Boys Soccer – SCT Opening Round Predictions
(27) Point Beach at (6) Toms River South, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
With an eight-game winning streak, Toms River South is one of the hottest teams in the tournament and will host a Point Beach team that turned in some clunkers, but has also stepped up and challenged some good competition. The Garnet Gulls lost by one goal to both Manasquan and Shore and scored a combined six goals in those two games. Youth could prove to be an issue for Point Beach in this game, especially when it comes to physically matching up with Toms River South’s athletes, but the Garnet Gulls have enough offensive threats to get on the board and stay in the game if the Indians have trouble finishing goals against a very tough goalkeeper in Ryan Franzoni. The Pick: Toms River South, 3-1
(26) Pinelands at (7) Manalapan, 3 p.m.
While this looks like a mismatch on paper, Pinelands will be looking to knock off a Manalapan side that is 0-2-1 in its last three games leading up to the tournament. Of course, in the game prior to the slide, Manalapan beat CBA on the road, which was the Braves’ second win over the No. 2 seed in the tournament this season. Manalapan is a team that can catch fire and win the tournament, but if the Braves have trouble scoring as they have over the last five games (two goals) then Pinelands will have a chance late in the game. The Pick: Manalapan, 2-0
(25) Ranney at (8) Rumson-Fair Haven, 6 p.m.
After starting the season 11-0, Rumson is 2-2 over its last four games and has given up a total of nine goals in its two losses. Ranney, meanwhile, looked to be rounding into form before dropping a 4-3 game to Point Beach on Monday and will face a first-round opponent that can take advantage of soft spots in the back. The Bulldogs will most certainly be able to score in this one and whether or not the game is close will depend on how much Rumson leaves open in the back and how much Ranney can capitalize on it. Whatever happens, this is a noteworthy game for the Panthers, who are playing their first ever SCT game. The Pick: Rumson, 4-1
(24) St. Rose at (9) Middletown North, 3:45 p.m.
While its five-game winning streak is not the longest among teams in the tournament, Middletown North might be playing better than any team in the field heading into play Wednesday. During this five-game surge, the Lions have outscored their opponents 15-1 and have wins over Holmdel, Marlboro and Manalapan during that stretch. St. Rose was competitive against the likes of Wall, Manasquan and Shore, so the Purple Roses can hang around. With the way Middletown North is playing, though, St. Rose will probably have to commit players to stopping Middletown North’s attack and still find a way to score. The Pick: Middletown North, 2-0.
(23) Neptune at (10) Lacey, 3 p.m.
From here on down, upsets become more and more of a possibility and the formula for Neptune – and anyone taking on Lacey – is to throw defensive attention at Robert Biele and hope that keeps him out of the net. To Lacey’s credit, though, the Lions have been able to create offense when teams have taken Biele’s scoring away, which hasn’t happened often. Biele scored a goal in the first meeting against Jackson Memorial and since, the Jaguars have committed to stopping him and have still managed three goals against Jackson Memorial since – including two by Reilly Hunt on Monday. Neptune has a number of weapons that could cause Lacey problems and the Scarlet Fliers have to be feeling confident because of a 3-1 win over Egg Harbor on Saturday. Consider an upset a possibility in this one, but the Lions have been taking care of business when they expect to win. The Pick: Lacey, 3-1
(22) Matawan at (11) Marlboro, 4 p.m.
In a Class A North division that offers good competition from top to bottom, Marlboro got results against the top teams, but also had some rough results against the teams in the middle and the bottom. Now that the Mustangs are here, they offer a balanced formation that plays well together whose scoring tends to come and go. Last year, when Marlboro made a run to the SCT quarterfinals as a No. 19 seed behind one top scorer, so it’s worth keeping an eye on whether or not the Mustangs can create and finish scoring chances. On the other side, Matawan has had some trouble putting games away as well, but did pick up a must-win result over Red Bank on Sunday to qualify. Health is an x-factor for Matawan and if they are healthy, Marlboro might have its hands full. It is hard to pick against the A North pedigree. The Pick: Marlboro, 1-0
(21) Monmouth at (12) Jackson Memorial, 3 p.m.
