Boys Soccer — CBA Survives Penalty Kicks, St. Augustine to Advance to 10th Straight Sectional Final
MIDDLETOWN -- Miles Gallagher knew the day was coming when he would have to save his Christian Brothers Academy soccer team's season and with the Colts three wins away from a second consecutive NJSIAA Non-Public A championship, he was ready for that day on Friday.
As CBA's goalkeeper, he faces far fewer shots than other Shore Conference keepers, but when he was tested by fellow Non-Public A power St. Augustine for 100 minutes and in a round of penalty kicks in Friday's South Jersey Non-Public A semifinal, he delivered a championship-level performance.
Gallagher posted a clean sheet for 100 minutes, then saved two penalty kicks during the shootout round to deliver CBA -- the top seed in the section -- a 4-2 win on penalties over No. 4 St. Augustine after a 0-0 draw.
"Coach (Tom) Mulligan is always telling me there are going to be two or three games during the season when I'm going to have to make a big save or make a bunch of big saves to help us win," Gallagher said. "This was definitely one of those games. I knew St. Augustine was going to be really tough and that we were going to be tested, but I have all the faith in the world in my guys."
"He definitely played the best I have ever seen him play, especially toward the end, when our defense started to lighten up and give up some opportunities," CBA senior defender Christian DeOliveira said. "He really showed his stuff and why he is one of the best goalies in the state."
The shootout victory sends CBA to the sectional final round for the 10th consecutive season -- nine of which were South Jersey Non-Public A finals and one of which was a modified sectional title during the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
To extend its championship-game run to a full decade, CBA had to get past a Hermits team that had the fire power to go toe-to-toe with the Colts. St. Augustine outshot CBA, 15-14, while CBA won the edge in shots on goal, 8-5.
"We are so close as a team," Gallagher said. "We love each other like brothers and when you care about your teammates like that, you can handle pretty much any challenge. I wasn't worried about anything in this game because I knew the boys had my back and I had theirs."
CBA controlled the first half and produced three shots that were near-goals in the first overtime. St. Augustine, meanwhile, dominated the second half and nearly won the game with close misses in the 48th, 75th and 100th minutes.
Gallagher and his counterpart, Mason Taylor traded big saves throughout and controlled their respective boxes. Gallagher's first major moment came in the 75th, when he made a sprawling save on a one-on-one attempt for St. Augustine -- one of his five saves in the match.
Taylor made eight saves, including a leaping parry to keep a header from Christian DeOliveira out of the upper 90 midway through the first overtime period.
St. Augustine also hit the crossbar in the first 10 minutes of the second half and nearly won the game with one second left on the clock in the second overtime, when Alex Clark headed the ball a foot wide of the left post off a throw-in in the final seconds.
CBA's best overtime chance was a rip by junior Phil Bodenski that deflected off the heel of a St. Augustine defender and glanced off the left post early in the first overtime. Taylor also saved a close-range, near-post attempt by CBA leading scorer Dylan Millevoi early in the second overtime.
Gallagher set the tone in the shootout by saving a firm strike by Clark with a diving stop to his right. The senior goalkeeper also saved St. Augustine's third attempt with a dive to his left and CBA's four shooters all converted.
"I watched video and I knew which way (Clark) liked to go, so that was the first save," Gallagher said. "The second one, I really just guessed right. I wish I could say it was something better than that, but I had a feeling he was going that way and I guessed right."
Millevoi, senior John Gambale and senior Lawrence Mancino all hit the mark on their kicks and DeOliveira put the game away on CBA's fourth and final kick. Had CBA needed the fifth kick, Gallagher was due to take it.
"Absolute magic," DeOliveira said of Gallagher. "He saved, what, two penalties? And I have 100 percent confidence that he makes his if he takes it."
Friday marked the first time CBA has played in a game that was decided by penalty kicks since the 2019 Shore Conference Tournament semifinals vs. Manasquan, which CBA lost after defeating Jackson Memorial on penalties one round earlier. The current CBA seniors were in eighth grade at the time, but that did not mean they would be caught off-guard by the situation.
"We were very prepared," DeOliveira said. "We have a saying: 'Pressure is a privilege.' I love pressure situations and I'm sure my teammates love it as well."
CBA will host No. 3 Pingry on Tuesday in the sectional final after Pingry upended St. Peter's Prep Friday, 2-0. Of the eight teams to reach the sectional semifinals in both North and South Non-Public A, seven of them are ranked in the state top 20 by NJ Advance Media. Don Bosco Prep was the lone unranked semifinalist and the Ironmen lost to top-seeded Seton Hall Prep, 1-0, on Friday.
Seton Hall Prep will host Delbarton in the North Jersey championship game on Tuesday. CBA defeated Seton Hall Prep in last year's group final and also defeated both Pingry and St. Peter's Prep on the way to its state championship.
"We hold up the legacy," DeOliveira said. "CBA: the name speaks for itself. We're always the best and we want to prove it year-in and year-out.
"This year, I feel like there is a lot of competition on both sides of the bracket. You have some of the best teams in the country in this tournament, so we're really excited. I'm excited to play whoever is next."