Boys Soccer – Seton Hall Prep Defense Too Much for CBA in Non-Public A Final
UNION TWP. -- It takes an effort not seen yet during the 2021 boys soccer season in New Jersey to hold the Christian Brothers Academy attack to zero goals in 80 minutes.
Seton Hall Prep, however, has been wired for special moments and especially wired to shut teams out -- even one of the most dynamic offensive teams in the state.
Seton Hall Prep showcased its lockdown defense Sunday night at Kean University in beating CBA, 2-0, to win the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship for the second time in three years.
The Colts entered Sunday on an 18-game winning streak and had scored at least two goals in 18 of their 21 games in 2021 with no shutouts pitched by any of their opponents. The Shore's No. 1 team, however ran into a Pirates side that finished the season a perfect 20-0-1 with six goals allowed all year.
With its performance Sunday vs. the state's No. 3 ranked team, No. 1 Seton Hall Prep finished the year with 16 shutouts and locked up the state's No. 1 ranking to end the season.
"The senior class, they have won at every level," CBA coach Tom Mulligan said of his team. "They have won championships each year and they have a lot to be proud of. We are very proud of them.
"They showed their true character in the second half tonight and they have shown their true character all year long. They have left their mark on the program. They are a great group of kids. It’s always a tough night when you have to walk off the field having not won the contest."
The Pirates also got the scoring they needed to back up another clean sheet for the defense and senior goalkeeper Aidan Batista, although the first of the two goals might have come as the result of a handball that went uncalled - at least from the vantage point of several CBA defenders in the goal.
In the 11th minute, Seton Hall Prep senior and leading scorer David Schuster served a corner kick into the box and sophomore goalkeeper Joe Grossman got to it first in the air. He was not, however, able to hold on to the ball and senior Drew Ligotti walked it into the net for the goal.
Several CBA players immediately signaled for a handball but the call from the linesman never came.
"I don’t know what happened," Mulligan said. "It’s dark, there was kind of a crowd in front of the goal and it seemed like my goalie had his hands on the ball and somehow the ball got on the ground. I’m not sure what happened but next thing I know, he is laying down in the goal and sometimes that happens, I guess.
"It doesn’t really matter what happened, but it happened. We just have to deal with it and move forward."
The no-call in goal loomed large for the next 58 minutes, particularly during the second half, as CBA took control of the possession and continued to put the pressure on Seton Hall's defense. The Pirates, however, stayed tight in their formation and did not allow the Colts to turn their possession into clean shots, with Seton Hall defenders repeatedly blocking and deflected would-be shot attempts and balls sent into the box by CBA.
That included hounding 21-goal scorer Dylan Cupo, who has consistently come up big for CBA in the team's biggest games throughout the season.
"It was a very strong defensive effort from Seton Hall Prep tonight," Mulligan said. "It’s not easy to shut out Dylan Cupo. He was double-teamed for most of the night. They defended our flank play with Jack D’Eletto and Will Thygeson running down the flanks. We did get some services in, but I have to credit their defense for holding their lead in the second half when I really thought we showed a lot of our character."
Any official's decision became moot in the 70th minute, when CBA turned the ball over in its own end and sophomore Eddie Krupski found a wide-open Schuster for the finish -- the 12th goal of the season for the senior striker.
CBA's best chance to score came at the end of the 79th minute, when Seton Hall senior defender Ed Zazzali made a sliding save to pull the ball off the end-line with Batista on the ground.
Sunday's loss ended CBA's pursuit of an eighth Non-Public A championship in the program's 19th appearance in the title game. While the Colts did not win their final game, they finished 2021 with 20 wins, an undefeated season in the Shore Conference Class A North division and Shore Conference Tournament as a whole, a Shore Conference Tournament championship for the first time since 2016 and a South Jersey Non-Public A championship that also marked an 18th straight win.
Next year, the Colts will bring back two top forwards in Will Thygeson and Jack D'Eletto, sophomore midfielders Dylan Millevoi and Dimitry Corba, and defenders Charlie Paparella and Lawrence Mancino to the regular lineup and rotation.
"They don’t quite understand it yet, but it’s rare for a team to make the type of run that this group has made," Mulligan said. "To win A North outright, to win the Shore Conference Tournament without conceding a goal through the whole tournament, to win a very difficult and challenging South Jersey sectional and then to play in this matchup tonight is a very special experience that I hope they cherish for the rest of their life."