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NJSIAA Tournament

Group II and I

Central East

Opening Pairings

(9) Monmouth at (8) Manasquan, winner at (1) Holmdel

(12) Henry Hudson at (5) New Egypt, winner at (4) Point Beach

(11) Shore at (6) Manchester, winner at (3) Asbury Park

(7) Rumson-Fair Haven at (2) Raritan

Withdrew: No. 10 Point Boro and No. 13 Barnegat

Favorite: Holmdel

As complete as Holmdel has looked during its 12-1-1 season, the Hornets were even better last year before suffering stunning shootout losses to Toms River South and Governor Livingston in the two tournaments. Goals can be hard to come by in tournament games and one thing Holmdel has going for it is the Hornets have had a grittiness to their goal-scoring this year that should translate well to the tournament setting.

Raritan played the Hornets close in two games last week and Rumson played them fairly well as well, even with Bulldogs junior standout Luke Pentikis out for the second game due to injury. If any team is likely to pick off Holmdel, it would be one of those two.

Rumson sophomore Alec Pentikis (left) and Holmdel senior Connor Hinds. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Darkhorse: Monmouth

The other team to watch is Monmouth – one of five A Central teams in this field and one that should be listed among the contenders based on the talent the Falcons have. The season started about as poorly as is imaginable, with the Falcons going 0-7-1 to start the season before rattling off six straight wins heading into the playoffs. The schedule got significantly easier for Monmouth, but with some restored confidence and a lineup that played close games with Holmdel, Raritan and Rumson, the Falcons have to like their chances – as long as they can get by a struggling-but-still-dangerous Manasquan side in round one.

Manchester and Shore could also serve as surprise teams on the other side of the bracket, with Shore showing plenty of toughness in taking Holmdel to overtime on Thursday night while boasting a young team. Manchester will have to get by the Blue Devils in round one and if they do, the Hawks have enough offensive firepower to beat any team on their side of the bracket.

Round-by-Round Predictions

Opening Round

(9) Monmouth over (8) Manasquan

(5) New Egypt over (12) Henry Hudson

(6) Manchester over (11) Shore

Experience should be the difference for both Monmouth and Manchester if both indeed get by challenging first-round opponents. Monmouth has a talented junior class that is on the verge of taking the next step heading into 2021, while Manchester’s young players have remained the engine on this year’s team as well.

Shore is no stranger to state tournament runs as a double-digit seed, with the 2018 team reaching the Central Jersey Group II final as a No. 14 seed. Manasquan is only a year removed from a run to the Shore Conference Tournament final, so while the Warriors lost a lot of key players from that team, there is still some championship experience to lean on.

Henry Hudson has made strides this season with some young additions to the roster and tracking how the Admirals fare against New Egypt in the first round will paint a picture of what 2021 could look like for Hudson.

Quarterfinals

(1) Holmdel over (9) Monmouth

(4) Point Beach over (5) New Egypt

(6) Manchester over (3) Asbury Park

(7) Rumson-Fair Haven over (2) Raritan

Holmdel-vs.-Monmouth and Raritan-vs.-Rumson are two excellent quarterfinal games that one could argue are de-facto semifinal games. Because winning percentage was a determining factor in seeding, strong teams that played tough schedules – like Rumson and Monmouth – got buried more than teams that collected wins against a soft schedule – like Point Beach and Asbury Park.

Raritan senior Matt Fogarty. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Rumson is coming off a 4-1 win over Raritan on Thursday, so the Rockets will have to regroup in order to top a Bulldogs side that is getting healthy and clicking at the perfect time. Meanwhile, Monmouth’s losses to Holmdel were by scores of 1-0 and 2-1, so the difference between the two teams is closer than the records or seeds would indicate.

Point Beach got a favorable draw and its young core has an opportunity to make a deep run and really set the Garnet Gulls up for a strong three-year run. Asbury Park has some major individual talent in Davenson JoinVilmar and Chefeston Simeus, but Manchester has some experience and balance that will give the Hawks an edge of a talented-but-untested Blue Bishops side.

Semifinals

(1) Holmdel over (4) Point Beach

(7) Rumson-Fair Haven over (6) Manchester

After getting by tough quarterfinal matches, the winners of the Holmde-Monmouth and Raritan-Rumson games should be the heavy favorites in the semifinals. Point Beach has not done anything this year to suggest it would be ready to take down Holmdel, although playing in such a game would be incredibly beneficial for a Garnet Gulls team that should bring back a lot of talent in 2021.

Manchester, meanwhile, should have a better shot against Rumson than Point Beach does vs. Holmdel. The Hawks have plenty of scoring options and even went outside the division once in beating a solid Middletown North team, 2-0.

Championship Prediction

(7) Rumson-Fair Haven over (1) Holmdel

Heading into the season, the A Central field looked pretty even on paper but Holmdel made that assessment look silly. The Hornets rolled to an 11-0-1 mark in the division and the only draw was against Ocean in the first game Holmdel played without junior goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych, who is out for the year with a knee injury. Holmdel handled Rumson in both meetings by an aggregate score of 3-0 and did a great job sneaking in a game vs. CBA that ended a 65-game unbeaten streak, but allowed the Hornets to sharpen their edges against the Shore’s best.

With that being said, Rumson has also tested itself with games vs. CBA and Old Bridge outside of A Central and closed the regular season with an impressive 3-0-1 stretch that included blowouts of Ocean and Raritan and a scoring margin of 14-1. Luke Pentikis was hurt for the second meeting between the teams and is back at 100 percent now, which will be a major factor for Rumson. Should the two A Central rivals meet, it is an even game and Rumson might be due to finally get over the hump.