Boys Soccer – 2022 NJSIAA Tournament Preview: The Shore in Group 3
Since the 2010 season, four different programs have represented the Shore Conference in the Group III championship game: Holmdel, Toms River South, Ocean and Wall. By that measure, Group III is the group in which the Shore Conference has had the most success; Holmdel is almost entirely responsible for the Shore's success in Group II and the same is true of Christian Brothers Academy in Non-Public A.
There are no shortage of contenders again in 2022 and there could be a few new candidates to represent the Shore in the Group III final, especially since Holmdel and Wall are both in Group II this season. Ocean and Toms River South will be among them, but Colts Neck, Middletown North, Neptune, Middletown South and Jackson Liberty all have big plans for the next two-plus weeks as well.
The Group III field is looking like a competitive one again and the Shore should again be a factor in deciding a champion.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 3 Colts Neck, No. 4 Neptune, No. 6 Jackson Liberty, No. 7 Middletown North, No. 8 Middletown South, No. 9 Ocean, No. 11 Freehold Boro, No. 14 Matawan, No. 16 Brick Memorial
Top Seed: Robbinsville
Defending Champion: Hopewell Valley
2022 Favorite: Robbinsville. After losing to Steinert on opening day, Robbinsville’s only losses are two to Notre Dame – the No. 2 seed in South Jersey Non-Public A – and one to Central Group II top seed Bordentown. The Ravens also have two wins over No. 2 seed Hopewell Valley, so all indications are that Robbinsville is ready to wear the bulls-eye.
Darkhorse: Ocean. There are Shore teams all over the place in Central Group III and there are four of them that will be on the road to open the tournament. Ocean looks like the one best positioned to play deep into the bracket, with the Spartans starting the year looking like, perhaps, one of the five best teams in the Shore Conference. It has been a rocky road since, but Ocean remains a team with postseason pedigree and should be ready to handle a tough first-round opponent in Middletown South and, potentially a shot at No. 1 Robbinsville. Brick Memorial is another interesting team given that the Mustangs have played to six draws this season, so Robbinsville could have a fight on its hands in round one. On the other side of the bracket, Matawan is also battle-tested and Freehold Boro enters the tournament a hot team after winning the Shore Coaches’ Cup.
Bracket Breakdown: The Shore has at least three teams that have, at times, played at the level of a sectional championship favorite: Colts Neck, Middletown North and Middletown South. Consistency has been an issues with Middletown South, while Middletown North is a hot team entering the tournament. Colts Neck, meanwhile, has handled itself well against a wide range of teams during the season and has the kind of scoring that will be tough for teams to stop. Two more teams to watch are Neptune and Jackson Liberty, both of which have been close to breaking out at times and have senior-ladened rosters hungry to make a run.
Championship Prediction: No. 3 Colts Neck over No. 4 Neptune. An early-round loss in the Shore Conference Tournament should serve Neptune well over the next week, with the Scarlet Fliers looking to finally put it all together after being a bounce away from a big run for most of the season. Should the Cougars and Scarlet Fliers meet in the final, it would be an All-B-North final and a rematch of a 3-2 Colts Neck win during the regular season.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 6 Toms River South, No. 11 Lacey
Top Seed: Shawnee
Defending Champion: No. 12 Moorestown
2022 Favorite: Shawnee. The Renegades have long been a Group IV team and still play a schedule loaded with Group IV opponents, so they will be one of the more battle-hardened teams in all of Group III. It is not an unbeatable Shawnee side – the Renegades have two losses and four draws this season – but it is the side best positioned to hoist the trophy on Nov. 5.
Darkhorse: Moorestown. The Quakers will start the tournament at No. 12 and be a very tough out for No. 5 Delsea and, potentially, No. 4 Ocean City. Moorestown already has a win this season over Shawnee, so it has gone toe-to-toe with the best Group III has to offer in the southern half of the state and won. If you are looking for a potential run out of Lacey, the Lions have suffered a shocking number of close losses this year and if fortunes are due to turn their way at some point, maybe it starts with the first round against Toms River South, followed by a potential trip to Cherry Hill West.
Bracket Breakdown: Toms River South showed it is tournament-ready by winning at Neptune in the Shore Conference Tournament and taking Marlboro to overtime in the Shore Conference Tournament round of 16. Beating Lacey for a second time in a little more than a week won’t be easy, as the Lions have enough talent to make a run.
Championship Prediction: No. 1 Shawnee over No. 3 Cherry Hill West. While there is plenty of room for some upsets, this bracket is likely to come down to Shawnee and Cherry Hill West, with Hammonton, Moorestown and Toms River South among the teams that could make some noise.