No. 6 Christian Brothers Academy Smothers No. 8 Middletown South in Key Class A North Boys Lacrosse Victory
MIDDLETOWN -- There is never going to be an admitted rebuilding year for any high school program because of the finite nature of scholastic athletics. "The future looks bright" is all well and good, but that matters not to the seniors who are doing everything in their power to have success in their final year.
With that being said, it was easy to look at the roster for Christian Brothers Academy's lacrosse team and see a squad that was going to need some time to grow and gel before resembling a traditional CBA team that is among the Shore's best and competing for a Shore Conference Tournament title. The Colts returned just four starters and began the season with just three of them thanks to a preseason injury. Two freshmen and two sophomores were set to be among the starting 10 and there was some level of inexperience all over the field.
The Colts, however, have jumped right into the sauté pan and proven to be quick learners. Any notion of a "rebuilding year" has been quickly dispelled and their strong start continued with an important divisional victory on Monday.
Playing the inaugural game at the new turf playing surface dubbed Keane Field after legendary soccer coach Dan Keane, CBA, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, used a sound defensive performance and a methodical offense to defeat No. 8 Middletown South, 10-5, in a meeting of teams that entered undefeated in Class A North play.
Junior attackman Nick Blalock scored three goals and assisted on another and sophomore attackman Ryan Martin had a hat trick to lead the way offensively while senior defenseman Peter Canterino spearheaded a defense that continued to shine by stifling a productive Middletown South offense. The Colts improved to 4-3 and have yet to lose to a Shore Conference team this season. They are currently tied with No. 9 Howell atop the Class A North standings.
"We wanted to play inside-out defense; team defense, slide early," Canterino said. We know (Middletown South senior midfielder) Luke Rohrmann is a talented kid so we went early every time he dodged. We trust our two-slides and we know everyone is going to have each other's backs."
CBA opened a 3-0 lead in the first quarter and was in control basically from start to finish. They led 6-1 at halftime and were up 10-2 late in the game before Middletown South scored three times against the Colts' backups in the final 1:50 of the game. Senior midfielder Hayden Kelly added a pair of goals, senior midfielder Aidan Guinnessey had a goal and an assist, and junior midfielder Christian Petruzzelli scored once. Junior attackman Ian Macrae dished out two assists.
Going into the season, CBA knew it was going to need first-year starters to fill the void left by what was a senior-laden 2021 team. Blalock, junior attackman Brendan Donnelly, Canterino, and senior midfielder Max Avrillon were the only returning starters and Donnelly suffered an injury during the preseason that is going to keep him out likely through April. Through seven games, CBA is averaging 10.3 goals per game, which includes games vs. state-ranked Bergen Catholic, previously state-ranked Pope John, and New York's Iona Prep. Blalock has picked up where he left off after a very good sophomore season while Martin and Macrae have produced at a high level playing starting minutes after having reserve roles last season.
"Last year we had a senior-heavy offense so those guys didn't get many chances to play, but it wasn't like they weren't talented enough," Blalock said. "I had plenty of confidence in those supporting pieces to step up."
"Losing BD is big and we can't wait to get him back, but we do have some experience at that level with Ian and Ryan," said CBA head coach Dave Santos. "We're trying to fill in the pieces a little until BD gets back and once he does I think we'll be firing on all cylinders."
More impressive has been what the Colts have been able to do on defense. Canterino anchors the unit but it has been the impressive play of two freshmen poles, Luke Krebs and Quinn Kelly, that has the Colts allowing just 5.6 goals per game. CBA has held six of seven opponents to under 10 goals and the only team to score over 10 was Bergen Catholic in overtime on opening day. Sophomore goalie Brandon DeSena has also played well taking over for First Team All-Shore goalie Noah D'Andrea.
"I knew (Krebs and Kelly) were talented but I didn't know they were this talented," Santos said. "They're two of the best freshmen poles that I've seen in a long time. We've been asking a lot of them and they haven't disappointed."
"They're getting better every day and Krebs and Quinn are really enthusiastic kids who are always coming up and asking what they can do better," Canterino said. "Their work ethic is through the roof and we have a lot of trust in them. All the younger guys have filled the shoes we lost really well, and I think it's because of the chemistry we built in the offseason. They've been able to step up more than we could have expected."
Another key player for the Colts has been Avrillon, whose responsibilities have grown as a senior. The Colts converted him into a defensive midfielder last season and he thrived in the role. He's taken on a two-way job this season and has done all the little things that often go unnoticed but are crucial for winning teams.
"Max has been fantastic," Santos said. "By trade, he's not a D-middie - he's a very good offensive middie and I think he plays that on his club team - but we made him one last year and he was so good. We told him this year we would probably rely on him at both ends and he said, 'no problem, coach'. He's exhausted after every game because he's all over the place but he's been very valuable for us."
CBA began the year ranked outside of the top five at No. 7 in the SSN Top 10 and has since moved up to No. 6. Their losses are 11-10 in overtime to state-ranked Bergen Catholic, 8-7 in overtime to Pope John, and 9-6 to Iona Prep. Monday's win over Middletown South gave them their first ranked win of the season and showcased both the early growth and the ceiling of a young and talented group. If they continue to play as well as they have over the first 11 days of the season they'll be back in the top five before long.
A divisional matchup with Colts Neck is on tap for Wednesday before a four-day stretch starting April 20 that includes a game at Lawrenceville Prep and a trip to Washington D.C. to face Georgetown Prep and St. John's College High School. In the latest Inside Lacrosse National Top 25, St. John's is the No. 1 team in the nation, Georgetown is No. 8, and Lawrenceville is No. 15. CBA will learn a lot about itself before it returns home.
"After those losses, obviously to really good teams, it gave us a confidence boost and let us know we can play with anyone in the state when we play our best," Canterino said.
"It's been a slow process and we don't have much experience, but what helps is we've thrown them to the fire early and we've been in some close games," Santos said. "They've grown up real quick."
No. 6 Christian Brothers Academy 10, No. 8 Middletown South 5
Middletown South (5-1, 3-1) 0 1 1 3 -- 5
Christian Brothers (4-3, 3-0) 3 3 1 3 -- 10
GOALS -- MS: John Beyer 2, Luke Rohrmann, Colin Gallagher, Kevin Dunphy; CBA: Nick Blalock 3, Ryan Martin 3, Hayden Kelly 2, Aidan Guinnessey, Christian Petruzelli.
ASSISTS -- MS: Luke Rohrmann; CBA: Ian Macrae 2, Aidan Guinnessey, Nick Blalock, Max Avrillon, Davis Campbell, Cameron D'Alterio.
SAVES -- MS: Lucas Campos 7; CBA: Brandon DeSena 5.
SHOTS -- CBA, 31-12
FACEOFFS -- MS: Beau Servidio 9-for-18; CBA: Aayush Dave 4-for-8, Hunter Kilpatrick 5-for-10
EMO -- MS: 3-for-5; CBA: 1-for-3.