Manley's Blog

State Tournament Brackets

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 29, 2009

The brackets are out. Here are the links to each section with a Shore Conference team in it and some quick thoughts on each. I’ll go into much more depth next week, but feel free to start with predictions of your own.

CJ IV

Shore Teams: No. 1 TR North, No. 3 Marlboro, No. 7 Freehold Township, No. 9 Colts Neck, No. 13 Jackson Memorial, No. 15 Howell and No. 16 Middletown North.

Best first-round game (with Shore team): Howell at No. 2 Rancocas Valley

Thoughts: Two things jump off the page in this one for me. The first thing is that the two top seeds have tough games. Middletown North has played well down the stretch and although the loss to Brick is a good sign for North’s sake. But Brick will be geared up for this one while North will be coming off a deep run in the SCT. Howell, meanwhile played very well in A North and is a young team rounding into form. Rancocas is a terrific program and I think they’ll survive, but Howell is going to give them all they can handle in round one.

The other is that I love Freehold Township’s draw. They know Monroe – and vice versa – from the GMC-Shore challenge and if they can get back to playing well, they’ll be playing non-Shore teams until they could potentially see Marlboro for a third time in the semis. I liked Township in the SCT (I picked them to reach the final) but I love them in CJ IV.

CJ III

Shore Teams: No. 2 Freehold, No. 4 Wall, No. 7 Monmouth, No. 8 Holmdel, No. 10 Ocean, No. 11 Lakewood, No. 14 Long Branch, No. 16 Neptune

Best first-round game: Ocean at Monmouth

Thoughts: I was under the impression that Middletown South was going to get in, which would have made for an interesting scenario, with a high-seeded Class A North team unleashed on Group III. I don’t think they would have defeated Princeton, but it would have been interesting.

No team wants to see a division opponent early, so Monmouth and Ocean are probably a little bummed they have to play one another again. But the two have been competitive and it should make for an exciting round-one game.

Holmdel-Princeton will be a good game, but a low-scoring game. I read on mercercountysoccer.com that Princeton had allowed something like four goals all season as of the Wednesday before the cutoff. And we all know about Holmdel’s scoring issues.

If there is a Shore Conference team to feel comfortable about getting to the final, I’ll stick with the top seed Shore seed Freehold. It will be tough to beat Ocean or Monmouth for a third time, but I think they’ve proven themselves against B North. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Hightstown, so I think the could handle them. Wall should get to the semis, but Princeton or Holmdel will be tough outs, especially if they have to travel to Princeton.

CJ II

Shore Teams: No. 1 Raritan, No. 3 Manasquan, No. 4 Shore, No. 9 Rumson-Fair Haven, No. 16 Matawan

Best first-round game: Rumson at Willingboro

Thoughts: I don’t know much about the non-Shore teams to be honest, other than that Delran won the Group last year and some think they are better this year. I have a good feeling about Rumson in the first round, while I think Shore’s toughest game before Raritan will be Summit and not the Spotswood-A.L. Johnson winner.  I see this bracket going chalk through the semis, with Shore and Manasquan both having a chance on the road.

Raritan did not get any help by drawing Matawan. The Rockets outscored the Huskies 6-0 in two games, but while Matawan did not challenge Raritan on the scoreboard, they will challenge them physically. If you recall, Pat Langan reinjured his foot against the Huskies and my guess is, and this is purely speculation, that Raritan coach Ron Poll is more concerned about getting out of that game in one piece than he is about getting out of it at all.

I have to run out to Neptune for the SCT, so I’ll cover South Jersey and the Non-Publics later when I’m done with that. For now, here are the links to each section.

SJ IV

Shore Teams: No. 6 Toms River South, No. 10 Toms River East, No. 13 Southern

Best first-round game: Southern at Lenape

Thoughts: Southern gets a tough draw in a Lenape program that always runs out a quality team, but Ethan Decker is dangerous, especially if you don’t see him coming. He’s been playing really well lately and Lenape better figure out where he is at on the field.

TR South and North play toss-up games in the first round, but I really like South to win round one and to give Cherry Hill West a run. The Indians didn’t play great against Raritan on Tuesday, but they hung in there and have proven themselves against good teams. I like them to make a run this year. You can’t count out East, but I think they might be a year or two away from getting back tot he sectional final. Craig Wagenblast make have one more run in his before his fine HS career ends.

