Brookdale ends season winning NJCAA tourney consolation match

Brookdale Community College’s men’s soccer team couldn’t have drawn a more difficult assignment at the National Junior College Athletic Conference (NJCAA) Division III National Championship Tournament.

The Jersey Blues drew the No. 1 team in the country and top-seed Herkimer County Community College in Herkimer, N.Y., in their Nov. 8 first round game.

Brookdale proved it is one of the best Division III teams in the nation, losing to Herkimer by just 1-0. Herkimer would go on to win its ninth national championship.

Brookdale, the Region XIX and Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) champions, were ranked sixth in the country heading into the tournament.

The Jersey Blues bounced back from their disappointing loss to beat Richland College (Dallas, Texas), 2-1, in a consolation game.

Justin Gregory (Wall) and Thomas Vasquez (Hazlet) scored for the Jersey Blues. Goalkeeper Brad Bennett (Middletown South) recorded seven saves and was named to the All-Tournament team. Under first-year head coach, David Janezic, Brookdale ended the season with an 18-4-1 record.

To get to the NJCAA tournament, the Jersey Blues had to win the Region XIX Bracket A championship played on Oct. 26 in Toms River at Ocean County College. The top-seeded Jersey Blues beat Sussex County Community College, 2-0, in the final.

This year, Region XIX was awarded two spots in the national tournament with Gloucester County College winning the Bracket B crown in Toms River.

Brookdale set the tone early with Robbie Fortune (Hazlet) scoring in the 14th minute. Kyle Annecchino (Neptune) delivered a timely crossing pass that Fortune deposited in the back of the net.

The Jersey Blues struck again before the end of the first half. In the 37th minute, Ryan Morris (Freehold Township) scored on a header off a placement from Andy Caban (Red Bank).

The two goals were more than enough for the rugged Brookdale defense to preserve. Led by Defensive Player of the Game, Gregory, the Jersey Blues and Bennett picked up their 17th shutout of the season.

Brookdale beat Delaware County Community College (Media, Pa.) in the semifinals, 6-0. The match was played in Lincroft on Oct. 23.

Nick Bucciero (Howell) scored twice to lead the attack. Gregory, Paul Garcia Long Branch), Tyler Ettingham (Union Beach) and Bryan Lligui (Red Bank) were Brookdale’s other goal scorers. Gregory, Marco Fernandes (Manalapan) and Dan O’Sullivan (Hazlet) each added two assists.

Postseason honors went to several of the Jersey

Blues. Fortune, Gregory and Bennett were First-

Team All-Region members,

Morris was named to the

Second Team and Fernandes to the Third Team.

It was the same First Team order in the GSAC with Fortune, Gregory and Bennett First Team picks. Fernandes and Morris made the Second Team and Patrick Holliday (Howell) on the Third Team.

Women fall in semifinal

Brookdale’s women’s soccer team lost to visiting Gloucester, 3-2, in the Region XIX semifinals on Oct. 24.

The Jersey Blues spotted Gloucester a 1-0 lead at the half, but they evened the match early in the second on a goal by Chelsea James (Howell).

Gloucester (14-2-1) responded with two unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead. James made the final five minutes of the match interesting, as she notched her second goal of the game to put the score at 3- 2. The Roadrunners, however, made that one goal stand.

The Roadrunners upset top-seeded Ocean in the Regional final in a penalty kick shootout after the teams played to a 1- 1 tie through regulation and overtime. Ocean was ranked No. 2 in the nation and Gloucester was ranked sixth.

Brookdale, which was ranked No. 5 in the county, completed the 2012 season with a 12-5-1 record. The Jersey Blues were second to Ocean in the Region and tied them for first place in the GSAC with both teams going 7-0-1.