Manley's Blog

Philosophical Question

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on September 17, 2009

I’ve never really decided what I think about playing a brutal division schedule. There is the school of thought that says competition breeds excellence, which I think is the camp most people subscribe to. When you talk to any A North coach, he usually thinks his team is well-prepared for anything they see in the state or SCT tournament. Manalapan and CBA have proved that in the last few years with each making runs to their respective Group finals two years ago.

Then there’s the other side of the coin, which I’m starting to worry is taking effect with some of the teams in the Shore Conference. Last year, A North and the Shore Conference Tournament was a borderline bloodbath, and you basically had the Group IV schools run out of gas in the playoffs: Freehold Township lost to Howell, Howell lost to Steinert, Manalapan lost to Marlboro, Marlboro lost to Brick Memorial. Howell, Freehold Township, and Marlboro all made deep SCT runs, exerted themselves for 14 A North games and just didn’t have much left in the state tournament. You might rather be Brick Memorial, a talented team who plays a little bit lighter division schedule but still got a dose of premium talent like Toms River East and Freehold Township during the season. Sometimes a taste of competition is better than a steady diet.

Which brings me to my first two subjects of the evening: Toms River North and Raritan. Let’s start with Raritan, because they played Wednesday night, holding off Vianney in a 1-0 win. As good as I thought they were heading into last year, the response from opposing coaches and objective onlookers last year paled in comparison to the reviews they are getting this year. Simply put, people are impressed. The CBA crowd might not be blown away, but that team is a different animal altogether. I had one A Central coach tell me that Raritan is going to run away with the division, which is very tough this year, and everyone else would beat the crap out of each other.

The question is, how much does A Central challenge Raritan and do they get to see a big school in the Shore Conference Tournament? Personally, I think A Central might take a little more out of them than it would in most years. A lot of people are crowning them already, but let’s not forget that Raritan started last year on a tear as well before enduring an injury to goalkeeper Dave Gonzalez and hitting the wall a bit. I’m sure coach Ron Poll is telling his team the same thing, and in a division with five other quality teams, the Rockets don’t get a night off to recuperate. I’m interested to see if that takes anything out of them. If not, and they’re able to use a deep rotation and breeze through a tough division, well then maybe they are that good.

Toms River North looks like a team that can do a ton of damage in the state tournament for a lot of reasons. First of all, and with all due respect to the other teams in A North, they are going to be able to win games without playing their best against certain teams because they are so talented. Secondly, they have a good sampling of tough games mixed in: they play Toms River South twice, as well as solid Group III schools Lacey and Brick, along with squads like TR East and Jackson, who are always tough. As long as they can make a run through the SCT to the point where they get to test themselves against a team like Marlboro or even Raritan, they’ll have a great frame of reference for what it takes to beat a high caliber opponent. If they get to see CBA, it likely means they made it to the SCT final, because it would be hard to envision a scenario in which either did not win its respective division.

I’ll pose the question then. If you have a talented team, would you rather play a tough schedule and risk getting worn out or a less challenging schedule with a few tough games mixed in and risk not being ready for the next level of competition?


4 Responses

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  1. Ben There said, on September 17, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    I think Ocean would be the best example of this. They play almost as many “gimme’s” as they do challenging matches, and they have consistently made the playoff’s over the years.

    The real problem in my opinion is there is just NO downtime giving these players a chance to recover from the hard matches. This is especially true for the teams that don’t have a strong bench (especially smaller schools). You end up with players playing injured and by the time the postseason has arrived, they are just fried.

    I think they need the easier matches to work on new formations or let the bench have some time and build team chemistry. I just really don’t like it when people brag about beating a weaker team 9-0. It is distasteful and rude. it’s like all things in life, moderation is the key.


    Ben There

  2. Tougher is Better said, on September 17, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Not a bad question. I play Shore Conference soccer, therefore, I must win. Tougher is always better, with the proviso of injuries, which frankly better officiating would reduce. Tough competition improves play for all involved. Its like asking would you rather be a superstar on a mediocre team, or just another player on an excellent team. One tends to mediocrity, the other to excellence. Teams with goals, like players with goals want always to be challenged. Raritan scrimmaged SBP and CBA preseason and played to win. It built their confidence, thats one reason why they may very well run away with A Central. The other is their talent level and the lack of any real competitive threat within the Division.

  3. surefan said, on September 18, 2009 at 3:13 am

    Great question. ALthough conventional thinking would suggest the better your opponent on a consistent basis, the better you will be, I don’t think that theroy works with the compressed high school soccer season. In HS you need to peak as a team at the right time. The constant battles aganist high level opponents puts too much wear and tear on most players. You require extraordinary depth if you are going to have continued success aganist great competition, day in and day out. Few teams have that much depth–this year CBA may be one of those teams. They possess a unique amount of talent. As a commetner above says, Ocean is a good example of a team that has a soft & difficult schedule. They are usually healthy and confident at State tournament time. If I were coaching the short HS season, I think I wouldn’t mind a nice mix of easy and challenging games.

  4. Ben There said, on September 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Surefan ~ You said it much better than I did. I agree with you completely.

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