Boys Soccer – Thygeson Makes Up for Lost Time, Sends CBA Back to the Non-Public A Final
MIDDLETOWN -- Will Thygeson was forced to watch his Christian Brothers Academy teammates find a way to win the Shore Conference Tournament without him while the senior nursed a hamstring injury that knocked him out for the most of the conference tournament.
On Wednesday, a now-healed Thygeson finally got his chance to return the favor to his teammates with a championship-clinching goal.
Thygeson scored the lone goal of Wednesday's NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A final vs. St. Peter's Prep -- a far-post shot in the 68th minute -- and top-seeded CBA held on to beat the third-seeded Marauders, 1-0, to win its seventh sectional championship in the last eight years while advancing to the Non-Public A final for the sixth time in eight seasons.
The Colts advance to play North Jersey champion and reigning Non-Public A champion Seton Hall Prep, which defeated Bergen Catholic, 5-3, to earn its spot in the championship game. The Pirates defeated the Colts, 2-0, in the 2021 Non-Public A final and will look to make it two straight titles when they clash with CBA Saturday morning, 10 a.m. at Franklin High School
"It's always special to play in the last week of the season and to get to the final game is extra special," CBA coach Tom Mulligan said. "We don't take it lightly. We try to celebrate every victory all year long and there have been different members of this team who have stepped up all year long and that's the only way you can do it. You don't run off 18 victories in a row with one individual. It takes a team to get to this level, so I'm just really happy for those 25, 30 kids on this team."
After putting St. Peter's goalkeeper Simon Yanez under duress for most of the second half, CBA finally slipped a shot past him with a little more than 12 minutes left to play. Junior Dimitry Corba won the ball near midfield and pushed it up the middle of the field before playing a pass toward the left side of the field.
Thygeson gathered the ball, cut it back toward the middle and took a 16-yard, right-footed shot that skipped into the far corner of the goal.
"Dimitry played me a great ball, I knew the defender was going to think I was going to go to my left, so I just cut it back across to my right," Thygeson said. "I was able to strike one and it was a great ball by Dimitry, I really just had to tap it in. It was an amazing link-up play by Dimitry and a couple other of my teammates."
A left-foot-dominant player, Thygeson has worked on improving his right foot since making his varsity debut as a sophomore in 2020 and flashed his versatile finishing skills when his team was getting desperate for a goal.
"Coming into CBA, I was always very comfortable with my left foot and no so much with my right," Thygeson said. "When I was a sophomore and a young guy on the team, Jack Longo and Brett Sieg took me under their wing and told me that if I wanted to play in the state championship game or at the next level, I'm going to have to work on my right.
"That play where I scored, I worked on that play hundreds of times with Jack Longo and Brett Sieg, so it's a lot of hard work paying off and I owe those guys who came before me a lot of credit for helping me get to that point."
"I was on him and Jack D'Eletto to use their opposite foot at this time last year," Mulligan said. "So to see him cut the ball back and tuck it into the corner with accuracy, precision and pace with his right foot was a really special moment for me as a coach. I was very happy for him."
A hamstring strain sidelined Thygeson for the last three rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament, but the senior remained upbeat and helped direct his team from the bench as the Colts claimed the 12th Shore Conference Tournament championship as a program and second in a row -- even without their All-Shore winger.
"It was tough being out with an injury in the Shore Conference Tournament, but my guys looked at me and they told me they had my back," Thygeson said. "I put my complete faith in them that they would be able to go out and win the Shore Conference Tournament, which they did.
"Coming into states, I knew I had to make up for lost time. I knew it was going to be an easy transition back into the lineup because of how great our chemistry is."
"Will is a special kid in the program," Mulligan said. "I can't say enough about Will Thygeson. When he was out with his hamstring injury, he was like a fourth coach on the team and on the bench. He showed up at the final of a jayvee tournament the Shore Conference runs and he was running lines and helping out. He does anything and everything to help this program and in the end, he's a winner."
After a quiet first half with scoring opportunities scarce for both sides, CBA turned up the pressure in the second half. Yanez made two acrobatic saves on dangerous strikes from juniors Lawrence Mancino and Dylan Millevoi, with Mancino's near-miss coming in the 43rd and Millevoi's in the 57th.
"It's an emotional atmosphere," Thygeson said. "Give (St. Peter's) credit: they are a great defensive team with a lot of great athletes on the back line. We knew it was going to take everything we had to get even one goal."
The Colts made a bid for a penalty kick in the 64th, but senior Jack D'Eletto did not get the call in his favor after a St. Peter's Prep defender appeared to clip his ankle on a tackle inside the 18-yard box. The missed opportunity though, was part of the lead-up to Thygeson's breakthrough goal.
CBA's defense clamped down from the midway point of the first half until the 73rd minute, holding St. Peter's without a shot for a stretch of 54 minutes. The Marauders did not break that drought until well after falling behind.
CBA junior goalkeeper Miles Gallagher made a diving save during the first half -- the only save he needed to make in his 13th shutout of the season. The Colts back line of senior Joe Lucignano and juniors Mancino, Max Koczan and Christian DeOliveiro were again up to the task of keeping an opponent off the board for the third straight match in the NJSIAA Tournament.
"St. Peter's was a very good team," Mulligan said. "They may not have had very many offensive opportunities but that is a credit to our defense. A lot of people look at some of the speed we have up top and those kids get the headlines, but our defense is in the double-digits for shutouts, I have a kid in the goal in Miles Gallagher was was not the projected starter going into the season, but he has been able to carry us in the back. The kids have a lot confidence in Miles and our center backs and our wing backs -- I can't say enough about our defense. They have been really special this year."
While CBA will have a tall order ahead of it Saturday, the Colts have some encouraging recent history on their side heading into the championship game. Each of the last three times CBA lost in the Non-Public A final, the Colts won in their next trip to the final game. In both 2016 and 2018, CBA returned to the championship game after losing the previous season and won the whole thing. When the Colts completed their 21-0 season in 2011, they were two years removed from losing in the Non-Public A championship game.
Only five starters return from last year's runner-up to Seton Hall Prep, but the Colts have a number of other players now with multiple-season's-worth of postseason experience.
"We are happy with this win, but the first question guys were asking coming off the field was 'What's the score of the Seton Hall Prep game?,'" Thygeson said. "We're hungry, we know that feeling from last year, walking off the field at Kean with a loss and we're looking to rewrite history this year."
CBA is on an eight-year run in which it will have played in six Non-Public A championship games after Saturday and has already won two championships.
Mulligan has been in charge of the program for the last seven seasons, with the 2016 and 2018 championships on his resume.
"Last year was last year and this year is this year," Mulligan said. "That's how we always look at it and I think it has served us well. I have six or seven players who are going to start in their first state championship game, but they are ready. They have been through the battles this year and I just look forward to playing a really high-level Seton Hall Prep team once again. It's always a treasure to get to play another Non-Public A finalist, because you know it's a high-quality soccer game with well-coached teams and really special players on both sides."