Manley's Blog

Road Warriors

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 8, 2010

At this time of year there is plenty to talk about regarding very few. There is an especially select few Shore Conference teams left in the field this year, all eight of which will be in action tomorrow.

For the most part, all seven have had their moments this season. How about some broad specifics (pardon the paradox)?

– CBA’s entire season has been their moment and tomorrow’s showdown with Brandon Allen and St. Joe’s will be a hoot, no doubt.

– Freehold Township is a talented club that has been in search of a marquee win all year long and it will have its chance against one of the top programs in the state Monday in Rancocas Valley. The Red Devils are down in talent relative to the past three years, but no public school teams in the state can sustain the level of talent Rancocas was running out from ’07 to ’09.

-Holmdel and Colts Neck were considered potential powerhouse Group III’s coming into the year and while Holmdel has more than held up its end from Day One, Colts Neck – while a little short of dominant – has shown flashes and is one win away from a golden opportunity. Holmdel will have an offensively skilled – but defensively vulnerable – Hightstown team that has played better defense of late, while Colts Neck catches a Hopewell team fresh off an upset of defending Group champion Princeton.

– Lacey was the Shore Conference darling early in the season after championing the small schools of Ocean County with wins over Jackson and Toms River South. The Lions fell on some hard times in the last few weeks, letting B South slip away and losing in the SCT first round to Ocean at home. Things, however, seem to be turning around in the Group III tournament and the Lions are in good position to beat Hammonton on Monday and play for the sectional title for the first time in five years. The Seneca team they beat on Friday is arguably equal or better than Hammonton, so Lacey should feel good about its chances at home.

– St. Rose has flown under the radar a bit, but their accomplishments of the past 10 years reflect their potential for the rest of their time in the tournament. The Roses have played much better since losing to Point Beach on Sept. 24th and while you don’t hear a lot about St. Rose based on their B Central exploits, they will get plenty of props for their postseason prowess.

There is, however, one team left playing we have heard little-to-nothing from this season and it’s possible we – and by “we”, I mean “I” – all made a grave miscalculation in underestimating. That team, of course, is Manasquan.

Saddled with a No. 11 seed and a first round date with a Point Boro team that dominated them during the regular season, the Warriors looked to have too tough of a draw just to get out of the first round. Throw in defending sectional champion and No. 3 West Deptford, as well as defending Group II champion Delran on the same side of the bracket and Manasquan appeared to be popping in for a novelty visit.

After two road wins over Point Boro and West Deptford, Manasquan has reminded us that the defensive formula works in the playoffs and that this is a very different team than it has been in the last three years. In three years as a single-digit seed in CJ II, Manasquan reached the sectional semifinals only once. Manasquan lost to eventual CJ II champion Somerville as a No. 3 seed in the 2007 sectional final and lost at home as a high seed in each of the next two years. In 2005 and 2006, however, Manasquan established itself as a program that no high seed wanted to see roll into town. In both years, the Warriors made deep runs as a double-digit seed, reaching the sectional final in 2005 and the semifinal in 2006, when it lost to Raritan in penalty kicks.

Now, one game after taking out the defending sectional champion, Manasquan has a chance to stun defending Group II champion Delran on Monday. The odds may not seem very favorable, but the Warriors have peaked at the right time. Nick Lustrino, Kyle McEvilly and Justin and Dylan Mattia have all played outstanding soccer and the defense has allowed only one goal in two games against two good teams. More importantly, they seem to have a way about them in these playoff games. Delran is as battle-tested a team as there is in the state over the last two years, but if Manasquan really has rediscovered that road magic, Delran better be ready for a battle.


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