BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer First to complete unbeaten season; win GSAC Whatever obstacle the Brookdale Community College men’s soccer team faced this fall, they were able to overcome it. Whether it was playing without players due to injuries, scoring an own goal, or in one contest, missing two penalty kicks. Whatever the challenge, the Jersey Blues found a way to survive and produce the school’s first unbeaten soccer season. “Going undefeated in anything is extremely difficult,” said Brookdale head coach Mike Costa. “These kids are very resilient. They have a tremendous internal will to win.” On Oct. 13, BCC completed its historic regular season at 16-0-3 with a 2-0 victory over Bergen. Joe Parella (Howell) and Emmanuel Gonzalez (Colts Neck) scored for Brookdale and goalie Greg Gantt (Neptune) picked up his eighth shutout of the season as the team clinched the Garden State Athletic Conference championship. The Blues were 10-0 in conference play and are the first team in school history to go through the GSAC schedule undefeated. The Blues were ranked No. 3 in the country in the recent National Junior CollegeAthleticAssociation Division III poll. Along with their resilience, the Blues also had talent. Parella is the leading scorer in the conference and Region XIX with 21 goals, and Gantt is the second-ranked goalie in the nation. To Costa, Parella is what junior college is all about. At this time last year, he was a backup behind Howell’s All-State forward Kyle Bethel. This fall, BCC gave him an opportunity to shine and he made the most of it scoring 49 points (seven assists to go with his 21 goals). He ranks third in the nation in scoring. “He’s really blossomed,” noted Costa. “It’s amazing. “With him we can play more direct, not side-to-side like last year, because he’s extremely fast and a tough kid,” he added. Midfielder John Cella, a sophomore, is another example of a high school player who came into his own in college. He leads the conference in assists (12) and has five goals. John Loiodice (Brick Memorial), a sophomore midfielder, has had a big season with 12 goals and eight assists. He’s second on the team in scoring with 32 points and tied for ninth nationally. Forward Brian Fernandes (Holmdel) has helped keep teams from ganging up on Parella with his 10 goals and five assists. Sophomore Dan Mullaney (Howell) is the second leading playmaker on the team with nine assists. Brookdale not only has the No. 2- ranked keeper in the country in Gantt, but the No. 4 in Robert Daily (Matawan). Gantt has a 0.309 goals-against average (GAA) and has eight shutouts. He’s permitted just four goals all year and is attracting the attention of Division I college teams. “He’s the best goalie in Division III,” said Costa. Gantt played every minute of every game in 2007 and Costa made sure that his goalie wouldn’t be overworked this fall. Enter freshman Dailey, who has a 0.446 GAA and five shutouts. BCC even has a third talented goalie in field player Augusto Dragonetti (Wall). The Blues are working on a shutout streak of six consecutive games. If any player symbolizes the grit and determination of this Brookdale team, it is undersized defender Josh Bower (Howell). Costa kept him on the team last year because of that grit, and this fall the coach found a place for him in the back. “It has a defender’s mentality,” he pointed out. “He’s constantly beating people in the air.” The Brookdale defense has been every bit as strong as any other part of the team, led by sweeper Duane Gardner (Kingston, Jamaica). The second season begins for Brookdale today when the Blues begin play in the Region XIX tournament as the No. 1 seed. Costa is well aware that the unbeaten record means nothing at this point. He noted that BCC’s first loss would be their last loss of the year. The Blues are equally aware that they can’t be satisfied. “It’s business as usual,” said Costa of his club’s approach to the playoffs. “They didn’t celebrate very hard [after winning the GSAC]. They’re focused on what’s ahead.” BCC will play a yet-to-be-determined opponent in Lincroft. The winner will go on to the Region final being hosted by Mercer County College on Saturday. The Region champion will host the Northeast District playoff Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. That winner advances to the NJCAA Tournament in Richland, Texas, Nov. 8-9.