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The 2022 graduating class within the Christian Brothers Academy soccer team consists of players who were freshmen when the Colts won the 2018 NJSIAA Non-Public A championship.

At a program like CBA, however, two realities make that hard for players like Dylan Cupo and his classmates to enjoy. First of all, freshmen rarely play on the CBA varsity team. Secondly, there is an expectation of winning the Shore Conference Tournament and that 2018 team – and each team since CBA won the conference in 2016 – came up short in that pursuit.

As accomplished as Cupo and his CBA classmates had already been during the first three years of their high-school careers, they wanted more for their legacy before wrapping up their swan-song season in 2022.

CBA senior Dylan Cupo (11) battles Toms River North senior Jimmy Ruppe. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
CBA senior Dylan Cupo (11) battles Toms River North senior Jimmy Ruppe. (Photo by Ray Richardson)
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Behind a Herculean effort by Cupo and a group of midfielders and defenders that steadily improved throughout the season, CBA returned to the top of the Shore Conference, racked up 20 wins, came within one win of an NJSIAA Non-Public A championship and finished No. 2 in New Jersey in 2021.

Cupo’s presence as the team’s physical forward who consistently delivered in big games sparked the Colts throughout the season and earned in the 2022 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year Award.

The surface-level numbers attached to Cupo’s season are the basis for a strong argument in his favor when it comes to the Player of the Year Award. With 21 goals, Cupo was one of six players in the Shore Conference with 20 or more goals and finished with the fifth-highest total. Incorporating his five assists, Cupo also finished seventh in the conference with 47 total points.

While there were a handful of players ahead of him on those two leaderboards, no player from the Shore Conference Class A North division beat Cupo in either goals or points – a significant achievement given that A North returned to its perch as the unquestioned toughest division in the Shore Conference. Of the top seven teams in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10, six were teams from the Class A North.

CBA went a clean 7-0 in divisional play in 2021 and Cupo was all over the board in those seven victories. He scored eight goals in those seven games, including seven against the four teams directly behind CBA on the A North table: Freehold Township (two goals), Manalapan (hat trick), Marlboro (one goal) and Long Branch (one). Cupo’s fast start to the year included scoring at least one goal in his team’s first five matches, including a two-goal game in a come-from-behind win over Freehold Township on the road.

On top of CBA’s seven games within the Class A North schedule, the Colts also played a loaded slate outside the division and Cupo routinely scored against those high-level opponents as well. He scored a goal apiece in a 4-3 loss to LaSalle, Pa. and a win over Colts Neck and went off for a hat trick in a big 4-2 win over Toms River North that featured the top two teams in the Shore Conference squaring off at CBA on the first Saturday of October.

Senior Dylan Cupo (left) defended by Manalapan senior Connor Kinnucane. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com
Senior Dylan Cupo (left) defended by Manalapan senior Connor Kinnucane. (Photo: Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com
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Cupo’s three-goal game against Toms River North was the first of two consecutive hat tricks for Cupo, who followed up his trio vs. Toms River North with a road hat trick in a 4-1 win over Manalapan three days later.

The rest of Cupo’s damage came during a memorable postseason run for him and the Colts. CBA rolled through the Shore Conference Tournament with four consecutive shutouts to win the program’s 11th conference title and first since 2016. Cupo – who played major minutes on the 2019 team that lost on penalties to Manasquan in the SCT semifinals – contributed four goals and two assists over the four-game stretch, including a goal and an assist in the 3-0 championship win over Toms River North.

Cupo finished with four goals in two games against the Shore’s No. 2 team and three nights before torching the Mariners for a second time, Cupo was battered by Manalapan in the semifinal. Not only did he face double and triple teams throughout the match, but Cupo also broke his thumb late in the first half – right around the time that he hit a crossbar and a post within two minutes of one another.

In the NJSIAA Tournament, Cupo contributed in each of CBA’s three wins. He assisted one of the team’s two goals in a 2-0 win over Union Catholic in the South Non-Public A quarterfinals, then came up with the overtime golden goal in a 2-1, come-from-behind win over 2019 sectional champion St. Augustine – which beat CBA in the championship game two years ago.

The sectional championship game vs. Notre Dame was one of the year’s wildest matches, with the Colts storming out to a 3-0 lead that had a chance to be 6-0 if not for three shots that hit the crossbar. Cupo accounted for one of the three goals before Notre Dame stormed back to pull within 4-3 early in the second half.

With CBA scrambling to keep Notre Dame from equalizing, sophomore Dylan Millevoi took the ball away in CBA’s defensive third, got it up to junior Jack D’Eletto, who raced it upfield before laying it off to Cupo for what proved to be the decisive goal in a 5-4 Colts win to seal the sectional championship.

Cupo wound up with a multi-goal performance in CBA’s final win of the year, which sent the Colts to the Non-Public A final for a record 18th time in program history. Unbeaten Seton Hall Prep and its lockdown defense proved to be too much for CBA in a 2-0 Pirates win in the Non-Public A final at Kean University, but well before that outcome, Cupo and CBA cemented a legacy worthy of some of the top CBA teams throughout the years.