Boys Soccer – 2018 NJSIAA Sectional Final Preview
NJSIAA Boys Soccer Sectional Finals
Central Jersey Group III
No. 5 Colts Neck (12-7) at No. 2 Ocean (18-3-1), 11 a.m.
A rematch of a 1-0 Ocean win during Class B North play, the Central Jersey Group III final pits an upstart vs. a senior group that has had state championships aspirations since they were freshmen. Colts Neck has won eight of nine to reach a sectional final for the first time since the Cougars won Group I in 2000 – a stark contrast to an Ocean program appearing in its third sectional final in four years. The Spartans lost to Toms River South at home last year and won in dramatic fashion back in 2015. They have not, however, been to a Group III final since winning it all in 1996.
Santieno Harding has been Ocean’s go-to scorer with 19 goals and six assists on the season and six goals and three assists in seven postseason games between the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments. James Schutz has also stepped up his scoring out of the midfield, while fellow midfielders Leo Montesinos and Luke Yates continue to control the game. They will face off against Colts Neck’s talented midfielder Ethan Kilmnick and a tough-minded group around him, highlighted by Brooks Condon and Paul Tepedino. Condon has been clutch during Colts Neck’s late-season surge and scored the equalizer Monday at Neptune.
Central Jersey Group II
No. 14 Shore (9-13) at No. 1 Holmdel (19-0-1), 2 p.m.
It would be hard to find anyone who thought Shore Regional would be playing in this game on Thursday and it would be even harder to find someone who thought Holmdel wouldn’t be. Holmdel has been a team possessed since losing to Ocean on penalties in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, outscoring its first three Central Jersey Group III opponents by an aggregate total of 23-1. Last year, the Hornets nearly slipped up in the sectional semifinals vs. Matawan but have faced no such resistance this time around.
On the other side, Shore is hoping to do what Matawan did last year when, as a No. 13 seed, the Huskies played Holmdel to a 1-1 draw through 100 minutes and for force a shootout. The way things have gone for the Blue Devils during the postseason, why can’t it be them? They entered the state tournament 6-13 with nine losses by one goal and have completely reversed their fortunes by winning three straight overtime games on the road to reach the CJ II final. Seniors Ryan Bongarzone, Max Cameron and Brandon DeNovaes, as well as junior Conor Creighton and senior goalkeeper Chris Panduri, have led the way.
In Holmdel’s 4-1 regular-season win over Shore, the Blue Devils cut the deficit to 2-1 early in the second half and it wasn’t until a pair of strikes by Anthony Arena midway through the half that Holmdel put the game away.
South Jersey Group IV
No. 2 Jackson Memorial (15-2-1) at No. 1 Washington Twp. (22-1), 2 p.m.
This will be one of the more anticipated sectional finals to be played on Thursday, with the two-loss Jaguars and standout scorer Dan Russo trying to slay the South Jersey Giant. Washington Township is seeking its fifth consecutive sectional championship and has tormented a number of Shore teams during the run. The Minutemen barely got past Manalapan and Freehold Township in the 2014 and 2015 Group IV semifinals and defeated Howell each of the past two seasons – including in Monday’s sectional semifinal, 2-1.
Jackson Memorial, meanwhile is in search of its first sectional championship in more than two decades and is playing in a sectional final for the first time since 2012, when Monroe entered the Jaguars den and beat Jackson, 3-1, in the Central Jersey Group IV final. Despite its gaudy 22-1 record, Washington Township has not been exceedingly dominant during the postseason, with four of its six wins coming by a one-goal margin and the lone loss of the season coming vs. St. Augustine on Oct. 27. Jackson has also survived some close calls on the way to the final, escaping past Kingsway in overtime on a golden goal by Russo and then advancing past Eastern on penalty kicks.
South Jersey Group III
No. 6 Pinelands (11-4-1) at No. 4 Seneca (18-1-3), 2 p.m.
