Thanks to a suffocating defense and a goalie who contributed far more than expected, the Brookdale Community College men’s soccer team will begin play in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s National Championships tomorrow.
he Jersey Blues won the Region 19
championship on Oct. 30 at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark by defeating Ocean County College, 1-0.
They will begin their quest for a national title tomorrow in Herkimer, N.Y., against host team Herkimer. The NJCAA Tournament will run through Sunday.
Head coach Mike Costa, whose team has been knocking on the Region championship door in recent years, said the difference in 2010 was that “we played better defense.”
The Jersey Blues defense seemed to mesh when Gary Papa (Middletown North) returned from injury. He is the heart and soul of a defense that includes Jack Parkin (Marlboro), Andrew Barry (Middletown North) and Ryan Cruz (Raritan). The Blues are allowing less than a goal a game.
Brookdale’s goalie is Antionio Jorge, a freshman from Long Branch who just may have been the difference maker for the team. Back in the summer, Costa had no keeper.
“I really had concerns,” he said.
With necessity being the mother invention, Costa created one in Jorge, a field player previously.
Jorge grew into the position. There were growing pains (“He couldn’t catch a cold” at first, Costa remarked), but the Green Wave grad was determined to become a topnotch keeper (he ranks eighth in the country, allowing just 0.59 goals a game). He put his work ethic into the position and trained hard. By mid-season, the Blues had a dependable goalie. By tournament time, they had something else.
“He’s just exceptional,” said Costa. “He’s getting better all the time.”
Jorge was the difference in the waning minutes of the region final when OCC moved everyone forward and applied the pressure. He came up with two game-saving saves in the final four minutes to preserve the 1-0 victory. It was his 12th shutout of the season.
Brookdale scored the match’s only goal in the 30th minute. It came off a corner kick, where the Blues took advantage of their size. Chris Katona (Howell), who leads Brookdale in assists, served a perfect ball into the box, and defender Brett Barilari (St. Mary’s, Rutherford) picked the right time to score his first career goal, a header.
Barilari was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Brookdale defeated Middlesex, 2-0, in its semifinal. Tomas Cholula (Colts Neck) scored off a through-ball from Katona, and Katona provided the insurance goal using his 6-5 frame to head in a pass from Parkin. The play had started with David Cornwell’s well-placed direct kick.
Having been close to the Region title before, Costa, who guided the 1990 Jackson Memorial boys soccer team to a state championship, could appreciate just how difficult it is to win the region title.
“A lot of things had to go right,” said Costa. “It’s a tough region with so many good teams.”
With the addition of Region III teams from Pennsylvania, the region has become perhaps the most competitive in the country. Last year’s NJCAA national champion, Gloucester, didn’t even make it through to the finals this year.
This was Brookdale first Region title since 2002 and first under Costa, and he doesn’t believe his team is satisfied to just be in the tournament. They “want more,” he pointed out.
The Blues will take a 17-4 record into its game with 20-1 Herkimer, which is ranked No. 2 in the country.
Besides the staunch defense and exceptional goalkeeping, the Blues have one of the best offenses in the country. Katona has been the trigger, man and in Cholula and Cornwell they have two strikers who are masters at putting the ball in the back of the net.
Cornwell has 20 goals and eight assists and is ranked ninth in the country in scoring (48 points), while Cholula has 19 goals and eight assists (46) and is ranked 10th.
They are the reason that BCC could lose a two-time First Team All-American forward (Joe Parella, Howell) and not miss a beat offensively.