FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — As Christian Brothers Academy emerged form its halftime huddle trailing host Freehold Township by two goals, the Colts knew they had to be markedly better across the board in the second half. Freehold Township didn’t just control the play over the first 24 minutes, it dominated.

“At halftime we knew we had to wake up,” said senior attackman Matt McGuiness. “We knew we were better than that and that we could rebound in the second half.”

The Colts raised their game in the third quarter, starting with crisp face-off work by senior Frank Isola, but they still trailed by three to the now-healthy and dangerous Patriots more than halfway through the period. That was until McGuiness scored at 4:46 of the third off a feed from John Salcedo, setting off a streak of seven unanswered goals that propelled the Colts (6-0, 6-1) to a 9-6 Shore Conference Class A North victory on Monday evening.

“Lacrosse is such a game of momentum and sometimes you just need that one goal,” said CBA head coach Dave Santos. “It got our confidence going, and we kept riding it.”

Senior midfielder Mike Convery added a goal 20 seconds after McGuiness’s tally, and then a pair of goals by freshman Nick Casner and senior Thomas Palisi two minutes later and 42 seconds apart gave CBA a 6-5 advantage, its first lead since scoring the game’s first goal at 9:40 of the opening quarter. Casner finished with a game-high four goals while Palisi added two and McGuiness contributed a goal and three assists.

Casner’s contributions stand out on a team with 15 seniors. The freshman has joined seniors McGuiness and Thomas Deiner on the attack line and flourished, leading the team with 18 goals. His first goal gave CBA the lead to start the game, and his second tally tied the game at five. He deposited two more goals in the fourth quarter to help the Colts pull away and remain undefeated and firmly in control in A North.

“I just play my game, and it’s worked out,” Casner said. “The seniors help me out a lot.”

Over the first two quarters CBA managed just six shots on goal and won only one face-off. Freehold Township junior middie Billy Sasso, one of the Shore’s best on draws, owned the face-off circle in the first half, and that helped the Patriots build a 4-2 halftime lead on a pair of goals by senior attackman Steven O’Brien and one each from Sasso and senior middie Mike Coppa.

The Colts made a change for the second half when they inserted Isola on face-offs, and it paid immediate dividends when he won five of six third-quarter draws to help spark the rally.

“T.P. (Thomas Palisi) is our face-off guy, but it just wasn’t his day,” Santos said. “Frank is our emotional and vocal leader. We put him in and he turned the game around.”

“Frank propelled us forward,” Casner said. “He grinded it. When everyone else was down, he went out and put the team on his shoulders.”

Casner’s goal 2:20 into the game had given CBA the lead, but Freehold Township (4-4, 2-2) would storm back starting with Coppa’s goal at 4:10. Brandon Nunez fired a pass from behind the net to Coppa at the top of the box, and the senior blasted a bounce-shot past Evan Bynoe to tie the score at one. Early in the second quarter, O’Brien, a 50-goal scorer as a junior who missed the season’s first five games with an injury, took a pass from Sasso and ripped a low, left-handed shot home for a 2-1 lead.

Palisi drew CBA even when he took a feed from McGuiness and found the back of the net through traffic from the top of the box at the 7:00 mark. Freehold Township would close the first half strong, however, when Sasso scored from the left side of the box off a pass from Coppa at 5:12, and O’Brien tallied at 3:56 when he spun around a defender and beat Bynoe.

Freehold Township had a significant advantage in possession in the first half, but even when CBA did have the ball it wasn’t able to execute at its normal level. The Colts were out of synch on offense and a little too passive on defense.

“A passive zone is a weak zone,” Santos said. “We picked it up in the second half and were more aggressive on the ball.”

Early in the third quarter, Freehold Township pushed its lead to 5-2 on an unassisted goal by John Poole. Nunez tried a pass from behind the net that was deflected, but landed right in the cradle of Poole, who fired it in to extend the Patriots’ lead to three goals. McGuiness started CBA’s rally with a goal at 4:46, then Convery converted off a quick pass from Deiner to cut Freehold Township’s lead to 5-4. Casner scored unassisted when he picked up a loose ball in the box and whipped it past Chris Favale to tie the score at five. Less than a minute later, Palisi’s second goal off a pass from Deiner completed the comeback and gave CBA the lead for good.

The scoring outburst didn’t end there. Casner scored off a pass from McGuiness in transition to open a 7-5 lead at 9:05 of the fourth, and senior attackman Garret Patten ripped a shot under the stick of Favale at 7:27. Casner’s fourth and final goal gave CBA a commanding 9-5 lead with 6:25 left. Sasso scored his second goal off a cross-field pass from Coppa with 3:33 left, but the Patriots couldn’t sustain a rally.

Class A North has proven to be the deepest division in the Shore this season with four teams ranked in the top 10 and numerous close games each week. A win by Freehold Township would have opened up the division race, but CBA instead kept its stranglehold.

“We have 15 seniors that have been through the fire,” Santos said. “They understand what it takes to win.”


Box Score

CBA 9, Freehold Township 6

CBA (6-1, 6-0)                          1 1 4 3 - 9

Freehold Township (4-4, 2-2)    1 3 1 1 - 6


GOALS — CBA: Nick Casner 4, Thomas Palisi 2, Matt McGuiness, Mike Convery, Garret Patten; FT: Billy Sasso 2, Steven O’Brien 2, Mike Coppa, John Poole.

ASSISTS — CBA: Matt McGuiness 3, Thomas Deiner 3, John Salcedo; FT: Mike Coppa 2, Brandon Nunez, Billy Sasso.

SAVES — C: Evan Bynoe, 8; FT: Chris Favale 6.

SHOTS — Freehold Township, 23-22.