NEPTUNE - The Ocean boys soccer team managed to stave off Christian Brothers Academy for the first three quarters of this year's Shore Conference Tournament championship game on Halloween, but like most other teams, the Spartans could only keep the Colts down for so long.

Junior Ryan Nigro buried a 20-yard direct kick in the 68th minute to break a scoreless tie and junior Aaron Robertson added one more in the 76th as the second-seeded Colts outlasted No. 4 Ocean, 2-0, to win CBA's ninth title in head coach Dan Keane's final season.

"It means a lot, it really does," said Keane, who will retire after nearly 40 years as a teacher and coach at CBA. "I'll reflect more on it when it's all over. For now, I'm just happy for (assistant coach) Jeff (Matson) and myself and of course the kids who accomplished it. I thought we had the emotional edge. As the match went on it seemed like our guys were in another gear."

Photo by Matt Manley

Junior Matt Thorsheim earned the free kick by drawing a foul just outside the top of the 18-yard box in the 68th to give CBA its second close-range direct kick in a span of three minutes. Before Ocean goalkeeper Yianni Kavarakas could get on the same page with his wall, Nigro buried a shot to the upper right of the goal to get CBA on the board.

"I saw their keeper cheating toward one side of the net, so I just put it in," Nigro said. "I looked up and I wasn't really thinking about playing it quickly, but once I saw that, I figured I'd try it."

"We always look to (play quick on restarts)," Thorsheim said. "As soon as the ball goes down and the whistle blows, we're looking to see how we can get the ball back in play and catch the other team off guard. It wasn't as quick (as other restarts), but it was a great goal."

With five minutes left in the game, Ocean pushed senior midfielder Wadneson Alexis forward and replaced Kavarakas with forward Braylin Estrella to give the Spartans more offensive players on the field. In the 76th, CBA countered an Ocean push with Thorsheim carrying the ball forward and playing the ball diagonally to Robertson. Estrella came off his line and Robertson slipped it past him for a goal.

"We knew one fluke play or something happens through no fault of our own, and the game could be tied," Thorsheim said. "So we wanted to keep the pressure on, and getting that second one was huge."

CBA controlled possession over the entire course of the game and nearly took the lead in the first minute when senior Tim Mikulski drilled the crossbar with a left-footed shot.

Ocean's close call came in the final minute of the first half when Alexis tracked the ball down in the left corner and bent a shot off the crossbar. Ultimately the Spartans became the Colts' 14th shutout victim, which ties a single-season record at CBA.

"We knew coming in, they had a lot of pace up top," CBA senior center fullback Tom Lozowski said. "So me and (junior center back) Scott Misson were always talking and watching their runners. Tom Judge and Tim Mikulski did a great job as always on the outside keeping with their marks and tackling hard. We really wanted that shutout record, and we're glad to get it in a game like this."

CBA's championship is its first in four years and eighth overall title - all under Keane. The Colts also shared a championship with Jackson Memorial in 1988, and the nine overall titles are three more than the next-closest team (Jackson Memorial).

"This is all we've worked for all year," said Lozowski, one of four seniors on the team along with Mikulski, Nick Meyer and John Frycz. "We've been going at it for four years, and this means everything. And to give Coach Keane one more in his last year makes it even more special."


Box Score

CBA 2, Ocean 0

1 2 F
Ocean (15-4) 0 0 0
CBA (16-3-1) 0 2 2

Goals (Assists): (CBA) Ryan Nigro (DK) 68’, Aaron Robertson (Matt Thorsheim) 76’
Shots: CBA, 12-4
Saves: (O) Yianni Kavarakas 3; (CBA) Aedan Boriotti 1