Manley's Blog

SCT Round of 16 Picks

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 22, 2011

The first round of the Shore Conference Tournament had a fair sprinkling of upsets with the road team winning six of the 10 games between Thursday and Friday. One of those wins was No. 16 Rumson beating No. 17 Manasquan at the Sea Girt Army Camp, but other than that, you can consider half the first-round results to be upsets.

Looking a little deeper into the numbers, we find this:

First Round Records

A North: 2-0 (1-0 on the road)
A Central: 2-1 (2-1 on the road)
A South: 1-2 (all at home)
B North: 1-3 (0-1 on the road)
B Central: 0-2 (0-1 on the road)
B South: 2-0 (1-0 on the road)
C Central: 2-2 (2-1 on the road)

The big surprise is that Class A South has struggled so far despite all of its teams playing their first tournament games at home. Granted, Toms River East and Toms River North have yet to play, but Jackson Memorial, Southern and Toms River South all had home games against teams seeded Nos. 21 through 23 and all three struggles. If not for Toms River South’s four-goal outburst in the final 15 minutes of a 5-3 win over Long Branch, A South would have gone 0-for-3.

B North also struggled with Ocean and Freehold losing home games, but to be fair, Middletown South was a very tough draw for Ocean and Long Branch also gave Toms River South trouble before falling apart in the last 15 minutes.

It will be interesting to see how Toms River North handles a Middletown South team that has gained a head of steam lately, as well as Toms River East against crosstown rival Monsignor Donovan. Colts Neck will also try to avoid the same fate as B North co-champ Freehold while keeping B North in the tournament.

Saturday is always one of the more fun soccer days of the year with every team now in action. There only appears to be one game that could be considered a total toss-up, with the other seven games having clear favorites. Actually the second-most even match-up is probably No. 20 seed Middletown South at No. 4 Toms River North, which is probably closer than most people think, but still shouldn’t be one of the most even match-ups of the round of 16. Here’s a look at the lineup.

(16) Rumson-Fair Haven at (1) CBA

It’s going to take some good fortune and some great play for any team to knock of CBA and Rumson will need a lot of each to pull off a stunner. The Bulldogs get some of that luck right off the bat because CBA senior midfielder Nick Villani is out with an ankle injury he suffered Monday against Freehold Township, according to Colts assistant Jeff Matson. Villani will be considered day-to-day after Saturday, so there is a chance that the Colts could be without one of their best players for a sizable chunk of this tournament. Villani is probably CBA’s most athletic player, with the possible exception of Bob Cartas, and he’s also one of its most fearless, so Rumson’s objective should be to be as physical as allowable with the Colts. One good thing about the Bulldogs is that they can play a few different styles competently, so if there is a way to approach playing CBA, Rumson is a team that can play it. At this point though, we’re still all trying to talk ourselves into the notion that CBA might be beatable. They might be, but not yet. The Pick: CBA 3-0

(18) Monsignor Donovan at (2) Toms River East

These two teams were supposed to play a little more than a week ago, but the rain changed that. Instead, the two Toms River schools will face off in the SCT and there are a lot of reasons to like both teams at this point in the season. It’s not hard to see why Toms River East is the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Raiders have lost only one game all season and are a senior-loaded team with a lot of defense and a number of scorers on the roster. The one team that beat the Raiders was Toms River North and the Mariners walloped Monsignor Donovan 5-1, which would seem to bode well for Toms River East. This, however, is a healthier, more confident Monsignor Donovan team that just beat a dangerous Shore side in the first round of the tournament. Monsignor Donovan has players that can hold the ball and hit it with authority, so this won’t be anything resembling a cakewalk for Toms River East. It will, however, be a win. The Pick: TR East 1-0