After escaping past Toms River South in the first round on penalties and falling behind Mainland, 2-0, Pinelands came to life and began a tear that got the Wildcats to the sectional final round for the first time since 1989. The Wildcats scored three unanswered goals to beat the two-time defending South Jersey Group III champions in the quarterfinals and rolled through Cherry Hill West, 5-0, to earn a spot in the final. Kieran Sundermann posted a hat trick in the 5-0 win after scoring one of the three goals vs. Mainland.
Pinelands will run up against a Seneca team that has lost just once all year, which was a South Jersey Soccer Coaches semifinal loss to St. Augustine on Oct. 24. At one point during the year, Seneca turned in 12 shutouts in 13 games, but after the 12th, the Golden Eagles have conceded at least once in each of the last four games. Two of Seneca’s ties came against the Cherry Hill West team that Pinelands just routed, so the Wildcats have plenty of reason to believe they can jump on the bus back to Southern Ocean County with a trophy.
South Jersey Group II
No. 4 Manasquan (14-6-2) at No. 2 Delran (16-5-1), 2 p.m.
At first glance, Manasquan looks like a heavy underdog as an undecorated program facing a team that is consistently a Group II contender and is a current three-time defending sectional champion. Delran plays as challenging as schedule as any team in the state, let alone in Group II and against that field, the Bears have only lost five times. Then again, Manasquan is no slouch either when it comes to strength of schedule. Like Delran, the Warriors lost to CBA, 2-0, and played challenging games against Holmdel and Ocean – the latter of which they won.
Manasquan enters Thursday’s game on a run of four straight shutouts behind junior goalkeeper Joe Weinstein. The first of those was a shutout against South Jersey, Non-Public B finalist St. Rose, followed by three straight clean sheets in the South Group II Tournament. With that defense and a handful of dangerous scorers led by sophomore Tommy Johnson and junior Drew Greenblatt, Manasquan is a real threat to Delran’s streak and if it does not work, Manasquan is set up nicely to be even better next year.
South Jersey Non-Public A
No. 1 CBA (17-4) vs. No. 2 St. Augustine (17-4-3), 5 p.m.
A long-standing rivalry in South Jersey, Non-Public A is renewed on Thursday when CBA goes for its fifth straight sectional championship against a surging St. Augustine side. The Hermits handed Washington Township its first loss of the season, 2-1, to win the South Jersey Coaches Association championship and followed that win up with two dominant showings in the first two rounds of the state tournament. St. Augustine handled Paul VI, 5-0, and crushed Notre Dame, 4-0, in the sectional semifinal to earn a spot in the final.
CBA had similar success on its side of the bracket with a 6-0 win over Red Bank Catholic and a 2-0 victory over Bishop Eustace. The Colts were a surprise team in 2017 to a certain extent, reaching the Non-Public A final with only one starter back from the 24-1 2016 team. That performance made this year all about winning a championship and after losing a heartbreaker to Ocean in the SCT final, CBA has its collective focus directed on finishing the job in Non-Public A. With seven senior starters – Jack Gill, Joe Lozowski, Dom Bellomo, Charlie Daly, Jack Hempstead, Liam Mulvey and Eric Wnorowski – the time is now for CBA and what the Colts hope will be a challenging two-game stretch begins at Washington Township on Thursday night.
South Jersey Non-Public B
(3) Rutgers Prep (11-10) vs. (9) St. Rose (9-10-2), 5 p.m.
St. Rose entered the NJSIAA Tournament on a four-game losing streak and winning the program’s first sectional title in eight years seemed to be a longshot. All of a sudden, though, the Purple Roses found their groove and have won three straight games to reach the sectional championship game against another team – Rutgers Prep – that entered the tournament with a losing record. Christian Riozzi-Bodine scored a goal in each of St. Rose’s three tournament wins, the second of which was a 1-0 win over top-seeded Immaculata and the third a convincing 5-1 victory over defending sectional champion Moorestown Friends.
St. Rose’s won its last state title in convincing fashion as the tournament favorite, so this year’s run has a different feel to it. The Purple Roses won three games on the road as the No. 9 seed in the field and will next play a neutral-site game against a Rutgers Prep squad whose vulnerabilities seem to stand out when viewing their schedule. With one more win to go, it is hard to see St. Rose turning in an effort any less intense than the one that got the Purple Roses into the game.