Boys Soccer – Defense Carries CBA Past Middletown North, Into Third Straight Shore Conference Final
NEPTUNE -- A Shore Conference Tournament semifinal that featured two of the Shore Conference's most gifted goal-scoring strikers in Christian Brothers Academy senior Dylan Millevoi and Middletown North junior Josiah Stepney featured one total goal scored in 80 minutes and it was by a defender, assisted by a defender.
That fact was music to the ears of senior Christian DeOliveira -- the CBA center back who scored the game's lone goal in the 12th minute -- but not as sweet-sounding as this other pertinent fact: for the third straight season, top-seeded CBA will play for the Shore Conference Tournament championship.
DeOliveira's 12th-minute header off a diagonal cross from senior outside back Sean Galvin accounted for the only goal and both Colts defenders shared in the clean sheet that powered a 1-0 win over 12th-seeded Middletown North Wednesday at Memorial Field in Neptune.
"It was a tough game on both ends," DeOliveira said. "Middletown North has some tough attackers up top. Coming into it, the vote was mixed. The last two games, we started off really slow and today, we started off hot and kept going."
The victory punches CBA's ticket to a record 15th Shore Conference Tournament championship game and the Colts will be looking to add their record championship total with a 13th title when they take on No. 2 Howell Saturday at 3 p.m. -- once again at Neptune.
In order to earn Saturday's championship opportunity, CBA had to contend with a Middletown North team that returned nine starters from a 2022 squad that lost to CBA, 2-1, in last year's Shore Conference Tournament semifinal. CBA defeated Middletown North, 3-0, during the regular season, but that was with Middletown North standout center back Ryan Barnao injured and unable to play.
Not only was Barnao back on the field for Middletown North, but CBA was without a key piece of its own. All-Shore midfielder Dimitry Corba injured his knee Friday vs. Marlboro and was unable to play Wednesday. Senior Cameron D'Alterio -- who scored a goal in last year's championship game -- replaced Corba in the starting XI and junior Phil Bodenski raised his level of play in the middle of pitch.
"It's definitely tough losing Dimitry, who is a really important player on our team," DeOliveira said. "We know how to improvise. We have players coming off the bench who are just as good. We play with whatever the circumstances are and that doesn't change the way we actually play."
If Corba's absence slowed CBA's attack at all, it did not impact the back four and goalkeeper Miles Gallagher in shutting down the Lions attack. Senior Dan Dinnell and senior Connor Mellor are the other two members of the CBA defense that turned in a shutout performance after going five straight games without one.
Wednesday also marked CBA's first shutout vs. a team with a winning record since the Colts' first win on Middletown North back on Sept. 21.
"The great thing about our team is that kids just fill in and they know their role," Galvin said. "They do a great job all the time and that's really the great thing about CBA soccer. (Coach Tom) Mulligan does a great job preparing us for every situation. In practices, the emphasis isn't just on the starting 11; everyone is important and everyone has their role."
CBA gave its defense an early lead to protect thanks to a clinical finish and set-up.
Middletown North cleared the ball out of its own box following a CBA free kick, but Galvin settled it 35 yards away from the goal. After surveying the field, Galvin spotted DeOliveira on the right side of the box and sent a diagonal pass from the air from the opposite side of the field.
DeOliveira lined up a clean header and buried it into the far left corner of the goal.
"It was a great ball from Galvin. You couldn't pass it any better," DeOliveira said. "I was right there. I always tell people to find me back post.
"I have definitely been practicing my headers a lot. We're looking for it more. Last year, I was injured and I didn't go up (the field) as much, but we're definitely looking for it more now."
Middletown North earned only one dangerous chance in the game and it came off the foot of Stepney, who has scored 14 goals to go with eight assists this fall. In the third minute of the second half, Stepney got a step on his defender and got off a clean shot from 10 yards away, but his strike skipped wide of the near right post.
"They are good at getting it to Josiah, who is a great player with a lot of speed," Galvin said. "We really locked that down and we were really happy about it."
Lions senior goalkeeper Landon Terrell did his part keeping CBA from doing any further damage on the scoreboard, saving two point-blank shots during the second half as part of a four-save night. Terrell save a breakaway attempt by CBA leading scorer Dylan Millevoi in the 57th minute and stopped a point-blank shot that ricocheted off CBA's Brendan Millevoi on a free kick into the box.
In addition to a 13th overall Shore Conference Tournament title, CBA will also be seeking its third straight championship -- a feat that only one Shore Conference program has ever accomplished and that program is not CBA. Jackson Memorial won four consecutive SCT titles from 1989 to 1992.
To add its name to that short list, CBA will have to beat a Howell side that lost at CBA, 2-1. CBA trailed at halftime in that match, but struck for two second-half goals to pick up the win.
"That was a really good game," DeOliveira said. "We gave up an unfortunate goal at the end of the first half, but we bounced back. I think we're ready and I think we have a good chance for a three-peat."
CBA 1, Middletown North 0
|Midd North (11-5)||0||0||0|
Goals (Assists): Christian DeOliveira (Sean Galvin) 12'
Shots: CBA, 13-3
Saves: (MN) Landon Terrell 4; (CBA) Miles Gallagher 2