SJ III

Shore Teams: No. 1 Central, No. 2 Point Boro, No. 7 Lacey, No. 8 Manchester, No. 16 Brick

Best first-round game: Brick at Central. At first glance I and many other people might call for an upset because of the A South vs. B South dynamic, but I think Central will be okay in this one. It’s still a scary draw, because Brick plays tough defense and has an strong keeper in Stephan DeCorso.

The bad news for Central, assuming you think I’m right, is that I see Manchester going to the semifinals. The first round game is always dicey, but I think they owe Central one and they are a little better than Brick.

On the opposite side of the bracket, Lacey could see Point Boro in the second round, and I do think the A South team will come out of that one. The Lions got a nice win over Howell Thursday and Point Boro is banged up so I think Lacey can put a couple of wins together to set up a semifinal game against Seneca, in all likelihood. While Lacey is on the tougher side of the bracket, I’d give them the best chance to win the section of any Shore team, because I think they’re the best of the bunch, match-ups be damned.

SJ II

Shore Teams: No. 9 Barnegat

Thoughts: The Bengals should be fired up for their first ever state tourny appearance and with some senior experience on the roster, they’ll be hungry enough. They may be able to get a game, and that would be a nice season for them. Woodstown will be too much if they make it through Audobon.

SJ I

Shore Teams: No. 15 Point Beach

Thoughts: I’m sure Point Beach is surprised they get a chance to play in states, but with a young team, it’s a chance for the Gulls to get better going forward. They will play fellow Ocean County, but non Shore Conference team New Egypt, the second seed that should have a good chance to win the bracket.

NPA South

Shore Teams: No. 2 CBA, No. 4 Monsignor Donovan, No. 8 St. John Vianney

Best first-round game: Bishop Ahr at SJV

Thoughts: St. John Vianney could surprise St. Augustine based on how good they looked early in the season, but they’ll have to rev it back up to keep up with the top seed, that’s assuming they get by Bishop hardy-har-Ahr.

Obviously, the team to watch in this bracket is CBA and while they get to play a home game, essentially, in the sectional final, they will have to deal with a couple of tough teams in St. Joe’s Metuchen and Notre Dame before getting to Holmdel High School. While the road isn’t easy, CBA is the most talented team in the bracket and they should be playing Pingry for a NPA title on Nov. 17

NPB South

Shore Teams: No. 1 St. Rose, No. 8 Mater Dei

Thoughts: St. Rose is always a threat to win the bracket and now they’ll have that shot as a No. 1 seed. Gloucester Catholic is a tough matchup in the semis, but this is a better St. Rose team than last year. Last year’s team got hot at the right time though and we’ll find out in short order if St. Rose is on their game in November.

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Boys All-Division Meeting

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 28, 2009

The Shore Conference Boys All-Division Meeting is tonight, Wednesday, at 7 p.m. at Wall High School in the D Hallway. Any coach is welcome to attend and participate.

SCT Quarterfinal Wrap

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 28, 2009

After sitting through 100 minutes of soccer and the eight penalty kicks to follow in Marlboro’s win over Colts Neck, I was naturally late to the Raritan-TR South game and missed all three first half goals. Therefore, I didn’t have much good video to post, nor did I feel like I saw enough of the game to write an actual game story, but there’s always the blog.

Pat Langan scored two more goals that turned out to be the difference in Raritan’s 2-1 win over the Indians. Steve Petrosino got TR South off to a good start by scoring following a corner kick, but Raritan really took to South for the rest of the game, and it started with Langan. The senior standout played forward and has become a goal-scoring machine at the spot. He was a threat as a midfielder all of last year, but up top, he’s a goal waiting to happen.

Raritan had to shots for the game at 16-3 and I only saw one TRS shot while I was there, so that could be correct. The Indians’ best chance to tie the game came following another corner kick, and the ball ended up near the foot of freshman Dmitri Loizos – who scored the winner against Freehold Twp. on Saturday – with daylight in the goal in front of him, but he couldn’t get his foot on the ball.

