Soccer – Former Teammates, Girls Goalkeepers Shine in Shore Senior All-Star Games
TINTON FALLS -- Will Thygeson and Antonio Santos started their high-school soccer careers as teammates and classmates at Christian Brothers Academy and ended them on Friday as teammates in the Shore Conference Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game at the Capelli Sports Complex.
In between the start and the finish to their careers, Thygeson and his fellow senior all-star teammates Jack D'Eletto and Charlie Paparella led CBA to two Shore Conference Tournament championships and the program's eighth NJSIAA Non-Public A championship. Santos, meanwhile, transferred to Rumson-Fair Haven and was an integral part of the 2021 Bulldogs side that won the program's first ever NJSIAA sectional title.
Reunited on Friday night, the two starred for the Monmouth County side in a 7-1 win over the Ocean County All-Stars, with both Thygeson and Santos scoring two goals apiece. Santos was named Monmouth County's Player of the Game, while Thygeson earned Most Valuable Player honors for the game.
"You spend all season competing against these guys and everybody out here is the cream of the crop," Thygeson said. "You go from competing against them to playing on the same side of the ball as them, so it's fun to get together with a highly-skilled group of guys and finish our high-school careers playing together instead of against each other."
Santos provided the highlight of the game when he buried an upper-90 banger from 20 yards out with his left foot in the 15th minute of the match. That goal -- which came off a feed from Rumson teammate Alec Pentikis -- staked Monmouth to a 1-0 lead and his second goal was a rebound finish in the final seconds to close out the win.
"I knew basically everyone on the team, so it was pretty awesome to get to play with these guys," Santos said. "Everyone here is really good and I have played with most of them before, especially the CBA kids. I've slipped a couple passes to them earlier in my career and it all came together again."
While Santos passed up an opportunity to play for a CBA team that won the Shore Conference Tournament championship in 2021 and 2022 and finished No. 1 in New Jersey this season by winning the Non-Public A championship, he did get a chance to help lead Rumson-Fair Haven to the 2021 Central Jersey Group II championship -- the first sectional title in the history of the program.
"Last year was a movie," Santos said of the championship run during his junior season. "You really couldn't ask for anything better. The first state championship is pretty much the best feeling you can have as a high school player. Scoring in that game and then later on against Delran (in the Group II semifinals) was the greatest thing."
Thygeson helped Monmouth create some distance with consecutive goals in the 44th and 48 minutes. The first goal by Thygeson was a finish off a through-ball from Manalapan's Anthony Sarkisov and the second came off a pass from D'Eletto, with a finish that looked very similar to Thygeson's championship-winning goal that he scored against Seton Hall Prep last Saturday in the Non-Public A final.
"It's been a weird feeling leaving school at 2:30 instead of going to practice," said Thygeson, who is heading to Colgate next fall. "It's kind of a sad feeling not getting to go out on the field anymore, but to end my season and my career with an exciting championship win on Saturday and to come out and play with some of the best players in the area and the state was a perfect way to finish the season. It's an experience that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. The greatest four years of my life have were out on the CBA field playing with the guys who became some of my best friends."
Howell's senior duo of R.J. Eckelman and Nick Spisak each had productive games as well, with Spisak assisting the fourth and fifth goals of the game for Monmouth and Eckelman scoring the sixth and assisting Santos's second goal.
"R.J. is arguably the best defender in the Shore and Antonio is arguably the best midfielder in the Shore," Thygeson said. "Playing with R.J. for the first time and playing with Antonio for the first time since freshman year, it was a lot of fun -- a lot more fun than having to go against them."
The CBA-Howell alliance was a lethal one for Monmouth, and it should be no surprise considering those were the two teams that reached the Shore Conference Tournament final in 2022. The Class A North rivals met once during the regular-season as well, with CBA winning both meetings by a score of 2-1.
Long Branch's Anthony Vasquez slammed in a low cross from Spisak across the box in the 56th minute to make it 4-0 and Manasquan's Aidan Sugrue tapped in a rebound after Spisak drilled the crossbar to extend the lead to 5-0 in the 60th.
Eckelman pounced after a miscommunication in the back for a 6-0 Monmouth lead in the 75th minute, but Ocean finally had an answer when Lacey forward Ethan Riley jumped on a Monmouth mistake in the back and finished for Ocean's first goal in the 77th minute.
Although six goals reached the back of the net under his watch in the second half, Barnegat's Lucas Holland turned in a dazzling performance in the second half to make sure the score wasn't even more one-sided. Holland, who saved seven shots in the half, earned Ocean County Player of the Game honors.
Goalkeepers Shine In Girls All-Star Draw
The girls Senior All-Stars followed with game two of the double-header and could not settle the score over 80 minutes, with the North and South teams drawing, 1-1, after trading first-half goals.
In the first 40 minutes, Central Regional's Hannah Lewis -- the Ocean County Player of the Year, according to the coaches -- struck first, running onto a through-ball and following up her own miss after Middletown North goalkeeper Maura Chawner saved the initial breakaway attempt.
The North's equalizer also came off a rebound, with Colts Neck's Juli Coniglio initiating the play with a free kick off the post. Rumson-Fair Haven's Janey Sypeck pounced on the ricochet and finished off the goal for a 1-1 score in the 26th minute.
It took a pair of rebounds to scored the game's two goals because of how outstanding the four goalkeepers were. Chawner and Toms River South's Delaine Wilkenson dueled during the first half, with Chawner making three standout saves and Wilkenson coming up with a trio of her own.
The second half was even better for the backups. Toms River North's Kyran Thievon turned in acrobatic save after acrobatic save and earned the game MVP award for her shutout half that included nine saves. On the other end, Point Pleasant Beach senior keeper Morgan Highland came up big early in the half with three saves before her North squad took over control of the game and bombarded Thievon to no avail.
Chawner was named the Player of the Game for the North side, while Thievon was also named Player of the Game for Ocean to go with her MVP.