Boys Soccer – NJSIAA Tournament Preview: Groups I and II
In the truncated 2020 soccer season, the Shore Conference teams from Group I and Group II combined to form one postseason tournament and, as expected, that format heavily favored the Group II teams.
This year, the Group I squads will get their own playground again and for the first time since 2017, Shore Regional is back among the Group I field. The Blue Devils won the Central Jersey Group I title in 2014 and this year's team enters the tournament playing well and with designs of being the Shore's first boys Group I title game representative since Colts Neck won the Group I title in 2000.
Back in Group II, the Shore now has two teams with recent success in the Central Jersey bracket. In addition to 2017 and 2018 Group II champion Holmdel, Wall will now call Central Jersey Group II home after reaching the Group III championship game in 2019. Throw in talented squads from Rumson-Fair Haven and Monmouth, and Central Jersey Group II has a lot of potential for the locals.
Here is a look at the three small-school sections featuring a total of 11 Shore Conference schools - seven in Group II and four in Group I.
Central Jersey Group II
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven, No. 4 Holmdel, No. 5 Wall, No. 9 Monmouth
Defending Champion (2019): Rahway
Top Seed: Voorhees
Favorite: Rumson-Fair Haven. There are a few ways to go with this one but Rumson gets the nod because of its draw. Voorhees, Holmdel and Wall will all have really challenging games beginning in the quarterfinal round and while Rumson may face a similar challenge, South River is one of the more beatable No. 2 seeds in the state considering the bracket in which it is playing.
Darkhorse: Monmouth. There looks to be a drop-off between Monmouth at No. 9 and the next team seeded below the Falcons. With that being said, most of the teams from No. 1 to No. 9 have reason to be optimistic, with No. 8 Delaware Valley also hoping to get a shot at top-seeded Voorhees on Thursday and No. 7 Bordentown is already onto the second round due to East Brunswick Tech withdrawing.
Bracket Breakdown: The Central Jersey Group II bracket looks much different than it does a year ago and while in some ways it is easier, in other ways it got tougher. Defending champion Rahway is out of the field after moving one section to the north, while South River, Bound Brook and East Brunswick Tech (before the forfeit) all moved up from Group I. On the other hand, Wall joins the bracket after reaching the Group III final two years ago and going 17-0 in 2020, so in that sense, the Crimson Knights made the bracket much tougher. All of the Shore teams are seeded in the top nine, all four have high expectations and all four should be ready for whatever stands in their way.
Championship Prediction: Wall over Rumson-Fair Haven. Wall vs. Holmdel was a dream matchup last season, but the two teams ended up in different sections during the shortened NJSIAA Tournament and Holmdel had to withdraw from the tournament anyway. This year, it is likely to happen, and although both teams are a rung or two below where they were a year ago, it would still be a great match. It appears, lately, that Wall is again peaking at the right time and after slamming Rumson in the Shore Conference Tournament, the Crimson Knights looked poised for another title run in 2021.
(1) Voorhees over (16) Roselle
(9) Monmouth over (8) Delaware Valley
(5) Wall over (12) New Providence
(4) Holmdel over (13) A.L. Johnson
(3) Rumson-Fair Haven over (14) Spotswood
(6) Governor Livingston over (11) Metuchen
(2) South River over (15) Bound Brook
*No. 7 Bordentown advances via forfeit.
(9) Monmouth over (1) Voorhees
(5) Wall over (4) Holmdel
(3) Rumson-Fair Haven over (6) Governor Livingston
(7) Bordentown over (2) South River
(5) Wall over (9) Monmouth
(3) Rumson-Fair Haven over (7) Bordentown
(5) Wall over (3) Rumson-Fair Haven
South Jersey Group II
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 8 Point Pleasant Boro, No. 11 Manchester, No. 12 Manasquan
Defending Champion (2019): Delran
Top Seed: Delran
Favorite: Delran. The Bears are the champs until someone proves otherwise and there is at least one team in the field capable of doing just that. To Delran’s credit, it continues to play as tough of a schedule as any team in the state and that is reflected in the No. 1 seed the Bears once again boast.
