Manley's Blog

Semifinals Forecast

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 9, 2009

CJ IV

No. 3 Marlboro at No. 2 Rancocas Valley, 2 p.m.

From everything that’s out there, winning this game sounds like a tall task for Marlboro, but the Mustangs have proven to have an awfully tall ladder. They’ve won plenty of games in which they are supposed to be outplayed, and have even won a few in which they were outplayed. As far as soccer goes, every account of RV says they will be the more skilled team on the field and will even play the best soccer that Marlboro has seen all year, CBA included. RV is kind of like a Freehold Township 2.0: a very fast, athletic group that puts good soccer together as well (In fairness to Freehold Twp., they went toe-to-toe with RV, so calling them the inferior version may be selling them short. Maybe RV is just Freehold Twp. with more ability to finish). That could be a scary propostitionfor Marlboro, because no team took Marlboro to task more than Freehold Township in the second meeting. That was as much as Marlboro has been dominated all year, so if the Mustangs want to win Tuesday, they’ll have to be better than they were against Township. With that said, is there any doubt, win or lose, that Marlboro will play its best game?
The Pick: Marlboro 2-1, OT. This might be the state’s best game Tuesday, with apologies to Cranford-Millburn, as both teams are underrated at the state level. RV, without question should have been the top-ranked team in NJ last year, in my opinion, and they could make a case to be the same this year. But if Delran and St. Augustine can beat them, so too can Marlboro.

LATE BREAKING NEWS: According to Dave Santos, Goalkeeper Greg Belanger has been unofficially downgraded from probable to doubtful. He experienced headaches on Sunday and Monday and unless he’s feeling significantly better, Chris Holdorf will get the start in goal. This makes me slightly inclined to change my pick, but I don’t think this makes RV a shoo-in to win. Holdorf is a senior and he already got some tense experience in the last game, so he’s at least broken in. While I expected Marlboro to pull it off before this news, I’m now going down to Rancocas wondering how in the world Marlboro is going to survive. Again though, in the game of “survive and advance” who’s better than this Marlboro team.


No. 4 North Brunswick at No. 1 Toms River North, 2 p.m.

As Ric Flair once said when he was alive (What’s that? He’s still alive?), “To be the man, you gotta beat the man…Whoooo.” While the high pitched “whooo” might not apply to this game, the first part of Mr. Flair’s catch phrase certainly does. North Brunswick is not only the defending sectional champion, but the Raiders have had a great record in the state tournament over the past decade because of an apparent ability to win close games. On the way to a sectional title last year, North Brunswick won four games, three of which were by a score of 1-0 and their loss to Rancocas in the state semifinal was also a 1-0 decision. This season, Toms River North has lived and died by the 1-0 game, but mostly has lived. Of their five postseason games in the SCT and states, TR North has gone 4-1, played in five one-goal decisions, won 1-0 in three of them, won 2-1 in another, and lost 1-0 to CBA in its only loss. My sources tell me that TR North is the better team, but I’ve heard that ask Hunterdon Central who was the better team when North Brunswick beat them 1-0 last year and I’m sure they would say their opponent. The scoreboard is all that counts and North Brunswick seems to have a good relationship with said scoreboard.
The Pick: TR North 1-0. Yes, I know I picked North Brunswick to reach the final at the start of the tournament, but if you recall, I also picked TR North to reach the SCT final and picked CBA once we got to the game. So, I owe TR North a flip-flop and, to be honest, I happen to think they’ll win the game.


CJ III

No. 6 West Windsor-Plainsboro North at No. 2 Freehold, 2 p.m.

This season has been a good one for the Freehold soccer program, but this might be the game in which we find out if they are special. West Windsor North is two-time defending CJ III champs and will go into Freehold Tuesday feeling like the champs after they made mince meat of Hightstown in the quarters. Anthony Pira and Alex Castruita are a handful for any team Freehold plays, but the key is always the back eight. The midfield is solid and the defense is young but effective and as long as those two units reflect those assertions, Freehold is tough to beat. Alex Gentile in goal is a big plus for the Colonials and at this point in the tournament, he’ll have to play big.
The Pick: WWPN 3-2. The Knights are clicking right now and I think their experience will trump Freehold in the end, even if the Colonials turn out to be the more talented team.

No. 4 Wall at No. 1 Princeton, 2 p.m.

As I said in an earlier post, Wall got back to playing defense in its 1-0 win over Hopewell and it will need more of the same against the top-seeded Tigers. Princeton doesn’t give up many goals, so if Wall gives up two in regulation, pulling a win out will be very tough. I expect the Crimson Knights to score one regulation goal against the stingy Tiger defense because Josh Aylett has played well up top and James Walsh is a handful as well. The key is to make that goal count against a Princeton attack that is dangerous, but by no means scary. This was a regular meeting from 2002 to 2005 in the state tourny, so it’s nice to see the two sides meet again. As I’ve mentioned a few times, Princeton is my alma mater, which means this next paragraph may be some sort of treason.
The Pick: Wall 1-0. If it goes to OT, I’d favor the home team, but I think Wall will have the confidence and the capability to put a good game together and knock off its CJ III rival.

CJ II

No. 4 Shore at No. 1 Raritan, 6:30 p.m.

