Boys Soccer – SCT Opening Round Preview, Picks
Shore Conference Tournament Opening Round
Monday, Oct. 7
(25) Manchester at (8) Colts Neck, 3:30 at Marlboro Rec. Complex
Manchester is playing in its first Shore Conference Tournament in 10 years and has a young roster that should be in the mix for another two years more. This time around, the Hawks will have to play nearly flawless to beat Colts Neck, which stumbled last week with a tie vs. Red Bank and a loss vs. Wall. The Pick: Colts Neck, 5-1
(20) Middletown North at (13) Rumson-Fair Haven, 3:45 p.m.
Middletown North won the first meeting between these two teams in the first week of the season, which was part of Middletown North’s 6-1 start. Since then, the Lions have lost six out of seven and enter play Monday 7-7 overall. Rumson, meanwhile, is 6-2 since starting 0-3 with a pair of big wins over Manasquan and Freehold Township. Middletown North still has the horses and the keeper – junior Alex Bogues – to be dangerous if the Lions can regain their confidence. The Pick: Middletown North, 1-0
(22) Toms River East at (11) Freehold Boro, 4 p.m.
These teams met in a hotly-contested first round game last year, which Toms River East won in overtime. This time, the two meet on the grass in Freehold, which can be a tough surface for road teams. Both teams both a big senior striker – Isaac Ball for Freehold Boro and Dan Bodziak for Toms River East – so either can strike quick. Give the edge, once again, to the home team – this time to the Colonials. The Pick: Freehold Boro, 3-2
(26) Ranney at (7) Southern, 4:30 p.m.
For the first time ever, Ranney is in the Shore Conference Tournament in boys soccer and has been rewarded with a long drive to play a Southern team coming off a rough week. The Rams lost a big divisional showdown at Jackson Memorial, 1-0, then suffered a 1-0 setback at Lacey on Friday. Southern’s scoring touch has come and gone over the course of the season but the Rams should get some of it back against a young Ranney squad. The Pick: Southern, 4-0
(29) Mater Dei Prep at (4) Freehold Twp., 7 p.m. at Howell
Mater Dei has made a big leap forward this season by making a serious run at the B Central title. Monday night’s game, though, is a level the Seraphs have not seen in some time. Since losing to Rumson and falling to 4-4, Freehold Township has rolled to five straight wins and with wins over Marlboro and Jackson Memorial during that run, is starting to look the part of a tournament favorite. The Pick: Freehold Twp., 5-0
Tuesday, Oct. 8
(27) St. Rose at (6) CBA, 4 p.m.
CBA is rounding into form at the right time, nearly taking out St. Benedict’s and then finishing the job in a big road win over Seton Hall Prep. The Colts had one shaky week-long in which they lost to Long Branch and Marlboro and tied Middletown South and have otherwise gone 7-1 with just that loss to St. Benedict’s. St. Rose hung around with Wall early in the year and will need a heroic effort to pull off this upset. The Pick: CBA, 4-0
(23) Barnegat at (10) Middletown South, 4 p.m.
Barnegat is no longer an SCT novice but the Bengals are still looking for their first conference-tournament win. This team should have a real chance to get it thanks to senior-heavy roster, a solid defense and a dangerous forward in Matt White. Middletown South has played good teams tough and has not slipped up against the lesser teams on the schedule. Also a senior-heavy outfit, the Eagles should be raring to go. The Pick: Middletown South, 3-1
(21) Raritan at (12) Monmouth, 4 p.m.
Monmouth already slipped past Raritan once, rallying to beat the Rockets, 3-2, in a Class A Central divisional matchup. Raritan was one of the darlings of last year’s tournament, reaching the quarterfinal round as a No. 21 seed with a team heavy on seniors who are no longer on the roster. With Monmouth stepping up in competition lately and Mason Martelloni scoring at will, the Falcons remain the favorite. The Pick: Monmouth, 2-0
(19) Neptune at (14) Matawan, 4 p.m.
Neptune and Matawan were already slated to meet on Thursday in the B North finale for both and will now play twice in three days. Matawan actually has a chance to nab a share of the B North championship, so both games could be meaningful. Tuesday will most certainly be and this group of Matawan seniors has been money in tournament games over the past two seasons. Neptune, for its part, will be a motivated bunch that is playing well heading in. The Pick: Matawan, 2-1
(24) Lacey at (9) Long Branch, 6 p.m.
Neither of these teams was a lock to make the tournament heading into last week but both are in and trending up heading into the opening round. Lacey welcomed back junior goalkeeper Anthony Leporino from an injury stint and beat Southern on Friday to open some eyes before the seeding meeting. Long Branch, meanwhile, is 4-2 in a tough A North with wins over CBA and Freehold Boro and just played unbeaten Elizabeth tough in a 2-1 loss on Saturday. Long Branch is the more battle-tested team and has the game-breaking scorer in Patrick O’Dwyer, but this one won’t be easy. The Pick: Long Branch, 2-1
Wednesday, Oct. 9
(17) Pinelands at (16) Toms River South, 3:45 p.m.
A rematch of a scoreless 2018 NJSIAA Tournament game that Pinelands won on penalties, this year’s 16-vs.-17 game has a chance to be a wild one. Pinelands and Toms River South are developing a nice little rivalry as Ocean County teams in South Jersey Group and that rivalry will add a chapter on Wednesday. Pinelands has one of the Shore’s top players in junior Johnny Hart while Toms River south boasts standout senior keeper Jalen Folsom. Senior Shane Kluxen is back up top to give the Indians some scoring punch and could be an x-factor in the tournament. The Pick: Toms River South, 1-0
(18) Toms River North at (15) Manasquan, TBA
Now that Manasquan is in, the Warriors are a very dangerous team. They reached the quarterfinals of this tournament last year before losing to CBA and return eight starters from that group. Manasquan pulled two big results out of the fire, rallying for two late goals to earn a draw vs. Middletown South and scoring in the 98th minute to beat Monmouth on Thursday to officially qualify. Toms River North is a dangerous road team but Manasquan’s experience and the survival mentality they are already in should be the difference. The Pick: Manasquan, 2-0
(28) Point Beach at (5) Wall, TBA
Point Beach has had some trouble within the B Central division but has been competitive outside the division, including a 1-0 loss to Toms River East in its opener. No team on the Garnet Gulls’ schedule, though, is as good as Wall and to make this game even tougher, Wall comes in seemingly at the top of its game. The Pick: Wall, 3-0