Monmouth fits the description of the under-the-radar team that could be dangerous. The Falcons have a senior core that can stand up to the physicality and athleticism of Jackson Memorial, which is usually step one in travelling to Jackson and walking out with a win. The Falcons had a five-game winning streak at one point this year and it ended with a tight 1-0 loss to Rumson-Fair Haven. More recently, Monmouth took a 4-1 loss to Holmdel and tied Raritan, the last place team in A Central. If the Falcons can rediscover their scoring touch from earlier in the year, Jackson Memorial has proven to be a little more vulnerable defending the goal. In the end, thought, Mike Schoener’s speed up to is the x-factor for Jackson Memorial and will likely come into play at some point on Thursday. The Pick: Jackson Memorial, 2-1
(20) Central at (13) Donovan Catholic, 3 p.m.
A 13-vs.-20 game usually carries with it some upset potential and this one has a little more based on the division rivalry element involved. Donovan Catholic picked up a win over and tied Central in the two regular-season meetings, with the two teams combining for just one goal in 180 minutes. Recently, Donovan Catholic has been racking up the goals, scoring 14 goals during the last four games of its 10-game winning streak. Two of those four wins included three-goal performances against Point Boro and Pinelands. Central has scored 12 in the last three, but those games were against three non-tournament teams. Both teams rely heavily on juniors and are in the thick of a good two-year run of beating each other up. If you believe in “being due” Central is the pick in this one. The Pick: Central, 2-1 in overtime
(19) Colts Neck at (14) Point Boro, 3:45 p.m.
Based on the strength of the division that each team comes from, Colts Neck is the pick in this game. Class B North has probably been the toughest division in the Shore Conference outside Class A North and the Cougars went .500 during the schedule while stepping on the field with two of the best teams in the tournament in Wall and Ocean. Point Boro is no slouch, though. The Panthers have not been as consistent as they were last year, but that probably wasn’t a realistic expectation for a team that won 14 in a row at one point last year. Both teams are well-coached and play well as a unit, but Point Boro is especially relentless to the ball when the Panthers are going well. Colts Neck has tried to play more offensive over the last two weeks and the results have not followed. It will be interesting to see how defensive-minded the Cougars are as they try to earn a showdown with Freehold Township. The Pick: Point Boro, 1-0
(18) Holmdel at (15) Toms River North, 5 p.m.
Based on the names on the front of the jersey, this is the most best of the 11 opening-round matchups, although – as the seeds probably indicate – these are two teams that are not without flaws. Toms River North has not been able to score a whole a lot against the better teams on its schedule, but the Mariners do have a pair of dangerous all-around players in Joey Hertgen and Mitch Reed. The Mariners also lost goalkeeper Tommy Lynch for the rest of the season to a ruptured spleen, so the Hornets and senior goalkeeper Tyler Marchiano will own the edge in that department. Toms River North is the older, faster team, but Holmdel has an ace in goal and a game-changing player in Justin McStay now playing up top. With one win in Toms River already in their back pocket (a 3-0 win over Toms River South on Sept. 8), the Hornets will give the Mariners all they can handle. The Pick: Holmdel, 3-2
(17) Long Branch at (16) Manasquan, 3 p.m.
Teams that play Long Branch know that escaping with a win against the Green Wave is a fortunate outcome, but Long Branch has not been able to string together a consistent stretch this season. The Wave will roll down to Manasquan with a chance to start a dangerous playoff run, but it’s hard to know which Long Branch team will show up. Meanwhile, the field at Sea Girt Army Camp could be an even bigger variable in the game with the unpredictable nature of the playing surface, which can adversely affect Manasquan as easily as it affects Long Branch. Manasquan also has some danger to their attack, which goes somewhat unnoticed. The Warriors should be able to stay organized enough in the back until they can figure out how to put one in the back of the net. The Pick: Manasquan, 1-0