Scroll Down for SCT Round-of-16 Predictions

A 2-0 lead is said to be “the worst lead” in a soccer game according to an old saying, and for the Toms River South boys soccer team, never did those words ring so true as they did in last year’s Shore Conference Tournament round-of-16 game against eventual tournament champion Ocean Township.

Jared Knowles had an assist in Toms River South's first-round win over Point Beach. The Indians will face defending champion Ocean on Saturday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“We were tied 2-2 at half, up 2-0 early and playing pretty well,” Indians coach Ed Leibe said. “Then the wheels just kind of came off.”

Ocean went on to pound Toms River South 8-2 in one of the most lopsided games in tournament history on their way to 19 goals in four games during a championship run. While Ocean went on to make history, the remaining players from that Toms River South team have been stewing over the loss and eager to get another chance at tournament play.

“It’s a hard game to remember because it happened pretty fast,” junior and returning starter Jordan Urbaczek said. “We’re looking forward to getting another shot at them. They are the defending champs and we expect them to be good again, but we want to prove we’re a better team than last year.”

Not only did Toms River South win its first Shore Conference Tournament game this season, a 3-0 victory over No. 21 Point Pleasant Beach, but the Indians earned another shot at Ocean with the win. The No. 5 Spartans will host No. 12 Toms River South Saturday at 2 p.m. with a spot in the quarterfinal once again on the line.

Urbaczek scored two goals in the win over Point Beach and has emerged as the most reliable scorer on the Indians despite playing most of the year out of the midfield. Scoring has been a problem at times for the Indians, who have scored 21 goals in in 16 games this season, but they have also improved their midfield and possession game from a year ago.

“Our midfield and our defense has been really solid this year and if you told me the guys were going to play as well as they have, I would have told you we’d be one of the best teams in the division,” Leibe said. “It hasn’t worked out that way, at least not record-wise.

“I still think we can get there, and Saturday is a good chance to do it. They really handled us in the midfield last year, but I’d like to think the guys who played in the game last year are determined not to let that happen again.”

 

Round of 16 Picks

(12) Toms River South at (5) Ocean, 2 p.m.

We’ll start where we left off, and Toms River South will continue where it left off in last year’s tournament. It is indeed a new year, but Ocean still has the makings of a team that can put up a lot of goals, although it will be hard to top the 19 goals in four games the Spartans scored in last year’s tournament. The difference might be in the midfield this year, where Toms River South is a bit strong and Ocean a tad less so. That may just even things up rather than give the Indians an edge, but it at least gives Toms River South more of a chance. Expect a good fight from South, but Ocean is too strong up top and in the goal. The Pick: Ocean, 3-1.

(16) Raritan at (1) Manalapan, 2 p.m.

The Rockets are indeed an underdog against a very good, very balanced and very battle-tested Braves team, but Raritan is experienced in putting a scare into top teams. The Rockets tied both No. 2 Holmdel and No. 3 Rumson Fair-Haven during the regular season and also took Rumson into overtime before losing 3-2 in the second meeting between the teams. The Rockets have some skill and are competent around the goal, but the key will be winning and keeping possession against a relentless Braves team. Despite scares against Marlboro and Middletown North in Manalapan’s past and even in a wide-open tournament, it’s hard to see the top seed bowing out this early. The Pick: Manalapan, 2-0.

(15) Toms River East at (2) Holmdel, 11 a.m.

Both teams are banged up heading into the round of 16, which is a shame because both teams at full strength would make for about as good of a 2-vs.-15 game could be. Even as is, Toms River East has the kind of team that could turn the bracket upside-down, even against an experienced tournament team like Holmdel. It’s also worth noting, although totally irrelevant, that the No. 15 seed beat the No. 2 seed last year when Monsignor Donovan stunned Holmdel, so there is precedent for this kind of upset. Holmdel wins this game more times than not, but it only takes one. Ah, what the hell. The Pick: Toms River East, 2-1.

(14) Monsignor Donovan at (3) Rumson-Fair Haven, 6 p.m.

Speaking of upsets, Monsignor Donovan pulled off the big one in last year’s tournament and they have the formula to do it again this year, this time to a very talented, senior-heavy Rumson-Fair Haven team. For the Griffins to repeat that feat, they will have to clean up the defense after needing overtime to get by Red Bank Catholic, 3-2. Monsignor Donovan had only given up five goals prior to the first-round match, so the step up in competition might be exposing some holes. Still, with a strong keeper in Paul Kelly, Donovan should hang around. The Pick: Rumson, 1-0.

(20) Red Bank at (4) Toms River North, 9:30 a.m.

The Mariners host arguably the hottest team in the Shore Conference and will have to account for red-hot Justin Gilson, who is up to 16 goals after scoring another in Red Bank’s 2-1 upset of Howell on Thursday.  While Toms River North has been far from perfect this season, it has put together good games when it most needs one. On the turf, Toms River North should have the advantage, but if Gilson gets free on set-pieces, it could be another long day for a Red Bank opponent. The Pick: Toms River North, 2-1.

(11) Wall at (6) CBA, 9:30 a.m.

If ever there was a game that appeared destined for penalty kicks, it would be this one. Both teams have scoring ability, but are both possession-oriented teams that don’t often take a high volume of shots. Wall has gone the distance six times this year, but recently, the Crimson Knights have been finishing teams off. The Colts meanwhile, are coming off their second tie of the season against Colts Neck. Wall and Colts Neck are pretty comparable, so expect this one to go the distance. In that case, I’ll go with the experience. The Pick: 1-1, Wall in penalty kicks.

(10) Lacey at (7) Jackson Memorial, 2:30 p.m.

The two Class A South rivals were about as even as can be during the season, with Lacey winning at home 2-1 and Jackson Memorial getting the Lions back 1-0 in overtime at its home pitch. Lacey is going to possess the ball more than the Jaguars will, but that’s not a concern of Jackson Memorial. The Jaguars defend first and without a go-to scorer, Lacey has struggled to get quality shots against Jackson’s defense and in a game of this magnitude, those chances will again be scarce. The home field is the difference in this one. The Pick: Jackson Memorial, 1-0.

(9) Colts Neck at (8) Freehold Township, 2 p.m.

It’s time to dust off the old adage about how hard it is to beat a team three times. Normally, I would put such a blanket statement under scrutiny, but I think it applies here. The Patriots and Cougars are very even teams and Freehold Township pulled out wins in the first two meetings between the two teams. Maybe there is some sort of mental edge here for Freehold Township, but it feels more like Colts Neck is close and is due for a win against a team very similar to itself. The Cougars had a big scoring day in the first round and while it was against an inferior team, there may be some carry-over. The Pick: Colts Neck, 3-2.