(14) Manalapan at (3) Howell

Normally, a top-three seed playing a team it has already defeated twice by a combined 8-1 would stick out as a trap scenario for the favorite. But this is Howell vs. Manalapan, and no matter what the circumstances, Manalapan always has Howell’s full attention and vice versa. The Rebels look like the most dangerous team in the tournament not named CBA and their first test will be perhaps its fiercest rival over the last five years, which means the game will definitely be intense. Manalapan has a few dangerous scorers and is always tough in the back thanks to a defense-first approach, so Howell will have to earn it. I don’t see Howell running up the score like it did in the first two games, because Manalapan will definitely throw 10 players behind the ball and commit to keeping the Rebels out of the net. Howell, though, is hard to keep down and eventually the Rebels, on their home field, will figure it out. The Pick: Howell 2-0

(20) Middletown South at (4) Toms River North

It appears Toms River North will have to go through Class A North if it is to win the Shore Conference Tournament and that possible A North gauntlet starts with a revved-up Middletown South team coming off an overtime win against Ocean. Middletown South look good enough to play with Toms River North, but injuries could be an issue. There’s nothing keeping anyone out of the lineup, but the Eagles are playing banged up right now and that might be a factor on Saturday. North, meanwhile, is rested and ready to build on a deep SCT run last year that ended with a loss to CBA in the final. This match-up may give North as many problems as a potential match with Freehold Township on Tuesday, but on turf, with some rest and with tournament experience, North should find a way against a dangerous Middletown South team. The Pick: Toms River North 2-1

(21) St. John Vianney at (5) Freehold Township

The Lancers are coming off the first penalty kick victory of the tournament having survived 100 minutes with Jackson Memorial, maybe the most physical team in the Shore Conference. Vianney has been one of the most Jekyll-and-Hyde teams in the Shore and while this season has been a crazy one for SJV, it seems to be heading in the right direction after a good showing on the road against Jackson. Freehold Township is another physical team that will look to play in the middle of the field more than Jackson does, but the Pats are a bit banged up, which might even up the sides a little bit. The interesting storyline to watch Saturday will be the full-fledged return to goal by Phil Horan, who played the second half of a 3-1 loss to CBA on Monday. With Horan back and SJV’s Matt Niebling playing well, this game might feature the best goalkeeper matchup on Saturday, which may mean a rather low score. I see a little more action, just because that field tends to be conducive to scoring. The Pick: Freehold Township 2-1

(22) Central at (6) Holmdel

I’m running out of opportunities to pick upsets and this is another game I just don’t see the home team coughing up. Holmdel is fired up for another shot at the SCT after last year’s tournament ended in the quarterfinals and the Hornets are rounding into good health in time for a postseason run. Central was impressive in the final 15 minutes of a win over Southern, but the first 65 minutes were an exhibition by the Rams. Still, the young Golden Eagles grew up fast an confidence is huge for a team that relies heavily on juniors, sophomores and a couple of freshmen. With Holmdel’s defense, skilled midfield and dynamic scoring up top, Central’s only hope is that Holmdel struggles finishing. It could happen and maybe this is the upset, but it’s not likely that Holmdel can’t score. The Pick: Holmdel 2-0

(10) Toms River South at (7) Lacey

I’m sure a lot of people expect the tournament-tested team from Class A South to go on the road and beat Lacey again, but I’m thinking the other way. Toms River South was much sharper than Lacey in a 3-1 win earlier this season, but as far as possession and skill goes, Lacey looked basically even with the Indians. Toms River South just finished with more precision in the first meeting, but to give South its due, that’s what makes Toms River South tough: they finish. So this game will probably be more about how Lacey finishes and they showed in a 6-0 win over Point Beach that the Lions can do plenty of that. This is the real toss-up game of the second round and the only one in which a win by either team wouldn’t be considered an upset. I see two even teams that look like they should split a season series, which is bad news for South, good news for Lacey. The Pick: Lacey 3-2

