Manley's Blog

SCT: Day One

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 22, 2010

Okay, I’ll admit it…I’m starting to get a little worried. After a 2009 season filled with dramatic games, I’m starting to think we might be destined for a relatively drab season. Think about the games that highlighted the season. Marlboro’s 7 overtime wins and 11 comeback wins. Toms River North’s overtime thriller over Rancocas Valley in the windy, rainy cold. Every one of Toms River South’s playoff games. It was insane.

This year, I haven’t seen anything close to that, except for CBA’s OT win over Freehold Township and James Walsh’s short-handed goal with 37 second left to tie Monroe in what was basically a showcase game. And now, we just went through the first day of the SCT tournament without an overtime game and with the latest game-winning goal coming in the 63rd minute. I can’t explain it. There have been some great stories this season and some very well-played games, but the drama has been lacking to say the least.

Hopefully, we have some thrillers on tap for Saturday. Maybe I’ll even see one. Enough negative, let’s touch on a couple things from Thursday.

Be-Deviled

What a shock. Shore has their act together for the postseason. The Blue Devils looked about as impressive as any Shoe Regional team I’ve seen in the short time on the beat and there have been some good ones. Last year’s group was awfully impressive against Raritan in a 4-2 loss, but I haven’t seen Shore dominate a capable team like the way they did Jackson in Thursday’s 4-1 win. If anyone questions whether or not Shore is for real coming out of the always maligned B Central, believe me, they are. Connor McKenzie, Luke Bush, Geoff Briscione and Jon Junqueira are legit players and the sophomore Junqueira in particular is going to score a lot of goals in the next two years. He had a nasty goal taken away on a dangerous play call, then made up for it with a left-footed rip that was on the money. Shore may be as dangerous as ever in CJ II this season, with Delran and Somerville out of the section in the same year.

The Shore Charm?

One more note on Shore that’s kinda cool. The Blue Devils themselves have not been able to extend their stay in the SCT as long as they would have liked these last few years, but beating them has been good luck.

Okay, now try and keep up.

With Thursday’s win, Shore has now defeated a higher-seeded opponent in three of them, topping No. 16 Central as a No. 17 last year and No. 5 Ocean as a No. 12 in 2006. In 2006 and last year, Shore went on to lose the next game by one goal. In 2006, Shore lost 1-0 to Manalapan and fell 2-1 to Marlboro on a goal in the 94th minute. That Manalapan and Marlboro team have something in common, other than the fact that they are both Freehold Regional School Districts with a large population of “my new haircuts”: Both teams won the tournament in those years. Could be good news for Holmdel if the Hornets can survive the rematch on Saturday.

Jeez, I feel like the Tim Kurkjian of Shore Conference Soccer. I may need a vacation.

Speaking of Holmdel, I heard conflicting reports about the availability of Dan Metzger for the game Saturday. Basically, it sounds like if the game is at 10, he’ll be there and if it’s later, me may not. The ACT testing could throw a wrench in the 10 a.m. plans, so it may be worth keeping an eye on the schedule on Friday.

Update: Game’s at 10 a.m. and Holmdel is expected to be at full force. It should still be a good one.

Ocean at High Tide

Speaking of showing up when it counts, Ocean showed once again that it is not a good draw for any first round favorite. The last time Ocean entered the tournament at .500, it was 5-5-4 in 2007 and beat No. 13 Rumson on the road as a No. 20. Thursday, the Spartans did the same to Lacey, beating the Lions behind another monster game from senior captain Joe Howlett. For the second time this season, Howlett scored all three of his team’s goals, with the first occurrence coming in a 4-3 loss to Freehold. Ocean nearly let the game slip away after blowing a 2-0 lead, but Tom Reilly’s boys got it done and will now play Howell. If you think that’s too tall an order, remember the 2007 team only lost to No. 4 CBA 2-1 (it may have been 1-0 and I don’t have my records on me) in the round of 16, so a Ocean has at least a good right hook to throw at the heavyweight Rebels.

As for Lacey, you have to feel for them. It just seems like everything has gone right for them in the first three weeks of the season in each of the last two years and then the tables turn in the postseason. They have been the anti-Shore Reg: they pass all the tests with flying colors early and then all of a sudden, can’t get over the hump. Fortunately for them, they’ll have a good state tournament draw thanks to a ton of power points in South Jersey III

Loose Ends

The first day went pretty much how I expected it to, with the exception of Ocean’s not-that-stunning upset of Lacey and the ease with which Shore beat Jackson (I still picked Shore for the record), so here are some quick hits from round one heading to round two.

– It didn’t sound like Colts Neck GK James Sheehan was going to make it back on Thursday, but there he was pitching his second shutout of the year in just his fifth appearance. Sheehan tested the knee at practice on Tuesday for the first time and coach Art Collier said his recovery from practice and how he looked on Wednesday would determine his status for Thursday. Guess it went well. His importance to the team has been well-documented, so we’ll just say that Colts Neck is happy to have him back and leave it at that.

– Manalapan looked vintage in a 1-0 win over SJV, with its struggling defense tightening the clamps and Evan Pruden scoring off a set piece. They will be a popular pick to upset TRS on Saturday, and the only reason I’m now leaning toward picking TRS is to avoid being trendy.

– My one concern with Central is that they seem to come out flat an awful lot. They have a good deal of ability and maybe playing on the road as an underdog brings out a little fire from the opening whistle Saturday against TR East. If the G-Eagles play well, they will be a pest as long as they are alive, regardless of the opponent.

– I’m worried about my Wall semifinals pick, nit because of anything Wall did, but because St. Rose has been lights out ever since the loss to Point Beach. Ian Culley has been on fire and all of Christian Bozinos’ passes are turning into gold, as he leads the Shore with 15 assists.

– Kudos to Asbury Park for taking Freehold to the second half tied at 1. The Bishops are still on the young side and should continue to get better over the next couple of years.

– Freehold Boro has won 11 straight going into a battle for Freehold with Freehold Township. I’ll admit, I’d be pretty much shocked if Township didn’t win, which is disrespectful to a team on that kind of run. As they say, stranger things have happened.

– Point Boro is a tough group of kids. Injuries are killing them for the second straight year, but this time they were able to get a first-round win. The win over Raritan was not a particularly pretty game at any point, but Boro was completely in survival mode with Bryan Brodeur out with a hammy injury and Shaun Cooke out with an ankle injury. Cooke went down in the second minute with one of the those injuries that looked bad based on the reaction of the players. Cooke hurt the same ankle during basketball season and missed three weeks, so the season may be over for the junior sweeper, which is obviously a shame. If the Panthers can even make CBA sweat, that would be a great accomplishment.

-Staying with Point Boro, if keeper Ed Moran wasn’t in the “best goalie in the Shore discussion,” he joined it today. Tremendous performance. If you have a membership, stop reading and go watch the saves he made in the second clip on the reel.

“B” Afraid

Here’s a breakdown of the divisions on Thursday

A North: 1-0
A Central: 0-3
A South: 0-1
B North: 3-0
B Central: 2-1
B South: 1-1
C Central: 1-1

B North had two very winnable games with Colts Neck and Freehold winning, but Ocean’s win over Lacey certainly brings some credibility to a division that looked a little weak coming in. B Central surprises the field every year, and the people who are surprised that Shore played as well as they did haven’t been paying attention to them for the last four years. A Central, meanwhile, had three really tough games, but I thought one of them would pull one out on the road.

Here’s to a Saturday of sunshine and golden goals.

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