Boys Soccer – NJSIAA Tournament Preview: South and North Jersey 2
Jackson Memorial, Southern and Howell hope to land a knockout punch against one of the state's best, underdog Toms River South pursues a fourth straight sectional title, Manasquan plays with some of Group II's best and Matawan aims for another Cinderella run - all that and more in a preview of three South Jersey sections and one North Jersey brackets that include teams from the Shore.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 2 Jackson Memorial, No. 4 Southern, No. 5 Howell, No. 10 Toms River North
Defending Champion: No. 1 Washington Twp.
Top Seed: Washington Twp.
Favorite: Washington Twp. The four-time defending champions are in the midst of another special season as they enter the tournament undefeated. They will share the top-half of the bracket with Southern and Howell, both of which will have their hands full just to win a game. Southern has played very well of late and should be good for a win while Howell tries to shake off some rust in time to beat a dangerous Rancocas Valley squad. On the other side of the bracket, Jackson Memorial is poised to make a run at their first sectional title in nearly three decades. The Jaguars are comfortable playing on grass so not only will they have that advantage potentially playing at home for three rounds, but they will be able to handle Washington Township’s pitch. Jackson is not afraid to defend and strike at the opportune time so they could frustrate Washington if both teams make it to the final.
Darkhorse: No. 14 Shawnee. The Renegades have all the makings of a dangerous double-digit seed: they have a successful program, a tough schedule that led to some tough losses, some manageable early-round games and a spot in the side of the bracket opposite Washington Township. All but that final characteristic also rings true for Rancocas Valley and the Red Devils might be an even better bet to win two games than Shawnee is. Rancocas Valley came into the season with sky-high expectations so this tournament is a chance to salvage the season. Toms River North, meanwhile, has a great shot to win a game but the Mariners did not match up well with Jackson during the regular season.
(1) Washington Twp. over (16) Millville
(8) Egg Harbor over (9) Atlantic Tech
(12) Rancocas Valley over (5) Howell
(4) Southern over (13) Lenape
(14) Shawnee over (3) Williamstown
(6) Eastern over (11) Clearview
(10) Toms River North over (7) Kingsway
(2) Jackson Memorial over (15) Vineland
(1) Washington Twp. over (8) Egg Harbor
(12) Rancocas Valley over (4) Southern
(14) Shawnee over (6) Eastern
(2) Jackson Memorial over (10) Toms River North
(1) Washington Twp. over (12) Rancocas Valley
(2) Jackson Memorial over (14) Shawnee
(2) Jackson Memorial over (1) Washington Twp.
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 5 Lacey, No. 6 Pinelands, No. 9 Toms River East, No. 11 Toms River South
Defending Champion: No. 3 Mainland
Top Seed: Triton
Favorite: Mainland. In a section without a clear frontrunner, it is best to default to the two-time defending champions. Mainland earned a trip to the Group III final last year by beating Toms River South on penalty kicks in the Group III semifinals after the Indians beat the Mustangs in the 2016 Group III semis. That match-up could happen for a third straight year if both teams win their first-round game. Top-seeded Triton might not be as proven as Mainland, Ocean City or Toms River South but those three teams will have to beat up on each other on the other side of the bracket.
Darkhorse: Toms River South. You were expecting someone else? The Indians have won three Group III sectional titles in a row – one in South Jersey followed by two in Central – and would like to bookend a four-year run with two South Jersey championships. Toms River South is not the team it was last year, but this section appears to be one of the more wide-open tournaments in the entire state. With a strong goalkeeper and defense, Toms River South has the ingredients as long as the Indians are prepared to handle four long bus rides. If, however, Pinelands can stop the Toms River South run where is starts, the Wildcats become an interesting possibility with all of their offensive firepower. On the other side of the bracket, Lacey and Toms River East will both have a shot if either runs into top-seeded Triton, although in Toms River East’s case, the Raiders will have to snap out of a five-game winless streak first.