(24) Point Boro at (8) Colts Neck

Class B North took it on the chin in the first round and now Colts Neck is the only team left from said division. The Cougars have played well and were sharp in a win over the Lakewood on Thursday, while the other three B North teams that bit the dust early – Freehold, Long Branch and Ocean – had warning signs that they could be in trouble. Point Boro took out Freehold in the first round, so the Panthers have to feel good about their chances Saturday. They have been coming on strong as some of the new pieces have rounded into form and what was once a team that looked like it was due for a lost season without the injured Tori Remondelli now has something to play for. One more win and the Panthers will have a shot to play CBA for the second straight year, which is certainly a nice way to test yourself for the state tournament. Unfortunately for Point Boro, they are running into a very skilled, young, Colts Neck team that is really coming into its own. The Cougars should take care of business and then give CBA and interesting test on Tuesday. The Pick: Colts Neck 3-1

That makes zero upsets. I’m getting soft in my old age.

SCT First Round Picks

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 20, 2011

How about some picks?

No. 26 Point Beach at No. 7 Lacey

Point Beach drew the last seed on the basis that it is not a very battle-tested team and hasn’t defeated a tournament team, but the Garnet Gulls will get a test here. Lacey has had trouble in the SCT over the last two years, losing to Holmdel in 2009 and Ocean last year, both at home in the first round. This match-up favors the Lions far more than those two did and although Lacey has played quite a few overtime games this season, this one should be comfortable enough. The Pick: Lacey 3-1

No. 25 Lakewood at No. 8 Colts Neck

The Cougars are playing great, especially considering their youth and now they host a team with quite a big of youth in its own right. Lakewood boasts a pretty young roster around senior scorer Carlos Morales and that roster will hope to capture lighting in a bottle with 80 stellar minutes. Colts Neck should ultimately be fine because the Cougars have scored with some regularity and Lakewood does give up goals. The only downfall for Colts Neck so far is that they usually slip up and allow a goal or two, so if they struggle to finish at all, the Cougars might be in for a struggle. In the end, though, I don’t see them having trouble to score. The Pick: Colts Neck 4-1

No. 24 Point Boro at No. 9 Freehold

It’s hard to figure what to expect from Freehold over the next three weeks, but you have to believe the Colonials are itching to play some meaningful games. It’s not to say the only reason they haven’t been quite as good as most thought is simply a matter of motivation, but this team played with an edge after starting 1-3 last year. Maybe that edge returns after a loss to Jackson Memorial on Thursday, and if it does return, watch out for a potential CBA-Freehold game, which I could see being very entertaining. For now, they will have to get by Point Boro and if the Colonials are looking past the Panthers and toward another match with Colts Neck, Point Boro could pounce. There might be some anxiousness around the net, but I don’t see Freehold sleeping on this one. The Pick: Freehold 2-0

No. 23 Long Branch at No. 10 Toms River South

This is one of the games that has a real chance to be an upset if the right things happen. Toms River South can squash any hope of that with a fast start that puts Long Branch in a hole confidence is key for the Green Wave and nothing shatters confidence like a 2-0 hole. On the other hand, a slow start never buries TR South and if Long Branch can get off to a fast start, it will have to keep attacking to have a chance to win. I see this as a game Long Branch can take control of early, and then it will just be a matter of weathering the storm. Look for the Wave to get out to a 2-0 lead and then, watch the Indians work their postseason match-ups. This one should be a good game and I’m hoping it is, as I’ll spend my night watching it. The Pick: Toms River South 3-2

No. 22 Central at No. 11 Southern

Central took a little bit of luster out of this one by ending a seven game unbeaten streak with a loss Monday to Brick Memorial. As it is, the Golden Eagles will try to go to Southern, where Lacey just nabbed an overtime win in a result that should encourage the Central side. Southern, on the other hand, is hoping to get through Thursday and have a shot to win a big game. The Rams have two wins over Jackson Memorial, but their other wins have come against Brick Memorial twice, Pinelands and Manchester, which are all teams on the wrong side of .500. They had Toms River South beat before allowing a goal in the final 30 seconds in what turned out to be a 1-1 draw, so now it’s a matter of finishing. Southern should be the better team in this one, but Central has a good thing going and its young core can really start heading in the right direction with an upset here. The Pick: Southern 1-0

