The 2016 boys’ soccer season was a memorable one for Christian Brothers Academy (CBA).
CBA capped a 24-1 season when it captured the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Non-Public A tournament championship. The Colts were then recognized as the No. 1 team in the state rankings.
Tom Mulligan, who is in his second season, will command a much younger squad this season than the one he guided in his rookie year.
“We just want to improve steadily each and every game,” Mulligan said. “We have a lot of inexperience. We only have one returning starter from last year. Hopefully, they will get enough experience early so they are ready for the second half of the season when the schedule gets a lot harder.”
The Colts started the 2017 season strong by posting a 2-0 victory over Howell High School on Sept. 5 in Howell.
Despite its inexperience, CBA was in control most of the game, dominating both time of possession and shots on goal. Mulligan was impressed with his team’s defense.
“Our defensive organization and the defensive half of the ball was great,” Mulligan said. “I was really happy with our defense today. If we play defense like that every game, we’ll be fine.”
Despite the victory, Mulligan saw some areas that his team still needs to work on.
“Our lack of experience showed on the offensive end,” Mulligan said. “There was a lack of confidence in our offense. Guys were unsure on how to execute down there. They get down there and the lights are on and it’s a big moment for them, and they just lack that confidence in this stage. But it’s game one in September. We got some confidence in the second half and were able to score. That will come as the games mount up.”
Mulligan will lean on the talents of seniors John Askin (defender) and Shane Keenan (goalkeeper), junior Jack Hempstead (defender) and sophomore Luke Pascarella (forward).
“Our senior captain is Askin,” Mulligan said. “So, I’m expecting him to carry the leadership portion early on when the team is going to rely on some strong leadership in the back. Every time Keenan makes a big save, it gives us a little bit of juice and keeps us in the game a little bit longer, especially early in the season.”
Keenan came up with one save to earn the shutout against Howell.
“Up top, Pascarella will be really big for us,” Mulligan said. “He’s only a sophomore, but he’s going to grow into the position and into the team. As the year progresses, I think a lot of people are going to notice him. We have an outside defender right now that reminds me of my outside defenders from last year in Hempstead — strong player technically, smart player, just a junior. I’m excited to watch his progress throughout this high school season. I don’t like to compare, but he’s the second coming.”
The Colts followed their win over Howell with another shutout victory, this time in Lincroft against Freehold High School on Sept. 7. Kennan turned aside two shots in the 1-0 victory. Junior Charlie Day, who posted one of CBA’s scores against Howell, netted the lone goal for the Colts against Freehold.
CBA collected a third straight win when it traveled to Hightstown on Sept. 9, downing Peddie School by a final score of 3-2. Peddie went into halftime with a 2-0 lead, but Pascarella and junior Dominic Bellomo found the back of the net in the second half to tie the score at 2-2. Bellomo scored again in the second overtime to deliver a victory to the Colts. Keenan made six saves.
CBA was scheduled to host Marlboro High School on Sept. 12 before hitting the road on Sept. 14 to face Colts Neck High School at 4 p.m.