Boys Soccer – 2022 Shore Conference Tournament Quarterfinal Preview, Picks
Shore Conference Tournament Quarterfinals
Monday, Oct. 17
No. 8 Colts Neck at No. 1 CBA, 2:30 p.m.
While the quarterfinal opener in Lincroft represents the biggest seed disparity of the eight-team round, it might turn out to be the most entertaining match of the bunch. CBA has been the Shore’s No. 1 team all season long and enters Monday on a 12-game winning streak. Colts Neck, meanwhile, is tied for second in the Shore Conference with St. Rose and behind only Holmdel in per-game goal-scoring as a team. Since its opening-day loss to Marlboro, CBA has scored 36 goals over its next 12 matches, which is exactly the number Colts Neck has scored in its 12 games.
In Friday’s round of 16, both teams had to deal with some tense moments before ultimately advancing. Colts Neck played a scoreless first half with Toms River East and got on the board in the 48th minute on a goal from Jairo Chira, which turned out to be the only goal of the game. A few miles away, CBA had to recover from an early, 1-0 deficit, then later coughed up a 2-1 lead when Southern scored the equalizer in the 74th minute. It took a penalty kick three minutes into overtime for the Colts to escape by the No. 16 Rams.
After surviving a balanced Southern side in the round of 16, CBA will have to deal with a Colts Neck attack that throws four players on the attack – led by Chira and sophomore Kyle Moore, with Nick Mavica and Jeff DeCarvalho also serving as scoring threats. In the other direction, Colts Neck’s defense has been vulnerable at times in front of a freshman goalkeeper in Liam Collura and will have to deal with a lethal winger duo in Will Thygeson and Jack D’Eletto. Junior Dylan Millevoi has come on as a third scorer up top as well and there should be some goals on the board for the home team. The question is: Can Colts Neck keep up? The Cougars are dangerous and CBA has been to overtime in three of its last five matches. The Pick: CBA, 3-2 in overtime
No. 7 Rumson-Fair Haven at No. 2 Howell, 5 p.m.
At the start of the season, Rumson-Fair Haven was positioned as the No. 2 team in the Shore Conference behind CBA on the strength of its run to the NJSIAA Group II semifinal last year coupled with the return of eight starters to its lineup. The road to the SCT quarterfinals has been a winding one for the Bulldogs, but now they are here and will play the team that actually went out and seized the No. 2 seed in Howell. The Rebels have built on a strong finish to the 2021 season in which they reached the Central Group IV final – an accomplishment not far off from Rumson’s sectional championship in CJ II, albeit not as decorated.
Since dropping back-to-back losses to CBA and Marlboro, Howell has rattled off a six-game unbeaten streak, which includes Friday’s shootout win over Manasquan after 100 scoreless minutes by both sides. With two five-game winning streaks to its credit already this season, the Rebels will try to start another one on Monday against a Rumson side that has given up more goals than any of the SCT quarterfinalists. Rebels seniors Nick Spisak and J.P. Candela have been the two keys to the goal-scoring attack, with sophomore Nick Turturro and junior Bryce Ocholla adding balance during breakout seasons.
On the other side, Howell will have to contend with a dangerous Rumson attack that has made up for conceding 23 goals by putting up 38. Alec Pentikis, Antonio Santos and Ronan Hogg have been at the forefront of that effort all season long and junior Padraig Flynn catching fire lately. Howell goalkeeper Charlie Scanlon and center back R.J. Eckelman are two senior leaders protecting the Rebels net and while this will be a tough test to pass for them, they are as battle-tested as any group left in the tournament. The Pick: Howell, 3-2
No. 12 Long Branch at No. 13 Middletown North, 6 p.m.
The only rematch among the four quarterfinal matches, Middletown North rolled into Long Branch on Sept. 30 and smoked the Green Wave, 5-1, in one of the more impressive performances of the season, as well as Long Branch’s most forgettable. Middletown North is a defense-first outfit, having allowed more than one goal in a game just twice this season while allowing only 10 total goals in its 12 matches. Senior C.J. Crolius is a shutdown central defender and can be dangerous pushing forward as well as thanks to a big leg and big throw.
Long Branch has also been stingy about allowing goals this season, the loss to Middletown North notwithstanding. The Green Wave has gone 3-0-1 since that loss to the Lions, including a draw vs. a Neptune team that beat Middletown North, plus back-to-back tournament wins over St. Rose and Point Boro. Senior and four-year starter Jeremy Hernandez is Long Branch’s rock in the back while Anthony Vasquez, Nick Davhi Borges and Chris Garcia Lopez have been the consistent scoring threats. They will be countered by Mike Colantino, Travis Soto, Matt Silva and Josiah Stepney on the Lions attack, with outside back Ryan Barnao also posing a threat.
A security risk early last week prompted the Long Branch school district to cancel all after-school events on high school grounds last week and that is extended into Monday, which means Long Branch will be travelling to Middletown North, despite its better seed. With Middletown North handling Long Branch during the season, the Lions should have jumped the Green Wave in the seeding anyway, so this matchup and venue is as it should be. You can chalk up the score of the first match to a bad day for one team and a good one for the other, so expect a competitive final score on Monday. The Pick: Middletown North, 1-0
No. 6 Marlboro at No. 3 Holmdel, 7 p.m.
Two of the Shore’s more successful public-school programs of the past six seasons will finally face one another in SCT play on Monday night in Holmdel. Both teams have won a Shore Conference Tournament championship, with Holmdel doing so more recently in 2017 and Marlboro looking to end a 13-year wait between conference titles. The trips to the semifinals and finals are close as well, with Holmdel beating out the Mustangs, 5-4, on semifinal appearances and 3-2 in title-game appearances. Marlboro will have its chance to even the score on Monday night by securing its fifth ever trip to the SCT semifinals and first since 2016.
As much as any team in the 2022 SCT field, Marlboro has raised its game against the best competition. The Mustangs boasted a modest record of 3-3-1 at the time of the SCT seeding, but those three wins were over No. 1 CBA, No. 2 Howell and Manalapan. Since the tournament was seeded, Marlboro has gone 4-0-1, which includes SCT wins over Lakewood and Toms River South. The Mustangs have ridden a dependable defensive group that has allowed 11 goals in 12 matches and has helped Marlboro pull out five wins with a one-goal margin of victory.
Holmdel has also kept teams out of its net while scoring at a feverish clip as well. The Hornets lead the Shore Conference in both goals allowed per game (0.31) and goals scored per game (3.46), which suggests they just might be the Shore’s best team, period. David Weiner and Max Woodward are dominant midfield players, the defense is skilled and versatile and sophomore Stephan Kapranov has given Holmdel another dangerous scorer. The question for the Hornets is whether or not they are ready for a battle with a Class A North team, which Holmdel has not had to this point outside of a win over Freehold Boro. The Hornets had an easier time with Toms River South, which took Marlboro into overtime in Friday’s round of 16, but the Mustangs should have an easier time playing on turf. Don’t expect a lot of goals and if you want to go check this one out in person, plan on a late night. The Pick: 1-1 tie, Marlboro on penalties
Round of 16 Picks Record: 5-3
2022 SCT Picks Record: 16-6