MORRIS TWP. —The Delbarton soccer team is built on tradition. It starts with “Character, Unity, Professionalism,” the three words printed on the bottom of the team’s roster every year — right above a very long list of all the NJSIAA, Morris County Tournament, and division/conference titles the Green Wave has won over the years.
Delbarton has a chance to add another date today, playing Christian Brothers in the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship at Kean University at 10 a.m. It is the start of a finals quadrupleheader which concludes with Villa Walsh taking on Moorestown Friends for the girls Non-Public B title.
But the Green Wave’s traditions go far deeper than just words and numbers. Tactics, like “set pieces, set pieces, set pieces,” an emphasis on “first five, last five,” and a goal of holding the opponent to fewer than five shots per game also don’t change despite the shifting personnel. A surprisingly superstitious club, Delbarton (22-1) does some of the same things every game, like assistant coach Josh Hartle’s specific brand of sunflower seeds or playing “All the Way Turnt Up” by Roscoe Dash in the locker room after every win.
“We’re very confident, but more excited,” said senior defender Jack Kielty, a Harding resident. “I wouldn’t say it’s pressure, as much as putting incentive on ourselves. We’re ready for the challenge we put on ourselves.”
This is Delbarton’s fifth straight trip to the Non-Public A final, so all but a handful of players have been part of this game. With that experience, the Green Wave is “not going to play the event, but play the game,” according to Finn. Just three seniors — Finn, Kielty and Rory Madigan — start for Delbarton, all on the back line, but the whole starting lineup returns from last fall.
However, this is a very different Green Wave team. Though the emphasis on shutouts continues —18 in 23 matches, though only one during the postseason —Delbarton’s offense has been even more diverse than usual. Junior Steven Hadley leads with 11 goals and 10 assists. Senior Bobby Fabricant (11g, 5a) and sophomore Kian Alberto (8g, 8a) have also been heavily involved, though 19 players have at least one point — including defenders like Brian Finn (5g) and Will Stroud (6g, 3a).
Hadley and Alberto each have at least one point in every NJSIAA Tournament match.
“Once you’ve won it, you feel like you know what’s needed to get there,” head coach David Donovan said. “They’re focused freaked out.”
Delbarton has won three in a row since falling to CBA in 2011, when the current seniors were in eighth grade. Juniors Matt Thorsheim (13g, 21a) and Pat Kollman (18g, 6a) lead the current Colts, who are trying to send their long-time head coach Dan Keane off with a state title. The No. 1 seed in Non-Public South A, Christian Brothers crushed St. John Vianney and Notre Dame by a 16-3 margin before outlasting St. Augustine, 2-1, on a goal by Thorsheim with 3:31 left in Tuesday’s semifinal.
With a victory, the Green Wave would become the first Non-Public A team to win four straight —joining Chatham Boro (1967-70), Hightstown (1961-4) and Wall (1978-81) a short list overall. Morris Catholic, which won Non-Public B from 1999 to 2005, has the most consecutive boys titles.
This championship would also give Delbarton the elusive “quadruple crown,” adding its own tournament to the NJAC-United and MCT titles that normally make up a local Triple Crown. The Green Wave has won three of the four titles for the past three years.
But, as Finn pointed out, “We don’t want to get overconfident. We haven’t won anything yet.”