Boys Soccer – CBA Comes Through in the Clutch at Ocean
OCEAN TWP. - Friday's anticipated match between Christian Brothers Academy and Ocean - the Nos. 2 and 4 team, respectively, in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - featured a combined five goals, no fewer than seven scintillating saves, and was a one-goal game by the time the final whistle blew.
And yet, the game was tied for a total of 6:55 of game clock. When the the game was in the balance - both early and late - CBA showed the makeup of a team ready to play in a championship setting.
Junior Luke Pascarella slammed in the winning goal in the 67th minute and the Colts shook off squandering a two-goal lead to score a 3-2 road win over the Spartans to win a rare regular-season match-up between two of the most accomplished programs in Shore Conference history.
After winning for the ninth time in 10 games this year, CBA's only loss is to the No. 1 team in the country according to USA Today, St. Benedict's. Of CBA's nine wins, the Colts have been tied at 1-1 or 2-2 in the second half in five of them. CBA also scored first in all five of those games, so Friday's scenario was nothing new.
"That's the nature of the game," said senior Jack Gill, who assisted all three CBA goals on Friday. "It's going to swing back and forth but in the end, it's all about staying together, defending as a team and coming through with the game on the line."
On what proved to be the game-winning scoring sequence, Gill turned and fired a shot from the right side of the 18-yard box that Ocean goalkeeper Max Winters saved with a lunging stab. The ball bounced to the left side of the box and Pascarella charged in to get his right foot on it and punched it past a scrambling Winters.
"With the way he (Winters) was making saves, on a wet field, intense game - anything can happen and you have to be ready for any opportunity," said Pascarella, who spent a stretch of the second half on the bench before returning to score the winner. "Coach (Tom Mulligan) is always telling us to follow up every shot because you never know when that's going to be your best chance to score."
Prior to that goal, Winters made seven saves, including five diving snares to keep his team within striking distance.
"Credit to Ocean, their defense was in good position most of the game, they were physical, the kept fighting and their keeper made some great saves," Gill said. "That was just striker's instinct by Luke."
Winters' effort appeared to pay off in the 64th minute, when senior James Schutz got his head on a free kick by senior Zach Sintic and directed it into the goal for the equalizer.
Schutz returned to action Friday for the first time since suffering a groin injury in a 3-2 Ocean loss to Manasquan on Sept. 14, exactly two weeks prior to the CBA showdown. He came off the bench and made an instant impact.
CBA grabbed a 2-0 lead within the first 14 minutes on goals by seniors Dom Bellomo and Joe Lozowski, both of which were also assisted by Gill. Bellomo nailed a low strike from the top of the 18-yard box in the fifth minute and Lozowski sliced a shot to the far right post with the outside right boot in the 14th.
Ocean got back in the game in the 26th with a free kick by senior Leo Montesinos, who drew foul just outside the 18-yard box on the left side and slotting the ensuing direct kick inside the near post.
After falling in an early 2-0 hole, Ocean fought its way back into the game and wound up outshooting CBA, 18-15. CBA, however, owned an 11-9 edge in shots on goal and also hit the post on one of its off-target shots.
"As a team, we started to get a little comfortable," Colts senior outside back Jack Hempstead said. "We settled in and they started pressing and forcing us into silly fouls, which gave them some good chances on set pieces. They took advantage of those because we got a little comfortable, but once they tied it, we came back with more urgency."
Hempstead, Liam Cahill and sophomore Jack Longo led the defensive effort for CBA that allowed two goals, but also kept Ocean leading scorer Santieno Harding off the board. Harding entered the game with eight goals and did create a breakaway for himself that CBA keeper Wnorowski saved.
"This is one of the best attacking striker forces we are going to face this year," Hempstead said. "I think Ocean's a great team and I definitely think them and Holmdel are going to end up being two of our tougher games."
The last time CBA and Ocean met, the Colts won a 2-0 battle in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game in 2015. It marked the first time the two teams met in the SCT final despite CBA appearing in a record 11 championship games and Ocean coming in second at nine finals appearances.
The two nearly met in last year's SCT semifinals, but CBA lost a penalty shootout to Toms River South in the quarterfinals and failed to advance to the semis against Ocean, which advanced to the championship game for the ninth time in its history. With two senior-laden rosters, it is possible the two storied Shore programs could meet once more in 2018.
"We could definitely see them down the road, so it was good to get a win against them on a tough field," Gill said. "We showed we can play with them and if we play the way we know we can, we can come out on top."
CBA 3, Ocean 2
Goals (Assists): (CBA) Dom Bellomo (Jack Gill) 5', Joe Lozowski (Jack Gill) 14', Luke Pascarella (Jack Gill) 67'; (O) Leo Montesinos (DK) 26', James Schutz (Zach Sintic) 64'
Shots: Ocean, 18-15
Saves: (CBA) Eric Wnorowski 7; (O) Max Winters 8