Darkhorse: No. 10 Oakcrest. The double-digit seeds will have their work cut out for them on Monday, but Oakcrest is the one that has a good chance to advance, which makes sense considering it is has the best standing of any team with a double-digit seed in SJ II. Manchester is worth keeping an eye on after the Hawks won a modified sectional championship a year ago but another deep run by the Hawks will require them to raise their level after an uneven regular season. Manasquan would normally be dangerous as a No. 12 seed, but the Warriors got a brutal first-round draw with one-loss Cinnaminson awaiting on Monday.
Bracket Breakdown: Group II has been home to some impressive teams over the years, not the least if which have been Holmdel in Central Jersey and Delran in South Jersey. Delran remains the team to beat, but there are a number of other quality programs having strong years: Haddonfield, West Deptford and Cinnaminson chief among them. Sterling is also have a strong showing in 2021 and has a favorable enough draw that getting to the final seems likely. Ultimately, though, the bracket likely comes down to the winner of a sectional semifinal showdown between Delran and Cinnaminson.
Championship Prediction: Delran over No. 2 Sterling. Cinnaminson defeated Delran during the regular season and just won the South Jersey Coaches’ Championship, so the Pirates will be riding high going into the state tournament. Don’t underestimate the power of payback, however, which is what Delran will have on its side, as well as the homefield advantage. Sterling, meanwhile, is poised to reach the championship game and the Silver Knights would love to see Cinnaminson take out Delran again to make the championship game a home one.
(1) Delran over (16) Overbrook
(8) Point Boro over (9) Haddon Twp.
(5) Cinnaminson over (12) Manasquan
(4) Haddonfield over (13) Lower Cape May
(3) West Deptford over (14) Collingswood
(6) Middle Twp. over (11) Manchester
(10) Oakcrest over (7) Cedar Creek
(2) Sterling over (15) Pleasantville
(1) Delran over (8) Point Boro
(5) Cinnaminson over (4) Haddonfield
(3) West Deptford over (6) Middle Twp.
(2) Sterling over (10) Oakcrest
(1) Delran over (5) Cinnaminson
(2) Sterling over (3) West Deptford
(1) Delran over (2) Sterling
Central Jersey Group I
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 3 Shore, No. 8 Point Pleasant Beach, No. 10 Henry Hudson, No. 16 Asbury Park
Defending Champion (2019): Bound Brook
Top Seed: Florence
Favorite: No. 2 Middlesex. Although Florence is the No. 1 seed, the Flashes might be no higher than No. 4 on the list of favorites. South Hunterdon is the most battle-tested team on that side of the bracket and would have to play at either Middlesex or Shore in a potential final, should one of those two get there. Looking at the field, it looks highly likely that Shore and Middlesex will clash in the semifinals and Middlesex should be in good shape after playing a solid schedule and getting the homefield advantage.
Darkhorse: Point Beach. Power points typically work well in lining up the Group I contenders and while Florence might be a vulnerable No. 1, none of the double-digit seeds jump off the page as a major threat. Point Beach, though, could pose a problem to Florence if the Garnet Gulls can get through round one and might even have a shot to get to the final with an A-effort against either South Hunterdon or Roselle Park.
Bracket Breakdown: As previously mentioned, Florence will have its hands full as the No. 1 seed, with a tough Point Beach squad potentially paying the Flashes a visit in the quarterfinal and South Hunterdon lurking in a potential semifinal. South Hunterdon will have something to say about it, but the championship could very well come down to the Shore at Middlesex semifinal showdown.
Championship Prediction: Shore over No. 4 South Hunterdon. Shore has lost just once since Sept. 23 and that was against a Group IV championship hopeful in Toms River North. That 7-1-1 stretch includes wins over Holmdel, Pinelands and Point Boro and a tie vs. Manalapan, so Shore is definitely primed to tackle this field.
(1) Florence over (16) Asbury Park
(8) Point Beach over (9) Riverside
(5) Roselle Park over (12) Burlington City
(4) South Hunterdon over (13) Edison Academy
(3) Shore over (14) Somerset Tech
(6) Manville over (11) Woodbridge Academy
(7) Highland Park over (10) Henry Hudson
(2) Middlesex over (15) New Egypt
(8) Point Beach over (1) Florence
(4) South Hunterdon over (5) Roselle Park
(3) Shore over (6) Manville
(2) Middlesex over (7) Highland Park
(4) South Hunterdon over (8) Point Beach
(3) Shore over (2) Middlesex
(3) Shore over (4) South Hunterdon