No. 21 St. John Vianney at No. 12 Jackson Memorial

This is the classic trap game to pick, because you have one team that is on fire right now in Jackson and another coming off a lousy performance in a loss to Middletown South, which I also happened to witness. Here’s the thing: These two teams are probably pretty close and now that the games count, anything can happen. Also realize that St. John Vianney basically had nothing to gain by beating Middletown South while the Eagles had everything to gain and that was basically reflected in the score. Vianney has a good back in Tom Farrell and quality keeper in Matt Niebling and a dangerous scorer in Bryan Walsh, so this is not going to be easy for Jackson. I think the Jags have another win in them. The Pick: Jackson 3-2

No. 20 Middletown South at No. 13 Ocean

The Eagles are flying high coming into the tournament and although this isn’t the easiest draw possible, Middletown South is a tough match-up for anybody in the first round. When Middletown South has struggled, it’s been because they just haven’t finished and that will certainly be a chief concern for the Eagles as they try to pull the upset. Ocean, meanwhile, is scoring at a high rate this season behind Mike Andre, who has made the shift from the back to forward. Ocean is still solid in the back with Tyler Nowak and Greg Loeser, but the element of scoring up top makes them more dangerous than they’ve been in either of the past two years. The Spartans are also a team that typically does well during the early part of this tournament, having beat Lacey in last year’s first round to go with noteworthy runs in 2007 and 2008. Middletown South will probably get the higher shot-total, but Ocean could still take the game on execution. Something tells me the Spartans pull it out at home. The Pick: Ocean 2-1

No. 19 Red Bank at No. 14 Manalapan

At some point, Red Bank could become a team nobody wants to play, whether its in this tournament or in the NJSIAA tournament. The Bucs have a quality keeper in Jack Pebole and pretty balanced attack with some sleeping giants in it. Unfortunately, Manalapan’s dirt patch is not usually the field on which opposing stars are born. The Braves very good on their home field and its nooks and crannies could frustrate the Bucs. Add the field, plus the fact that Manalapan’s talent will be enough of a challenge for Red Bank and this looks like another one where the home team holds serve. The Pick: Manalapan 2-1

No. 18 Monsignor Donovan at No. 15 Shore

It’s about time for a road team to win and I think this will finally make the leap, albeit a small one. I was impressed with the Griffins when I caught them at home against Manasquan. They can move the ball, they put passes together around the net, and they have some boys who can square up a shot. Shore has some scoring in its own right with Jonathan Junqueira, but the Blue Devils have been through a bit of a drought lately. With that in mind, Monsignor Donovan can go up to West Long Branch and get a win, as long as they don’t get caught in a physical game. This should be a really good game with some extra intrigue because Shore coach Christian Pontier is a teacher at Monsignor Donovan and has some of the players in class. The Pick: Monsignor Donovan 1-0

No. 16 Rumson at No. 17 Manasquan

Manasquan gets a home game despite its seed thanks to a division championship that guarantees at least one home game. The Warriors are tough on their pitch, but Rumson should be just fine at Sea Girt Army Camp. Manasquan is always a tough team on which to score but one way to break through against all of those bodies in the box is too finish on set pieces and no team is better on set pieces than Rumson. The throws will be flying and Ben Alderoty will do his thing. The Pick: Rumson 2-0

Boys Soccer Chat, 10/18/11

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on October 18, 2011

Check in at 8 p.m. for a live chat to discuss the SCT, state tournament, the regular season and anything else for that matter. The Shore Conference Tournament starts tomorrow night and continues over the next 10 days.

Click Here for the Live Chat