Boys Soccer – St. Rose Eyes Storybook Finish Against Powerhouse Gill St. Bernard
The last time St. Rose made it to the NJSIAA Non-Public B championship game, the Purple Roses won their ninth state title in dominant fashion to complete a redemption story for a senior-laden team. What made that championship special was that one year earlier, St. Rose made it to the Non-Public B championship game and suffered a one-sided defeat at the hands of an upstart program that was just entering the class of perennial championship contenders.
That upstart? It was Gill St. Bernard.
The Knights won their first state championship in 2009 by beating St. Rose, 2-0, in the Non-Public B championship game, then at the College of New Jersey. St. Rose returned to that same field the following year and capped the 2010 season with a resounding, 4-0 win over Oratory Prep.
Since St. Rose’s last trip to the final 12 years ago, Gill St. Bernard has gone from a one-time champion to the dominant program in Non-Public B throughout the state. There have been 10 NJSIAA Tournaments contested since the 2011 season and Gill St. Bernard has been in the Non-Public B final in seven of them, bringing home the group championship in five of the seven years – or half of the 10 tournaments since St. Rose’s last trip to the final.
This year’s GSB squad is not quite the juggernaut of recent seasons, but remains the class of Non-Public B until further notice. The Knights dropped a 1-0 decision to Bridgewater-Raritan in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals and have since rattled off six straight wins with an aggregate scoring count of 30-0. Two of the wins were 3-0 victories over a Montclair Kimberley side that has one-goal losses this season to Group IV finalist West Orange and Non-Public A finalist Seton Hall Prep.
If Gill is the standard in Non-Public B until further notice, St. Rose would be the team looking to put the state on notice. The Purple Roses have battled their way to the championship game, not just by fighting through two recent sectional champions (Princeton Day and Moorestown Friends) and a penalty-kick shootout to get to the final, but throughout the season. St. Rose stepped outside its comfort zone throughout the season and picked up some uplifting results along the way, feeding the internal confidence that this was the team to finally break the 12-year drought between state final appearances.
The state tournament has further validated St. Rose’s championship hopes, with its senior leaders – James Vitale, Packy O’Hearn, Matt Cheney and Mike Conlon – rising to the occasion during their team’s three-game postseason run. St. Rose had to overcome a red card that left them a man down during the second half against defending South Jersey champion Princeton Day and the Purple Roses pulled it out, 4-3, with a shorthanded game-winner.
In the championship game vs. Bishop Eustace, the Purple Roses came close to scoring the winner on several occasions, then kept their composure in penalty kicks to win the sectional title.
For St. Rose finish the job and end a run of three consecutive group championships by Gill St. Bernard spanning 2018 through 2021, the Purple Roses will have to lean on a defense that has, along with junior goalkeeper Jack Harmon, racked up 10 shutouts and given up more than one goal in a game just three times all season. One of those games was a come-from-behind draw vs. Colts Neck, another a surprising loss to Freehold Boro and the third the 4-3 win over Princeton Day in which the Purple Roses played shorthanded.
Boys Soccer NJSIAA Non-Public B Championship
Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022
At Franklin High School, 12:30 p.m.
St. Rose vs. Gill St. Bernard
St. Rose (10-4-4)
Head Coach: Simon Muckle
Group Championships: 9 (1973, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1988, 2010)
Group Runner-Ups: 8 (1969, 1976, 2000, 2002-05, 2009)
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 9 Princeton Day, 4-3; No. 12 Moorestown Friends, 3-1; No. 3 Bishop Eustace, 0-0 (5-3 on penalties).
Players to Watch
Diego Nieves, Jr. (9 goals, 5 assists)
James Vitale, Sr., (5 goals, 2 assists)
Packy O’Hearn, Sr., (4 goals, 7 assists)
Aiden Bonczek, Jr. (8 goals, 2 assists)
Jack Tiernan, Jr. (7 goals)
Andrew Restiano, Jr. (2 goals, 4 assists)
Isaiah Taylor, Jr. (3 goals, 4 assists)
Matt Cheney, Sr. (2 goals, 1 assist)
Mike Conlon, Sr. (1 goal, 2 assists)
Matt Alexis, Jr. (1 assist)
Jack Harmon, Jr., Goalkeeper (10 shutouts)
Gill St. Bernard (16-6)
Head Coach: Tom Bednarsky
Group Championships: 6 (2009, 2013, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2021)
Group Runner-Ups: 3 (2008, 2011, 2012)
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 8 Morristown-Beard, 11-0; No. 5 Hawthorne Christian, 7-0; No. 2 Montclair Kimberley, 3-0.
Players to Watch
Dan Scali, So., Forward (8 goals, 9 assists)
Dan Castro, Jr., Forward (5 goals, 2 assists)
Alex Chyzowych, So., Forward (5 goals, 1 assist)
Jonathan Ferreira, Jr., Forward/Midfield (7 goals, 7 assists)
Daniel Spataro, Jr., Midfield (4 goals, 5 assists)
Ryan Smith, Sr., Midfield (3 goals, 2 assists)
Nick Collins, Sr., Defense (11 goals, 3 assists)
Joe Howard, Sr., Defense (1 goal, 6 assists)
Max Voigt, So., Defense (5 goals, 1 assist)
Charles Taliano, Sr., Defense (2 goals, 6 assists)
Mike Dumiec, Jr., Goalkeeper (10 shutouts)
SSN Prediction: Gill St. Bernard, 1-0