The Prep Takes Another State Soccer Title

This past weekend, the Seton Hall Prep soccer team won their third state title in a row, a feat very few teams have accomplished. The Pirates’ path to success was paved by a strong senior-heavy squad, along with one of the most (if not the most) successful coaches in the Garden State, Marty Berman. 

The Pirates, being the #1 seed, received a bye through the first round of the state bracket. They then kicked off state play against Oratory Prep. The Prep cruised to victory with a final score of 8-0 due to goals from Drew Ligotti ’22, Joaquin Niehenke ’23, David Schuster ’24, Luca Chirichiello ’23, Eddie Krupski ’24, and Aiden Guarneri ’22, along with phenomenal play from the back line and goalkeeper Aidan Batista ’22. The Pirates took the momentum right into the North semi-final game against Bergen Catholic. Facing a far more difficult challenge in this matchup, The Prep failed to score in the first half, but finally were able to navigate around the Crusader defense with a goal from Charles Giordano ‘22 in the 45th minute. Twenty-six minutes later, Krupski netted the ball to seal the deal for the Pirates. Krupski finished the year with 8 goals and 22 points. The 6’2 forward proved to be a vital component of the Pirate offense and will continue to be in the years to come. 

The following Thursday was arguably the biggest day for the soccer team all year. It was time for the Non- Public A North final game against a team with whom our soccer program holds significant history: Delbarton. This recent state bracket history dates back to 2007 when the Pirates took down the Green Wave 3-2 in the NPA North final. In the same spots in 2011 and 2013, Delbarton defeated The Prep 1-0. Delbarton took the crown twice more with wins in 2014 and 2015. Finally, in 2016 The Prep took down the rival in a nail biting game decided by PKs. Again in 2018 and 2019, Delbarton prevailed. This concludes a 6-2 record in favor of Delbarton in state play since 2007, and without a doubt did the guys in the SHP locker room understood the gravity this rivalry held. Zaiden James ‘22 said, “It’s obviously a sense of excitement getting to play against your biggest rivals and compete with them in a game that really matters. However, there is definitely a sense of nervousness knowing you are representing your whole school and it is win or go home. But our preparation and how much we trained before that game made the nervousness go away and the excitement took over.”

The match started slowly with not many chances and no goals. That is until seconds before the halftime whistle blew. In the 39th minute, Pirate forward Drew Ligotti broke through the Delbarton defense and netted the ball to take the lead. Tevlin Field erupted and Pirate Nation went crazy. The Prep’s defense managed to hold on for the whole second half and shut down the Delbarton offense. The Pirates prevailed 1-0, sending them to Kean University the following Sunday to play Christian Brothers Academy for the state crown. 

The hype for Sunday’s game was through the roof, and rightfully so. Two of the top teams in the state were ready to face off for the ultimate title: Non-Public A state champs. With the atmosphere and energy at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium, the Pirates were ready to go. Giordano ‘22 said, “They had a similar play style to us, so we just needed to shut down their attack and want it more.”

So the game kicked off, and it didn’t take long for the Pirates to show how badly they wanted it. Just 11 minutes into the game, Ligotti netted a header off a corner kick from Schuster to take the lead 1-0. The Pirates defense held strong for the whole game, with the exception of a few close calls. With 10 minutes left in the match, forward Schuster shut the door, netting what would be his last goal as a Pirate. 

The final whistle sounded and the Pirates were state champs for the third year in a row. This win, combined with an extraordinary 20-0-1 record would cement The Prep’s #1 overall state ranking. After the game, UChicago commit David Schuster said, “It feels awesome knowing all of our hard work here at The Prep has paid off.”

The Pirates ended their season with 20 wins, 0 losses, 1 tie, 16 shutouts, and 68 goals. The Pirate defense, named one of the best in the northeast, gave up only 6 goals all season. SHP was also ranked #5 in the country by Prep Soccer. To say it was a successful season would be an understatement, as it was nearly impeccable. The weight now falls on The Prep’s underclassmen with the question we are all dying to answer: Will there be another ring next year?