By Rich Fisher | Correspondent
After playing three years of club soccer and not being allowed to play for his high school team (as club teams are wont to do), the standout goalkeeper committed to play for the University of Connecticut the day before CBA’s practices started. Thus, with no further need to impress recruiters on the academy level, Keenan told head coach Tom Mulligan he would play for the Colts this season.
His addition was the key ingredient to getting CBA back to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group A championship game.
See more photos from the Nov. 12 NJSIAA soccer final, here.
“He meant everything to us,” senior defender John Askin said. “He’s been MVP for us this year, he’s been tremendous. To be able to play with him my senior year, it’s great.”
And while the ride ended one win short of a state championship, Keenan has no regrets and a plethora of good memories.
“I’m very happy,” said the Hazlet resident. “It was the greatest experience of my life so far in my soccer career. No one expected us to get this far. They predicted six, seven games for us to win. I’m just glad I did this. I’m with all my boys, it’s a great experience.”
Keenan, a parishioner of St. Benedict, Holmdel, had several offers and was also checking out a few other schools when it hit him that UConn was the right fit.
“I love the campus, I loved the coaches,” he said. “The atmosphere was a lot better at the games. Overall it seemed a lot better.”
At that point, Keenan had asked his club team if he could play his senior year with CBA but was still denied. At the last minute, he opted to play with his classmates who he had watched as a Colts spectator for three years.
“All the time I used to watch them play and I just wanted to play with them,” he said. “I got the opportunity this year and I’m so glad.”
No less glad than his coach and teammates, as Keenan authored a school-record 16 shutouts and had 11 saves in CBA’s 4-1 loss to Delbarton in the Non-Public A title game. As for the four goals, there wasn’t much he could do.
“I don’t think one of those goals was Shane Keenan’s fault today,” Mulligan said. “I don’t’ think he let up a soft goal. For whatever reason today, we had a couple of breakdowns and Delbarton capitalized on them. They’re a quality side and you can’t those lapses.
“I think Shane proved himself as the keeper I believe he is in that first half alone. He’s all over the place, he’s athletic.”
Aside from his saves, Keenan controlled the box, short circuited scoring opportunities by plucking crosses out of the air or clearing balls before they became dangerous situations.
Askin, who played directly in front of Keenan on the Colts’ back line, watched in amazement as the season wore on.
“He was a magnet back there,” the senior captain said. “You thought the ball was gonna be in and you thought ‘Oh they’re gonna score’ and then you see Shane there stopping them.”
That ability had a trickle up effect, as it allowed the Colts to take a few more chances, realizing they had a wall in front of the goal.
“He makes a great save, and we can push up strong,” Askin said. “Knowing we have him behind us can kind of give us risks to take in the offensive third and if those risks fail I know he’s back there helping us and saving our butts, so it’s good.”
While few people beyond CBA’s Lincroft campus felt the Colts would win a second straight South Jersey Group A title – which they did on Nov. 9 by beating Bishop Eustace, 2-0 – Keenan thought otherwise.
“I saw potential the beginning of the year,” he said. “I just knew we had to work together and figure out how we all played together and get to know each other.”
Shane went out and helped that potential come to life with his outstanding play. Even more importantly, he had a blast while doing so.
“This was definitely a more relaxed year for me,” Keenan said. “I could have more fun knowing that I signed and was already committed. I just wanted to get out there and play with all my friends. I never had that experience in high school. It was a great year overall.”