I’ve given a lot of attention to Marlboro’s propensity to play overtime games, which is unrivaled by any other team in the Shore, but Raritan has shown a certain affinity for OT as well. The Rockets have played five OT games, going 3-0-2. The Marlboro matchup is a close one and it features a sound, deliberate, composed Marlboro group against a 100-mile-per-hour ground onslaught that Raritan features. They both play well on the ground, but Marlboro is a little more controlled, while Raritan can be on top of your net within the blink of an eye. More on that in the “official” preview.

Toms River North wins in dramatic fashion on Ryan Groffie’s rocket from 15 yards out with 58 seconds left. According to coach Dave Mitchell, Manasquan hit the post when Ben Drake’s cross redirected toward the goal, but hit just wide. Whew.

Groffie’s a very good player, a guy who fits at the outside back or the outside mid, and he’s an active player who seems to get involved in a big play each game. For those of you who watch the video highlights on the sight, he hit the post in the tie against Lacey, a game that feels like it was two years ago at this point.

Manasquan through its usual dose of counters and runs with Drake, but TR North’s defense held strong. Mitchell was complementary of his team’s effort, which should be worth something because he’s always a coach who’s looking for something to get better at rather than toot his team’s horn.

“Reaching this point is a great accomplishment with any team, but this team and these seniors want to win the whole thing,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to be a little bit better finishing goals but the way these guys are playing and executing the gameplan, I think they;ll be able to play with anybody. My concern is still that we’re a little young and those sophomores have to remember to be patient, because we’re at the point of the tournament when teams can kill you if you’re not disciplined.”

Marlboro and Colts Neck got a game story from me, and it deserves every word written about it, because it was a thriller. Marlboro got the better of play as I’ve seen some people say, but Colts Neck got some good chances as well and were right there the whole game. Bill Kallas played a very good game at sweeper and James Sheehan was his usual solid self in net. Marco Guzman also made some big plays at forward, scoring the goal and setting up a great look by Nick Chiappone in overtime on a nifty pass (it’s in the highlights). Brendan Murphy also made some nice runs up top as well. The Cougars have looked much better in the last couple of games, and it’ll be interesting to see how they bounce back a week from today in the first round of the state tournament.

Marlboro actually made me more inclined to expect a victory over Raritan with its win Tuesday. Maybe it’s just because they didn’t play well in either of the last two games I saw them, but I forgot what a composed, controlled team they can be. Colts Neck doesn’t always force the issue by applying overly intense pressure, but they play hard and Marlboro just knocked it around and waited for its chances. Alan Konovalov played a very good game and could have had three or four goals if some shots went down. The goal also started with a really nice ball from Steven Curtis, who is definitely one of the unsungs on this team. They were also playing without Jake Katz in the centermid, who was out with a quad bruise. I was all ready to pick Raritan to win and reach the final, but now…I don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to let them decide it on the field.

CBA’s pretty good, eh? I know when it comes to a blowout, it takes two to tango and Freehold wasn’t good by its standard, but CBA, over its last several games has shown an ability to score whenever it wants. Scott Thomsen has played great since he got back from California and he hit a beautiful left-footer for CBA’s third goal. Matt Gragnano continues to dominate the goal-scoring column, putting up two more today. Krachie and Romano control the who field by themselves. The Colts had given up some goals before Tuesday and that might be a bit of a red flag, but it’s not a major deal if they pound the net like they’ve been doing.

I saw some questions about whether CBA will win Non-Public A. The answer: they’ll be playing for in the championship. This is the best Non-Public A South team I’ve seen in the short time I’ve covered the sport, even better than a very good St. Augustine team that beat the Colts last year.

If you’ll remember, I picked TR North to win the tournament before it started, and I’m currently trying to figure out a way to justify picking against CBA. I did reserve the right to change my pick, but I’d love to be able to stick with my pick. CBA is making that hard right now.

Tuesday scores

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 27, 2009

Live score updates as I get them. I’ll be at Colts Neck -Marlboro and, hopefully, the majority of the Raritan-TRS game.

(8) Colts Neck 1, (1) Marlboro 1, Marlboro wins 4-2 on penalty kicks

Greg Belanger saved consecutive penalty kicks and Marlboro knocked in four straight to send the Mustangs to the SCT semis for the third straight year. Alan Konovalov scored in the 61st minute to tie the game at 1 after a Colts Neck defender headed the ball to his feet. Marco Guzman put Colts Neck ahead in the 21st on a 30 yard shot from the left side that went over Belanger, who came up too far. Both teams had close range shots in overtime that both went wide of the goal and Colts Neck had a goal in the 99th minute disallowed because of a handball right in front of the net.