(1) Triton over (16) Deptford
(9) Toms River East over (8) Moorestown
(5) Lacey over (12) Absegami
(4) Seneca over (13) Hammonton
(3) Mainland over (14) Winslow
(11) Toms River South over (6) Pinelands
(7) Cherry Hill West over (10) Highland
(2) Ocean City over (15) Timber Creek
1 Triton over (9) Toms River East
(4) Seneca over (5) Lacey
(11) Toms River South over (3) Mainland
(2) Ocean City over (7) Cherry Hill West
(4) Seneca over (1) Triton
(2) Ocean City over (11) Toms River South
(2) Ocean City over (4) Seneca
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 4 Manasquan, No. 15 Barnegat, No. 16 Point Boro
Defending Champion: No. 2 Delran
Top Seed: Bordentown
Favorite: Delran. While Delran is always the safe pick, this doesn’t appear to be the safest year to back the Bears. Top-seeded Bordentown has already beaten Delran this season so it will likely take a bounceback effort for the Bears to win another sectional championship. One team that could possibly help out Delran by taking out Bordentown is Manasquan, which has proven time and time again this year that it can compete with high-level teams. The Warriors beat SCT champion Ocean early in the season and hung tough against both Holmdel and CBA, which suggests they should do fairly well in this tournament.
Darkhorse: No. 12 Cedar Creek. The Pirates have had a rather erratic season, which makes them an uneasy draw for Cinnaminson in the first round. They have been on either side of blowouts, including a 6-0 win over an Atlantic City team that tied St. Augustin twice. Cedar Creek also beat two-time defending South Jersey Group III champion Mainland, so the Pirates have shown they can step up. In a bracket in which the top seeds look strong, Cedar Creek is the best bet for a deep run as a double-digit seed.
(1) Bordentown over (16) Point Boro
(8) Pleasantville over (9) Delsea
(5) Cinnaminson over (12) Cedar Creek
(4) Manasquan over (13) Haddon Heights
(3) Haddonfield over (14) Collingswood
(6) West Deptford over (11) Oakcrest
(10) Middle Twp. over (7) Sterling
(2) Delran over (15) Barnegat
(1) Bordentown over (8) Pleasantville
(4) Manasquan over (12) Cedar Creek
(3) Haddonfield over (6) West Deptford
(2) Delran over (10) Middle Twp.
(4) Manasquan over (1) Bordentown
(2) Delran over (3) Haddonfield
(2) Delran over (4) Manasquan
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 12 Matawan
Defending Champion: No. 2 Mendham
Top Seed: Irvington
Favorite: Mendham. The Minutemen are the defending champions but will have their work cut out for them as they try to repeat. The semifinal opponent is likely to be a tough, tested Millburn side or a Parsippany Hills team that beat Mendham during the regular season.
Darkhorse: No. 13 Summit. Irvington has the look of a vulnerable No. 1 seed, so the teams on that side of the bracket can all realistically dream about the sectional final. That bodes well for Matawan, but Summit has a more favorable draw in the first round than do the Huskies. While Matawan has not played great lately, the Huskies came to life in this tournament last year and nearly knocked off Holmdel, so an encore can’t be ruled out. Another team to watch on that side of the bracket is No. 8 Chatham, which plays a competitive schedule and got a favorable draw playing Cliffside Park in the opening round and, potentially, Irvington in the quarterfinals.
(1) Irvington over (16) Payne Tech
(8) Chatham over (9) Cliffside Park
(5) Nutley over (12) Matawan
(13) Summit over (4) Ferris
(3) Millburn over (14) Woodbridge
(6) Parsippany Hills over (11) JFK Iselin
(7) Somerville over (10) Cranford
(2) Mendham over (15) Orange
(8) Chatham over (1) Irvington
(5) Nutley over (13) Summit
(3) Millburn over (6) Parsippany Hills
(2) Mendham over (7) Somerville
(8) Chatham over (5) Nutley
(3) Millburn over (2) Mendham
(3) Millburn over (8) Chatham