Boys Soccer – Toms River North Carries Ocean County Torch Into SCT Final vs. CBA
Shore Conference Tournament Championship Game
Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021
At Barnegat High School
No. 1 Christian Brothers Academy vs. No. 3 Toms River North, 6:30 p.m.
Finalists at a Glance
CBA (16-1, 7-0 in Class A North)
Head Coach: Tom Mulligan, sixth season
SCT Final Appearances: 13 (1984, 1985, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2021)
SCT Championships: 10 (1984, 1985, 1988*, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2011, 2015, 2016)
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 17 Pinelands, 5-0; No. 9 Wall, 3-0; No. 4 Manalapan, 1-0
* - Co-championship
On the Attack
Dylan Cupo, Sr., Forward (17 goals, 3 assists)
Jack D’Eletto, Jr., Forward (6 goals, 3 assists)
Will Thygeson, Jr., Forward (1 goal, 9 assists)
Dylan Millevoi, So., Midfield (9 goals, 2 assists)
Jake Homowitz, Sr., Midfield (1 goal, 6 assists)
Marco Mastriani, Sr., Midfield (3 goals)
In the Back
Declan Kelly, Sr. (1 goal, 3 assists)
Jack McGagh, Sr. (1 goal, 2 assists)
Charles Paparella, Jr. (2 assists)
Lawrence Mancino, So. (4 assists)
Ryan Hayes, Sr.
Joe Grossman, So.
Other Players to Watch
Dimitry Corba, So., Midfield
Will Geiger, Sr., Defense
Tiarnan King, Sr., Midfield
Joe Lucignano, Jr., Defense/Midfield
Dan McNamara, Sr., Forward
Nick Bartlewitz, Sr., Midfield
Toms River North (12-1-1, 7-0 in Class A South)
Head Coach: Joe Mahon, 12th season
SCT Final Appearances: 6 (1984, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010)
SCT Championships: 3 (1999, 2003, 2005)
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 14 Shore, 7-1; No. 6 Long Branch, 2-0; No. 2 Freehold Twp., 4-1
On the Attack
A.J. Emnace, Sr., Forward (16 goals, 2 assists)
Jared Brown, Sr., Forward/Midfield (8 goals, 4 assists)
Mattia Assante, Sr., Midfield (7 goals, 6 assists)
David Anderson, Sr., Forward (2 goals, 4 assists)
Jake Nagle, Sr., Midfield
Nico Gonzalez, Sr., Midfield (2 goals, 3 assists)
In the Back
Jimmy Ruppe, Sr. (1 goal, 4 assists)
Matt Bozicev, Jr. (1 assist)
Jimmy McGuire, Sr. (1 goal, 1 assist)
Chris Bird, Sr.
Dawson Kaniuk, Sr.
Other Players to Watch
Wil Buono, Sr., Forward (5 goals, 1 assist)
Ray Keller, Jr., Forward
Luke Montanile, So., Forward/Midfield
Anthony Ruggiero, So., Forward
If history – both recent and beyond – is any indication, Toms River North has the deck stacked against it on Thursday night. Not only did CBA win the regular-season match between the two teams, 4-2, but every time Toms River North has lost in the SCT championship game, it has been against CBA. You may be wondering how many times Toms River North beat CBA in the SCT Final? The answer is zero.
As far as the here-and-now goes, Toms River North does have some reason for optimism. The Mariners did outplay CBA for stretches of the Oct. 2 game at CBA, including the first 25 minutes and the final 12 minutes, although the final 12-minute stretch began with CBA ahead, 4-1. It could also benefit Toms River North to play this game on artificial turf as opposed to the grass surface the teams played on nearly four weeks ago.
Where CBA has an advantage it hasn’t always had is its size and that was an area in which the Colts surprised the Mariners in the last meeting, with Dylan Cupo and Jack McGagh both heading in corner kicks. Teams often try to force CBA into defending set pieces but this year, the shoe is on the other foot. The Colts remain dangerous in the run of play but can be hard to defend with the 6-foot-3 Cuporoaming the box.
For Toms River North to win, it needs a big performance from the whole team, but two players, in particular. Mattia Assante is the player that ties everything together in the midfield and will likely need to be the best player in the middle on either side for the Mariners to get it done. Considering his ability, that’s not a lofty ask. The other key player is goalkeeper Dawson Kaniuk. Manalapan sophomore Matteo Paolillo kept his team in the semifinal game on Tuesday night and if Kaniuk has that kind of performance in him, Toms River North has a great chance to knock off the No. 1 seed.
X-Factors: Marco Mastriani (CBA) and Jake Nagle (Toms River North)
Both Mastriani and Nagle have had quiet years as goal-scores and for different reasons. Mastriani opened the season injured and is just starting to round into form. It shows in the way CBA has played lately, with the Colts operating with more crispness with each game that Mastriani gets closer to top form. He was not much of a factor in the first meeting vs. Toms River North but will be somebody the Mariners need to account for on Thursday night.
Nagle does not have a goal this season but it is not because of an injury, but rather the role he has been asked to play this year. He is the team’s defensive center midfielder and has taken a step back as a scorer while Assante, Jared Brown, A.J. Emnace, David Anderson and Nico Gonzalez do more of the attacking. Despite the no-goal season to date, Nagle has a history of scoring clutch goals, which he did twice during last year’s NJSIAA Tournament championship run. The second of those goals was an equalizer with under two minutes to go that sent the sectional championship game vs. Southern into overtime.
It has been 16 years since a team from Ocean County won a Shore Conference Tournament championship, with Toms River North upending Ocean in the championship game. With Southern and Toms River North boasting talented teams last season, the 2020 campaign looked like it might be the year for Ocean County to break the drought, but the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the season and the SCT was a casualty of that shortened season. As it stands, Toms River North will still have a chance to break the spell and has a frame of reference for when it will be up against after playing CBA during the regular season on the road.
CBA has been held under two goals just three times and has given up more than one just three times. One of the teams to score more than once was Toms River North and it also happened to be the game in which Toms River North gave up more than one goal. The Mariners may not have it in them to keep CBA to one goal, but they may have what it takes to put up a big number – especially after exploding for four against a tough Freehold Township side on Tuesday. A championship game can play out in a lot of different ways, but it feels like this game will be on the higher-scoring side. This one could very well be 3-3 heading into extra time, but I’ll stick with the more conventional score with the unconventional winner.
The Pick: Toms River North, 3-2
Semifinal Picks Record: 2-0
2021 SCT Picks Record: 18-7