(2) CBA 6, (7) Freehold 0

Matt Gragnano and Brian Sugarman each scored two goals and Scott Thomsen and Tim Brennan each added one as the Colts blitzed the Colonials to reach their first SCT semifinal since 2004.

(3) TR North 1, (6) Manasquan 0

Ryan Groffie drilled a shot from 15 yards out in the 78th minute to win it. Manasquan hit the post in the 72nd minute on a cross by Ben Drake and made several runs on counters to keep the Mariners on their toes. TR North will play in the semis for the first time since 2005.

(4) Raritan 2, (12) TR South 1, Final

Pat Langan scored twice in the second half to erase a 1-0 deficit and the Rockets held on in the second half to seal its first trip to the SCT in more than a decade. Steve Petrosino put Toms River South ahead on a goal off a corner kick in the 12th minute. Toms River South only managed three shots against Raritan’s high-paced attack.

CBA moved to Manalapan Rec., games still on

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 27, 2009

As of noon, we’re playing soccer today, because it doesn’t appear the weather will be any better tomorrow. CBA moved its game against Freehold to the Manalapan Recreation Center turf, which is right across from the high school on Rt. 522. So that means all four games are on turf, which means only a typhoon will knock them out at this point.

I can’t promise much video in these conditions, but I’m glad we’re playing. I’d rather not have my entire Friday off wiped out and I’m sure Josh Newman doesn’t want to give twitter updates while he’s watching a football game he’s forced to cover. Friday games would be bad for everybody, boys or girls.

St. Rose at Manasquan Update

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 26, 2009

Manasquan 3, St. Rose 2, Final – OT

Jeff Algor drills a sliding shot in the 85th off a Dylan Mattia cross to win it in OT. Squan plays TR North tomorrow at 4.

Dylan Marx drilled a direct kick at 71 to tie it at 2.

Ben Drake scored on a breakaway, beating a defender and the keeper with a sliding shot in the 51st.

Chris Hueth finished a St. Rose counter with a goal in the 38th minute to tie the game at 1. The Roses countered following a Garrett Cookson free kick, with Paul Grodeska leading Hueth to goal with a pass over top of the defense.

Garrett Cookson put the Warriors ahead 1-0 on a penalty kick in the 30th. Jeff Algor beat a defender and was taken down by St. Rose keeper Andrew Kurtz near the endline.

Jeff Kurtz got his second yellow in the 56th, so he’s done for the rest of the game. Big loss for St. Rose.

Wrap-up supplement

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 25, 2009

I didn’t touch on Colts Neck’s win over Wall yesterday because I wrote a game story on the web site, but I at least should have linked to it. Sorry.

I think I covered most of the keys to the game in the story, from some key absences and adjustments from Wall, to Colts Neck’s improved play, but some additional thoughts couldn’t hurt. I haven’t seen Colts Neck since they beat Freehold Township a couple weeks back, but on Saturday, they didn’t look like a team that was struggling in its last five games. Colts Neck basically came out and played their style without worrying about how to attack its specific opponent. I recall talking to coach Art Collier after a loss to Marlboro, and he said they tried to play with two forwards for the first 10 minutes and fell behind 2-0, then immediately went back to three forwards, which is its standard formation. On that subject, Collier said he’s done adjusting to other teams to open the game. Colts Neck plays four players at forward over the course of the game – Brendan Murphy, Michael Caruso, Marco Guzman and Alex Ramos. Ramos can play in the midfield and be an asset and Caruso can play anywhere, so they can play with a couple different looks if they needed to, but just judging off the Marlboro game, they do look like a more comfortable team in a three-forward set.

Bill Kallas has done a really nice job defensively this year and Anthony Pistola  and Zach Dritsas look like they’re going to be big players as seniors next year. The defensive unit had a breakdown in the back early in the second half, but they dodged a bullet with a save off the endline by Dritsas, who also played well in the back, and a missed shot right after that. James Sheehan made his usual three big saves along with some standard stops. He is one of the major assets of any team still alive in the tournament and is arguably Colts Neck’s MVP through two games. The other argument, and the argument I would make, is that Ross Tetro has been the key in the midfield. He scored and assisted Colts Neck’s two goals and he’s looking more and more comfortable in the high school game. Collier said at the beginning of the season that Tetro is not a player that wows you but if you follow him for the game, he makes all the plays a center mid needs too make and I even see him make a few wow-plays every now and again.

