Boys Soccer – Hobbled CBA Hands Howell First Loss of 2022
FARMINGDALE -- Most of the Christian Brothers Academy soccer players entered the 2022 preseason with an eye on competing for one of five vacancies left in the starting lineup due to the graduation of 2021 starters.
Now that the Colts are starting to lose this year's starters due to a rash of injuries, their culture of competition is coming in handy now that the schedule is the toughest it will be all regular season.
With standout junior defender Lawrence Mancino added to the injury report before the game, the Colts -- ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 -- remained unfazed Tuesday in a 2-1 road win over previously-unbeaten and No. 3 Howell.
"I think there was always competition from day one, especially in the back, where we had like seven guys competing for a starting spot," senior Charlie Paparella said. "So it's bad that people are getting hurt, but we have a lot of skill in this back for and on this team."
Junior Dimitry Corba and senior Jack D'Eletto provided the two CBA goals, which came within 10 game-minutes of one another and were the first two goals Howell has conceded this season after opening its campaign with five consecutive shutouts.
Right after Howell senior goalkeeper Charlie Scanlon made a diving save, Corba ripped a shot headed toward the goal in the 33rd minute and it caught the arm of Howell defender R.J. Eckelman for a handball in the box.
Corba then tucked the penalty into the lower left corner for the first goal of the season scored against Howell.
"I had a 2-v.-1 with Joe Earle," Corba said. "I slipped him a ball and (Scanlon) made a great save. Cam (D'Alterio) got the ball and a defender was there to block it, so he gave me the ball and I ripped a shot. I think it was going to go it and then it hit (Eckelman) in the arm.
"I just like to put it down, take a deep breath and just hit it. Their goalie had a great game, made some great saves and I was happy to score that PK to help us win."
Three minutes into the second half, junior Dylan Millevoi knocked the ball toward the top of the six-yard box, where D'Eletto beat a defender to the ball and slammed it past Scanlon for a 2-0 Colts lead.
"We just had to keep punching and trying to keep scoring," Paparella said. "Keep shooting."
Although CBA was in control of the possession throughout the game, its defense let up in the 53rd minute. Junior Bryce Ocolla cut the CBA lead in half when he ran onto a pass from sophomore Nick Turturro and hit a deflected shot into the goal.
Scanlon did his part to keep Howell within striking distance by saving eight shots, including three on shots from the six-yard mark or closer.
"I think we got a little bit too comfortable up 2-0," Paparella said. "Once we saw they scored, we said, 'Alright, we've got to tighten things up and close this game and get a result.'"
Ultimately, though, the Colts were too much for Howell, which was also missing a key piece in starting senior center midfielder J.P. Candela, who was on a college visit, according to Rebels coach Rich Yuro.
After losing its opener to Marlboro in overtime, CBA has put together a formation that has begun to gel, particularly in the midfield with Paparella, Corba and senior Logan Szuwalski emerging as the link between the defense and the team's three primary attackers: Millevoi at striker and D'Eletto and Will Thygeson on the wings.
"Although we have two insane wingers like Will and Jack, we always try to connect the backfield to the midfield and then springing Will and Jack in the attack," Paparella said.
"It's been a challenge to find the chemistry in the middle, because we have a bunch of new guys," Corba said. "We played a lot of games before the season started trying to get acclimated and it's coming together now."
CBA's defense also had a pair of starters to replace and that effort has not gone as smoothly. While the Colts have only allowed four goals in six games, they have already lost two starters to injury, with senior center back Christian DeOliveira suffering an ankle injury in the 79th minute on Tuesday.
Before the injuries to DeOliveira and Mancino, Paparella moved from outside fullback to defensive center midfield in an effort to account for an injury to junior John Gambale and improve CBA's possession, so the defense could very well have three starters who were not in those spots to open the season when the Colts return to action on Thursday at Freehold Boro.
"I was not expecting (the position change), because I played right back all of last year and to start this year," Paparella said. "But coach put it on me and I just said, 'Let's try it and see how it goes.' I have played midfield my whole life, so I felt like I was ready. When guys get hurt, so everybody has to step up and do their part."
On top of the defensive shuffling, CBA lost returning junior goalkeeper Joe Grossman to a season-ending knee injury during the preseason and has been going with junior Miles Gallagher.
With the injuries piling up, CBA has turned to senior Joe Lucignano and junior Sean Galvin in the back and junior Cameron D'Alterio and seniors Joe Earle and Liam Danaher in the midfield -- all of whom contributed to Tuesday's win.
While no Shore Conference team will weep for CBA amid its injury problems, the Colts may find it challenging to round into form the way they did when they ran the table in the Class A North division and claimed the Shore Conference Tournament championship in impressive fashion. So far, however, even with the injuries, the Colts have improved since scoring just once in their first two games of the season. Over the last three games, CBA has beaten defending Group II champion Delran, defending Non-Public B champion Gill St. Bernard and now Howell.
"The loss to Marlboro was a learning experience," Paparella said. "It helped us jump in the right direction and start stringing some wins together. We're on a wonderful run because everyone works 100 percent on this team."