Ocean seniors has been building toward this season and now has a chance to realize one of its most significant goals. With Holmdel, CBA and Jackson Memorial all boasting especially good teams, this was a tough year for Ocean to have, arguably, its most talented team in more than a decade but the Spartans proved they belong in the same class as the top three seeds in the tournament by taking down No. 1.
Ocean’s strength is its midfield, which features returning senior starters Schutz and Luke Yates as well as senior Leonardo Montesinos, who played at Shore Regional in his first three varsity seasons. That is traditionally where CBA has thrived, but Ocean boasts those three, plus junior Rob Lopes, who can set up plays for leading scorer Santieno Harding up top.
Although slowing down CBA’s possession-heavy attack is no small task, Ocean is coming off slowing down one of the state’s best scoring machines in Anthony Arena and Holmdel, which scored a goal off a throw-in and a penalty kick and was otherwise stifled by the Spartans and goalkeeper Max Winters.
CBA and Ocean have already met once this season, with CBA beating the Spartans, 3-2, on Sept. 29 on Ocean’s grass field. In that game, Winters went above and beyond the call of duty just to keep CBA to three goals, but the Spartans hope that they can start better on Wednesday than they did in late September to give Winters some help. In that CBA win, the Colts scored twice in the first 14 minutes and three minutes after Ocean tied the game up in the 64th, Pascarella beat Winters off a rebound to give the Colts the winning goal.
Other than the scoreboard, Ocean wound up playing CBA fairly even in that game, losing the shot count to the Colts, 18-15, after looking lost during the first 15 minutes of the match. CBA has had that effect on teams – Jackson Memorial barely touched the ball in the first 20-to-30 minutes on Monday night but slowly started to adjust and came up with an equalizer and even a few chances to win the game after. CBA has not played any team twice this regular season, so Ocean should benefit from having had a look at the Colts once already.
As previously eluded to, the first CBA-Ocean game was on grass, so the turf should add a new element. Ocean is well-versed on turf but has opted to play on its grass pitch more regularly than its turf this season. CBA has looked a step off on turf at a few junctures this season – losing games at Howell and Holmdel on the artificial surface – but the Colts played a sharp game vs. Jackson Memorial on Monday and only needed overtime because they fired some shots wide early and Jackson keeper Nick Kinzler pulled off some key saves later. Despite Ocean having a turf field, CBA might benefit from a bigger field and a surface on which the players seem more comfortable now than they were a few weeks back.
The key to this game for Ocean is the first 20 minutes. If the Spartans can come out ready to disrupt CBA’s attack from the jump and the Colts can’t finish one in the first quarter of the match, that will be a major confidence boost for the Spartans. CBA is 14-0 when it scores in the first half and just 1-3 when it doesn’t, with the only win a 2-1 overtime win over Freehold Boro.
Ocean conceded a 28-7 shot advantage to Holmdel and would be pressing its luck to have a game that defensive again. Pascarella’s hot hand makes it a little treacherous to pull back on the defensive-minded gameplan that took down Holmdel and second-year Ocean head coach John Terlecsky hinted that he thought an aggressive attack might not be a prudent one on Wednesday night.
“We were maybe a little too aggressive early,” Terlecsky said of the first meeting between the teams. “They were able to own the middle of the field, but Luke (Yates) and Leo (Montesinos) are as good as anybody in the middle. We tried Luke in a different position to start that game and looking back, I don’t think that was our wisest strategy.”
Montesinos, however, was a major factor against CBA, drawing two fouls that led to both Ocean goals – both on set pieces. CBA’s focus will be on staying away from giving Ocean chances on set pieces, which is also how Jackson Memorial got its equalizer against the Colts in Monday’s first semifinal. The Colts also need to be wary of Harding, who missed some opportunities in that first meeting but has been locked in over the last two weeks.
This game certainly has the potential to be the first draw in the SCT final since 1988 with the way Ocean’s defense and Winters have performed during the tournament but keeping either of these teams off the board for 20 minutes of extra time would be a challenge. I went with Ocean three years ago and got burned and while I’m tempted to go back to the well and back a team loaded with seniors that have been talking about this moment since they lost that game as freshmen, CBA also has seniors that haven’t won this tournament as starters.
If there is a difference on Wednesday, it’s the bigger field and CBA being more acclimated to the turf. Other than that, it should be a really tight game and it feels like its going to be played close to the vest.
The Pick: CBA, 1-0