Surf Taco Week 5 Boys Soccer Team of the Week: Middletown South
Prior to this season, the last time Middletown South beat in-town rival and Class A North divisional foe Christian Brothers Academy in boys soccer was during the 2014 season. Back then, CBA was still a rebuilding program, still two years away from returning to its current perch as a state power.
Middletown South, meanwhile, was even worse off. That Eagles team -- two years removed from reaching the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals -- finished 3-15, with one of those wins coming over the Colts.
Nine years later, when the two local rivals met, the stakes were much higher for both and when Middletown South watched the final seconds tick away, the weight of the upset dwarfed that of any regular-season win the Eagles have had to date.
With a 2-1 win over CBA on Oct. 5, Middletown South snapped a 27-game winning streak by the Colts vs. in-state competition while finishing off its first ever win over a team ranked No. 1 in the state at the time. That accomplishment made Middletown South an undeniable choice as the Week 5 Surf Taco Boys Soccer Team of the Week.
Leading up to its win over CBA, Middletown South had endured a roller-coaster season playing in a balanced, competitive Class A North division, as well as the only Shore Conference Tournament group that included five teams, with perennially solid programs Ocean and Rumson-Fair Haven among them.
With those challenges shaping the DNA of this year's team, Middletown South rode into last week with a chance to make a statement, first with a home match against Marlboro -- then ranked No. 9 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16 and currently the No. 8 seed and a still-active quarterfinalist in the Shore Conference Tournament. The Eagles started the week strong, topping the Mustangs, 3-2, to get back to a winning percentage of .500. Gian Luca Zito scored the game-winner in that one, while Dylan Sibilia and Chris Plessing each scored a goal off an assist from Shawn McCann.
Two days after the Marlboro win, Middletown South welcomed CBA to its grass field, which slowed the capable CBA attack. The Eagles defense and discipline, however, were the primary factor, with Middletown South holding CBA scoreless until a penalty kick in the 79th minute.
By then, Middletown South had built a 2-0 lead behind goals by Matteo Niglio and McCann, with Niglio staking Middletown South to a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute and McCann sending CBA to the brink of defeat with a finish in the 67th.
As the runner-up in SCT Group 6, Middletown South drew the No. 14 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament and picked up a 2-0, round-one win over No. 19 Shore Regional before bowing out of the tournament Wednesday against No. 3 Toms River North.
The Eagles will now prepare for the NJSIAA Tournament as they try to make a deep run through Group III -- a scenario that now seems more than just plausible after their performance last week.
2023 Surf Taco Boys Soccer Team of the Week Winners
Week 1: Central
Week 2: Colts Neck
Week 3: Howell
Week 4: St. Rose