No team in the entire state has been as dominant in its first two playoff games than Raritan has. The Rockets have outscored opponents 13-1 in two games, while Shore was also dominant on the field, if not the scoreboard. Shore has played very well over the last month or so, while Raritan is healthy and clicking at every level. The Blue Devils beat Raritan by two goals in a preseason scrimmage and they also played Marlboro closer than Raritan did. I don’t know how much any of that will mean on Tuesday, but those are all things to keep in mind. Shore should be comfortable playing against the flat four and because Raritan is probably the deeper team in terms of talent, the Devils will have to have a good understanding of what they are attacking. The key for Shore will be keeping possession even or perhaps in its favor because if Raritan can control the game, they will get shots off and the shots they get create goals.
The Pick: Raritan 3-1. The Rockets got some rest before the playoffs and have looked fresh in their run so far. Yes, their showing against Marlboro wasn’t all that impressive, but that’s as well as I’ve seen Marlboro play all year. Raritan is the Shore’s best candidate, outside of CBA, to play for a state title.

SJ IV

No. 10 Toms River East at No. 6 Toms River South, 4 p.m.

Neither of the first two contests between these two teams had as much riding on them as a game between the Raiders and the Indians usually has. The first one came when TR East was still trying to find itself as a young, struggling 1-3 team and turned out to be the start of a great run. The second game, a South win, was after the SCT cutoff and was essentially for second place in A South. This time, the two will play for a chance to play for a sectional title, likely to be at Lenape, which hosts No. 8 Millville in the other semi. Reaching a the Sectional semifinal for the third time in four years would be an accomplishment in and of itself, but for this particular Toms River East team, it would mean so much more. Even if the Raiders had as many players on its roster as they could have from last year, getting back while having to replace eight starters would have been tough enough. Getting there without Tyler Wynn and Chris Bundy is a minor miracle, mostly because it meant the Raiders had to do it with a starting lineup comprised of five sophomores. With the young lineup has come some inevitable inconsistency, and based on the way Toms River South has played since a 2-3-1 start, one would have to believe they are the more dangerous team and the safer pick. But is it ever tough to pick against Toms River East.
The Pick: Toms River South 3-2. Toms River East’s forward could be a problem for the Indians, but the South defense has played very well during the postseason and that will be the difference. It will be tough to to keep Craig Wagenblast quiet, but as long as they make him earn his opportunities, TR South should prevail over the young, upset-minded Raiders.

SJ III

No. 12 Burlington at No. 1 Central, 2 p.m.

The home field has been kind to Central and it will be in play for at least two more rounds for the Golden Eagles. In order for Central to host a sectional final, they’ll have to go through Burlington, which has some background against the Shore Conference over the last couple of seasons. As a No. 10 seed in Central Jersey II last year, Burlington beat Rumson in the quarters and fell to Shore in the semis. I think both of last year’s B Central teams were more dangerous in their attack than this Central team is, but the Eagles are a solid team in the back, led by Brandon Jaworoski, with an opportunistic charm about them. Led by Kevin Geoghegan, they did a great job on Liam Cahill in a quarterfinal win over Manchester and another effort like that will put Central in a position to play for a sectional title.
The Pick: Central 2-1. Nick Salvemini has picked up some big goals along the way and he’s a player to keep an eye on for the rest of this Central run.

No. 11 Moorestown at No. 2 Point Boro, 2 p.m.

In looking at the strength of schedules and knowing what I know, I’ve concluded the two best teams in the bracket are playing in this game. Moorsestown got off to a rocky start this season, but the Quakers have put together an 8-2 record over their last 10 after starting the season 3-6. They look like they are pretty serious about defending their SJ III title from a year ago. Point Boro will have to be its usual solid self in the back in front of keeper Ed Moran, but they’ll probably need to be more efficient on the offensive end this round. The Panthers are sound in each area of the game, including the attack, but their shots against Lacey were more about quantity than quality (although their set play they scored on was very well done). The name of the game, as it usually is  during the playoffs, is finishing and Boro will probably need more than a goal. The win over Lacey was impressive, but the game gets raised against the defending champs.
The Pick: Moorestown 2-1. There you go guys. More and more teams are hoping I pick against them, so put the money down on Point Boro and Burlington in South Jersey III.
Non-Public A

No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 2 CBA, 2 p.m.

Notre Dame picked up an impressive 4-0 win over Holy Spirit, but I stand by my assertion that when every team in this section is on its best day, CBA is the best. The Colts should control the game on their home field, but anything can happen in the state tournament if Notre Dame can hang around. Something tells me CBA is going to have to come up with some late magic, but like they showed a few weeks back, this team can flip the switch. They should have that luxury for one more game.
The Pick: CBA 3-1. Look for a couple of goals in the last 10 minutes to pull away.

Non-Public B

No. 5 Holy Cross at No. 1 St. Rose, 2 p.m.

It took a while for St. Rose to get going in a 4-2 win over St. Joe’s Hammonton, but once they put one in the net, the goals flowed like wine, to quote Lloyd Christmas. As is the case with CBA, St. Rose looks too good to lose before the sectional final, and if both keep putting good games together, both should be playing for a state title next Tuesday at TCNJ. I expect the Roses to start a little faster this time and hold on for the win.
The Pick: St. Rose 2-1. Expect a South NPB Championship rematch between St. Rose and Sacred Heart. Come to think of it, we should have a South NPA rematch as well, with CBA playing St. Augustine.

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