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Coming off an undefeated 2020 season, the Christian Brothers Academy soccer team entered this past season as the clear-cut preseason No. 1 team at the Jersey Shore, but the jury was out whether this version of the Colts could ascend to one of the top spots in the state – especially coming off a shortened season in which CBA didn’t get to play teams from outside immediately surrounding areas.

Not only did CBA dominate the Shore, prove itself a serious contender for the top spot in the state and collect some hardware that the Colts missed out on each of the past two years; it did it in dramatic fashion throughout the season.

With a 20-win season that included an undefeated Class A North division title, a near-perfect run to the Shore Conference Tournament championship and another trip to the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game, the 2021 CBA Colts are the Shore Sports Network Boys Soccer Team of the Year for the second straight season.

Senior Jake Homowitz celebrates his goal with teammate Joe Lucignano. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Senior Jake Homowitz celebrates his goal with teammate Joe Lucignano. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
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During the early part of the season, CBA was a team that was comfortable playing from behind and that was necessary to get off to a strong start. In CBA’s first 10 games, the Colts trailed in four of them, won four of them by one goal and scored the winning goal in the 75th minute or later twice. Although CBA played in tight games throughout that start, the Colts went 9-1 during that stretch with wins over five teams ranked in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10 – No. 5 Long Branch, No. 3 Freehold Township, No. 6 Howell, No. 7 Marlboro and No. 2 Toms River North – plus one over Berkshire of Massachusetts.

The 10th match of the season was a noteworthy one: a 4-2 win over Toms River North in a showdown of the top-two-ranked teams in the Shore Conference. Toms River North went ahead, 1-0, before the Colts equalized before halftime and scored three more unanswered goals on the way to victory.

That win over Mariners foreshadowed the outcome of the Shore Conference Tournament final, when the top two teams in the conference met again. CBA caught fire with three goals in a span of 16 minutes to run away with a 3-0 win over Toms River North for the program’s 11th conference tournament championship and first since 2016. The shutout also completed a four-game SCT run in which CBA did not concede a single goal to any of the four opponents (Pinelands, Wall, Manalapan and Toms River North).

CBA senior goalkeeper Ryan Hayes. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA senior goalkeeper Ryan Hayes. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
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In the NJSIAA Tournament, CBA went back to playing in tight games and even had to come back to win one. After extending their shutout streak to six games with a 2-0 win over Union Catholic, the Colts fell behind to St. Augustine, 1-0, on a late-first-half goal and stormed back to win, 2-1, in overtime to reach the sectional final round for the eighth consecutive year.

With an NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A championship on the line against Notre Dame, CBA and the Irish played in one of the wildest games in the 2021 state tournament. Playing what will likely be the final varsity game on the storied grass pitch at CBA – the school is nearing completion of a turf field on campus – the home side jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first half and hit the crossbar three other times before halftime.

Notre Dame cut the deficit to 3-1, only for CBA to go back up, 4-1, early in the second half. The Irish, however, responded with two quick goals and after CBA extended the lead to 5-3 on Dylan Cupo's 21st goal of the season, Notre Dame came right back to make it 5-4 before midway point of the second half.

CBA senior Dylan Cupo (11) battles Toms River North senior Jimmy Ruppe. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
CBA senior Dylan Cupo (11) battles Toms River North senior Jimmy Ruppe. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
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CBA settled the game down and held off Notre Dame over the final 20 minutes to seal up the sixth sectional title in the last seven years and 18th ever trip to the Non-Public A final for the Colts.

The sectional championship victory was also the 18th win in a row for the Colts, who saw their season and winning streak end with a 2-0 loss to Seton Hall Prep, which capped an unbeaten season with a Non-Public A championship and No. 1 ranking in the state.

CBA opened the season working in three new starting midfielders, three new starting defenders and a new tandem of goalkeepers and still managed to leave no doubt about its standing as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference while winning its way to the No. 2 ranking in New Jersey to close out the season.

With returning senior Jake Homowitz anchoring the middle, sophomore Dylan Millevoi and senior Tiarnan King jumped in to play in the starting midfield while sophomore Dimitry Corba and senior Marco Mastriani were significant contributors off the bench.

Senior Declan Kelly was the only returning starting on the defense, but classmate Jack McGagh jumped into a starting role as the other center fullback to solidify the middle of the defense. Junior Charlie Paparella and sophomore Lawrence Mancino emerged as capable outside defenders, with the duo of senior Ryan Hayes and sophomore Joe Grossman turning in standout seasons in goal. CBA went with a tandem in goal during the 2020 season and was successful with the arrangement again in 2021.

CBA senior Declan Kelly. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
CBA senior Declan Kelly. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
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While finding the right mix in the midfield and in the back was a major x-factor to CBA’s strong 2021, it was the front three that set the Colts apart. Cupo was a scoring machine with his team-high 21 goals, while juniors Will Thygeson and Jack D’Eletto working the flanks with their speed and skill.

Tying it all together was head coach Tom Mulligan and top assistant Dave Santos, who have worked side-by-side since Mulligan’s second season as head coach in 2017. Jim Keady once again coached up another successful goalkeeper tandem and assistants A.J. Mokes and Rory Fitzgerald helped bring along the younger players in the program.

CBA figures to be in the running for another Team of the Year Award in 2022 with Thygeson, D’Eletto, Millevoi, Corba, Mancino, Paparella and Grossman all due back after playing big minutes on this season’s squad.