Gray Bees Soccer Team Complete the Trifecta: 17-0, 32nd State Prep A Title, and 14th National Title.


(Daniel DaRocha)

Gray Bees demonstrate their pride in the stands at the State Prep A Finals.

John Jumbo, Sports Editor

This past Wednesday, the St. Benedict’s Prep Varsity soccer team beat The Pennington School in the State Prep A Finals. In doing so, the team completed a trifecta: bringing home its 32nd State Prep Title, 14th National Title, and going undefeated.

The soccer team had a great run throughout the entire season and after defeating Peddie School 5-0 in the semi-finals, they saw themselves heading toward the Prep A Final. At SBP, there was no question where all the students were headed after class on the day of its game against Pennington, the last challenge standing in the way of the Gray Bees. The community filled the bleachers at NJIT, in Newark, New Jersey, where the matchup between SBP and Pennington took place.

The atmosphere was nothing short of remarkable. The ecstatic cheers of the crowd did not lessen as they anticipated a phenomenal game. Score predictions were going around as everybody prepared for the match to begin. Expectations were high and the energy of the Hive was even greater as the community stood in support of their brothers.

“At the end of the day, it’s us 24 that will make history,” said captain Marcilio Soares (SY) in the pregame pep talk. “We will be remembered.”

The whistle blew to kick off the Prep A Finals. Both teams knew the opposing side very well, as this finals matchup has been played 28 times prior.

It did not take long for Ransford Gyan (UD2) to showcase why he was one to watch in this matchup. With a clever move followed by explosive pace, he forced the opposing defender to foul him just four minutes into the game. It was clear that Pennington would have a lot to deal with against the strong SBP side.

With each team moving the ball skillfully, it seemed as though neither side would get any clear-cut chances at goal. Top level defending was being displayed on both ends of the field proving why these two sides were in the spotlight. All of a sudden, in the thirteenth minute Martin Pulgarin (SY) crossed the ball into the box finding the head of Kwaku Agyabeng (UD1) giving SBP their first shot on target of the game. Things seemed to be in SBP’s favor as they pressed the Pennington back line with their creative and quick counterattacks. Just a few minutes later, Ransford Gyan went on a run dribbling past 3 defenders with ease. He got a look at goal and as soon as he unleashed his shot; Conor Coyne (SY) saved his side with a last second slide tackle to make the goalkeepers job easy. Pennington continued to display great defense, but that was not enough to stop the linkup between Kwaku Agyabeng and Lewis Campbell (UD2). Kwaku Agyabeng seemed unstoppable on the ball as he set up Lewis Campbell who found the near post to put SBP up 1-0 and close off the scoreline for the first half.

Each side displayed class in the first half leaving no question why they were the two teams competing on the big stage. The first half had many people on the edge of their seats as they watched these two prep powerhouses clash. The fans awaited the commencement of the second half as they cried out the Alma Mater in representation of SBP.

The whistle blew and SBP came out playing as if they were the side playing catch up. In just three minutes, SBP had already found themselves with three set-piece opportunities. This immediate domination forced Pennington to wake up. After fending off the barrage of attacks, Pennington responded with counters of their own. Defensive midfielder Judiah Mathes (SY) played a key role in halting any of the opposition’s attacks. From slide tackling to interceptions, Judiah showed that he can do it all. Pennington did not let up as they continued to search for an equalizer.

Baden Wandling (UD1) defending one on one down the sideline. (Daniel DaRocha)

Goalkeeper Marcilio Soares, fullbacks Mark Surrestsky (UD2), Baden Wandling (UD1), and center backs Yuvraj Nagra (SY) and Gianni Rosario (UD1) were putting on a master-class performance in the second half. There was no doubt that Pennington was going up against the best backline in the country.

In the 68th minute Kwaku Agyabeng was forced to get subbed off due to a hamstring disturbance. Christian Penaloza (SY) came on in his place and reminded everybody of the depth in the SBP roster.

Throughout the entire second half, Martin Pulgarin (SY) was a constant threat down the wing causing trouble for the Pennington defenders. His ability to swiftly beat defenders and cut into the box created many chances for SBP to get another one on the board. Suddenly, in the 86th minute, Martin sent a rocket into the top right corner of the net. All of his efforts throughout the game showed with his sensational goal to solidify the win for SBP.

With 90 seconds left and the win in sight, SBP was looking to keep possession for the remainder of the time. Pennington grew hopeless as they began to commit unsportsmanlike fouls out of desperation. Belmar Joseph (SY) received the ball with 40 seconds left in the game when suddenly Bakery Tanjigora (UD1) committed a tackle that could have been career-ending. This action led to both teams having one player sent off as they rushed to the sides of their teammates. A couple of seconds later, Baden Wandling (UD1) was rushing the ball up the field for the last play of the game when yet another Pennington player rushed in from behind with full power in an attempt to take Wandling out. These efforts to injure our players proved useless when that final whistle sounded.

The fans were buzzing at the final whistle. The Gray Bees finished off their season with a perfect record of 17-0-0. This was more than a state championship win. SBP had won the ring. By defeating St. Ignatius earlier in the season and now Pennington; SBP sees themselves with their 32nd Prep A Title and their 14th National Title.

“Who is any team to come to our home field and ruin what we’ve been working so hard for all season,” said Marcilio Soares.