Shore Conference Tournament Bracket

TOMS RIVER – Like most of his fellow seniors on this year’s St. John Vianney boys soccer team, Alex Politi paid his dues at the lower levels of the program during his first two seasons and battled for playing time as a junior last year, waiting behind a host of future college players during the three-year stretch.

Now that Politi and seniors like Christian Bruno and Davin Eugenio are fully entrenched as leaders of the Lancers, they have taken St. John Vianney boys soccer to a place it has never been before.

Politi, Eugenio and Bruno each scored a goal on Tuesday against Toms River South – the top seed in the Shore Conference Tournament – and the No. 25 seed Lancers stunned the Indians, 4-2, to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the first time in program history while also becoming the highest seed in SCT history to advance to the semifinals.

Davin Eugenio (right) battles Toms River South's Dylan Danelson for the ball during Tuesday's SCT quarterfinal. Eugenio scored the second of four St. John Vianney goals. (Photo by Matt Manley)

St. John Vianney will take on No. 4 seed Wall in Thursday’s second semifinal game at Memorial Field in Neptune.

“You could definitely say that we’ve had teams with more talent here in the past,” Politi said. “I didn’t play varsity until last year, so I played with a lot of these seniors on the jayvee team because we had so many good players, guys who ended up playing in college. That made us hungry. We had to work for everything now that it’s our chance, and we’ve come together as a team. It’s still a very hungry group.”

Politi and Eugenio each scored first-half goals to put St. John Vianney ahead 2-0, and after Toms River South’s Jordan Urbaczek trimmed the lead to 2-1 with a goal in the 35th minute, junior Marc Urbealis and Bruno scored in the second half to go up 4-1 and put the game away.

When the SCT bracket was released on Oct. 20, St. John Vianney was 6-5 with 11 goals in 11 games. Since drawing the No. 25 seed in the tournament that night, the Lancers are 4-0 with 14 goals, including eight goals in the three SCT wins. The offensive outburst began with a 6-1 win over Rumson-Fair Haven on Oct. 21, the Lancers’ final game of the Class A Central division schedule.

“For me two things have stood out about this group during this run,” St. John Vianney 13-year coach Brian Grimm said. “The first thing is, we found our scoring touch. Starting with the Rumson game, we were able to finish on some early chances and the confidence just kind of took off from there. It’s been a lot of different players making the most of the opportunities that we’re getting.

“The second thing is seniors. We have some really quality senior talent and leadership on the field, but it’s not just those seniors. It’s the seniors on the bench who are up and cheering the whole game. Everyone has been a part of this team on this run and it may seem like a small thing, but you need everyone pulling in the same direction and these guys have the same goals in mind.”

Politi began another big Vianney scoring showing with his goal in the 13th minute. Senior Vinny Durso - who later left the game with a broken nose he suffered during a collision near the end of the second half, according to Grimm - played a diagonal ball through the defense for Politi. After running onto it, Politi drew Toms River South goalkeeper Kollin White away from his line and poked the ball in for a 1-0 lead.

Eugenio added to the lead in the 31st minute by beating a defender along the end-line and bending a shot from a difficult angle into the goal. White got a hand on the shot, but could not stop the uncontested strike.

“I got enough space to take the ball to the end-line and get around (the defender),” Eugenio said. “I cut it back a little bit and saw the keeper come out and leave a little window so I took the shot. It probably wasn’t the best decision because of the angle. I probably should have taken one more touch or left it off, but it worked out.”

Urbaczek hammered in a rebound in the 35th to pull Toms River South within 2-1, but the Lancers scored the next two goals to put the game away. Urbealis broke free of the defense, running down a long diagonal pass in the air from Michael Clancy and finishing from the right side in the 54th minute.

Politi later drew a takedown in the box in the 66th and Christian Bruno converted the penalty kick to give Vianney a commanding 4-1 lead on the tournament's top seed.

“Slowing down is never on your mind against a team like this,” Grimm said. “If we tried to sit on a 2-1 lead or even a 2-0 lead, they would have carved us up. They kept the pressure on us and the only way for us to hold them off was to keep playing and making them defend us.”

Junior David Kamenar nearly beat Eugenio to Vianney’s second goal, but White saved his consecutive shots.

Tuesday’s run of goals came after senior goalkeeper Andrew Zimms saved a one-on-one chance by Toms River South senior Ryan Shiffer within the first three minutes of the game. Zimms made seven saves in all.

“That definitely was a wake-up call early on,” Bruno said. “You never want to leave your keeper hanging like that, so we got everyone together and made sure we knew our assignments so they didn’t get free like that again.”

Bruno and Eugenio are senior captains for the Lancers and both have moved around the field to play a number of positions to suit the team. While this has been common for the talented Vianney teams of recent years, this group has made those position shifts work.

“Christian Bruno would make a great attacking center mid and I’m sure he’d love to play up there, but we had basically a group of new varsity players in the back when the season started,” Grimm said. “He understood that if we had any chance to be successful, we needed him to anchor the back.”

“There was a lot of inexperience on the team this year, so guys didn’t really have set roles to begin with,” Eugenio said. “Everyone came in just looking to fill in a spot where the team needed them and that’s a big reason why this team’s been able to fit together.”

St. John Vianney’s first ever SCT semifinal trip is also the most unlikely trip to a SCT semifinal round. The No. 25 Lancers defeated No. 8 Brick Memorial, No. 9 Point Boro and No. 1 Toms River South to reach the SCT semifinal as the highest seed ever. Next up is No. 4 Wall, a 2-1 winner over No. 5 Shore, who will be playing in the program’s first semifinal since 2005.

“We saw our seed last week and we knew we were better,” Politi said. “Don’t get me wrong: we earned that seed. We lost those one-goal games that we shouldn’t have. But we also beat (No. 15) Holmdel and (No. 10) Matawan so we knew we could beat teams ahead of us and that’s how we approached each game. With each win, we proved to ourselves we can beat another good team and that’s how we’re going to look at the next one.”

 

Box Score

St. John Vianney 4, Toms River South 2

1

2

F

St. John Vianney (10-5)

2

2

4

Toms River South (12-3-2)

1

1

2

Goals (Assists): (SJV) Politi (Durso) 13’, Eugenio (Tuschmann) 31’, Urbealis (Clancy) 54’, Bruno (PK) 66’; (TRS) Urbaczek 35’, Casey 76’
Shots: Toms River South, 14-9
Saves: (SJV) Zimms 7; (TRS) White 3