Wall was missing Justin Gregory and moving James Walsh from forward to center back to compensate and while it worked defensively, the Wall attack lost a little punch. Brent Hasko has been banged up in the middle and Josh Aylett was a little hobbled as well, so the Knights are singing the same sad tune they were three weeks ago when they were missing Walsh and had injuries to Ian Whelan and Matt Melton. A loss Saturday may actually be a good thing for Wall, who can now rest until the state tournament starts on Tuesday.

One concern I have for Colts Neck is they did not look as fast as some of the other teams I’ve seen on turf. That could be because Long Branch’s field plays slower than normal turf.  It has a lot of those little black beads on the field – more than usual – and lot of those beads ended up in my shoes. They are all over the floor in my room. That’s the first time I’ve seen LB’s new complex and I have to say it’s really nice.

Back to Colts Neck on turf, I’m not sure they can play at the speed of Raritan or Toms River South if they are fortunate enough to play either in the semis at Neptune. It’s also a possibility that Marlboro plays on the turf at the Rec Center, which would favor Marlboro. They’ve shown they can hang with Marlboro on grass though, and as it stands right now, that is currently the task at hand. They might have the best shot of any road team in the semis, and if they make the most of it, they’ll be in the semis for the second time since 2000, when the program started.

Saturday Wrap-up

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 25, 2009

I went to two games today, but I only did one story because I screwed up the time of the Toms River North-Holmdel game. I thought it was at 11, but it was at 10, so I missed Todd Webb’s goal in the 30th minute. If you weren’t at the game, you saw about as much as I did, because there wasn’t much action near the goal in the second half with most of the game happening in the middle.

Coach Dave Mitchell said something interesting after the game. Against Holmdel, Toms River North actually changed how they played, trying to possess the ball in the back and up top, only using the middle of the field to get the ball from the back forward. Mitchell didn’t think his midfielders could hang with Holmdel center mids Rishi Desai and Dan Metzger, so his plan was to keep the ball on the outside and avoid trying to keep possession in the middle of the field.

That’s interesting because Toms River North is the home team, No. 3 seed while Holmdel is No. 19 and lucky to still be playing in a lot of ways, yet it was North who had to gameplan to win and not the other way around. It just goes to show you a) coaches in this area have a lot of respect for Holmdel and b) this North coaching staff knows what its doing. Mitchell has a great mind for the game and bringing on Joe Mahon from Pinelands as his assistant was a great addition as well. If you talk to enough soccer people in Ocean and Monmouth County, you’ll find Mahon is one of the more respected coaches in the area.

As most of you know, I liked Toms River North to win the tournament when it started and I’m holding onto the pick now.
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SCT Scoreboard

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 23, 2009

Only one game in town today.

CBA 3, Howell 2, Final

Brian Sugarman hit the crossbar and the ball bounced in to give CBA the lead with 14 minutes left.

Ozzie Onder hits a bomb at 56 to make it 2-1, followed by Dougher from the top of the 18 from Onder to tie it.

Scott Thomsen converted a penalty kick 30 in following a hold in the box on a corner. I didn’t see enough to say good call/bad call, but it’s certainly a tough call.

Gragnano from Beaty three seven minutes in opened the scoring.

First Round Numbers

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 23, 2009

I’m always curious to see how the divisions do in rounds one and two. Here’s how it shook out Thursday.

A North: 2-0, outscored opponents 4-0
A Central: 1-1, Even 2-2
A South: 3-1, outscored opponents 11-1
B North: 1-1, outscored opponents 4-2
B Central: 2-1, Even 4-4
B South: 0-5, outscored by opponents 17-1

B South…Ouch. In fairness, two of its better teams, Mon Don and Point Boro, were missing key players due to injury so that might have had something to do with the sheer horror of these numbers. I thought Boro would be the only one of the five to advance, but even with mild expectations for the division as a whole, the numbers are pretty surprising. I thought B South would be able to hang, and they really didn’t come close.

As a result, the County Count is at 12-4 in favor of Monmouth County teams. Wait until next round to treat this like any sort of significant fact.