Boys Soccer – Shore Conference Tournament Opening Round Preview and Predictions
The top 10 seeds in the Shore Conference Tournament all earned a bye into the next round, but the collection of teams playing on Monday in the opening round include some of the Shore’s hottest sides – and not all of those surging teams will be playing at home in round one. The new format has set up a bracket in which really anything can happen and with the likes of Christian Brothers Academy, Southern Regional and Colts Neck all getting picked off last week, the wide-open nature of the tournament is starting to show.
The action gets underway Monday afternoon and the six showdowns have the potential to create some surprises. Here is a look at the match-ups.
(21) Monmouth at (12) Middletown North, 3 p.m.
While the overall season has been a struggle for Monmouth, this tournament has not. The Falcons are 2-1 during SCT play and the loss was a 2-1 battle at Toms River South – a result that suggests the Falcons will bring it on Monday. Middletown North stumbled vs. Freehold Township and Howell last week before getting back on track vs. Neptune over the weekend. The Lions should be ready enough to put up some goals against a Monmouth team that can scored, but has given up its fair share as well. The Pick: Middletown North, 4-1
(18) Point Boro at (15) Manasquan, 3 p.m.
Point Boro rides into the SCT coming off two huge wins over Colts Neck and Southern – the latter of which punched the Panthers’ ticket into the knockout round. They were also dealing with some injury issues, but after missing time last week, top scorers Owen Clearwaters and Jon Witkowski each made an appearance Friday at Southern. Point Boro takes on a Manasquan side that endured its version of a slump, but took a big step out of it by beating Long Branch to end the week. Both teams are attack-oriented, but now that it’s the knockout round, teams are likely to play things closer to the vest. The Pick: Manasquan, 2-1
(17) Wall at (16) Jackson Memorial, 3 p.m.
Like Point Boro, Jackson Memorial heads into the SCT playing its best soccer of late. The Jaguars also took out Southern last week, and while a four-game winning streak ended with an overtime loss to East Brunswick on Saturday, it was another competitive showing for a team that is starting to perform like the experienced group that Jackson Memorial is. The same can be said for Wall, which did extend its recent surge with a win over St. Joseph Metuchen on Saturday to run its streak to 4-2 over its last six matches – with the losses coming vs. Holmdel and Rumson-Fair Haven. Both teams are finding themselves at the right time and will be competing for a chance to meet top-seeded CBA in the next round. The Pick: Jackson Memorial, 1-0
(20) Toms River East at (13) Central, 6 p.m.
Central is one of the best stories in the tournament and the season as a whole this season, but the Golden Eagles have their work cut out for them. It took overtime for Central to shake off Toms River East when the two Shore Conference Class A South foes clashed during the regular season. The Raiders are another road team riding a hot streak into Monday’s first round, with the Raiders on a four-game run of victories getting off the bus in Bayville. The younger Toms River East starters have really rounded into form lately and that has proved the difference. The Pick: Toms River East, 3-2
(19) Shore at (14) Middletown South, 6 p.m.
CBA and Marlboro entered the season as the Nos. 1 and 3 teams in the Shore Conference, according to Shore Sports Network, heading into the season and both won their respective SCT groups. Last week, Middletown South beat both of them, with the win over CBA ending the Colts’ 27-game winning streak vs. in-state competition. To stay on this current roll, Middletown South will have to get past a Shore team capable of putting goals on the scoreboard. The Eagles have proven to be tough in the back in recent weeks and have the goal-scoring to get by when Shore puts the pressure on. The Pick: Middletown South, 4-2
(22) Jackson Liberty at (11) Toms River South, 6 p.m.
One of two Class A South rematches in the SCT first round, Toms River South pulled away for a 3-1 win over Jackson Liberty a little more than a week ago. Jackson Liberty had to deal with CBA in its group, but handled the likes of Pinelands and Neptune in order to advance. Meanwhile, Toms River South drew three teams with losing records in its pod and took full advantage. The Indians will be out to showcase themselves to the Shore and it starts by fending off another challenge from a division rival that has been in plenty of tight games vs. quality sides. The Pick: Toms River South, 2-0