Boys Soccer – Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16 Preview, Picks
Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16
Friday, Oct. 14
(13) Middletown North at (4) Freehold Twp., 2 p.m.
Freehold Township played close games throughout the Class A North schedule and one of them was a 1-0 overtime win over Middletown North that was part of an eight-game winning streak. That winning streak ended with back-to-back overtime losses to CBA and Howell – the top two seeds in the tournament – so, win or lose, the Patriots are used to living on the edge. They boast an athletic, skilled defense, a set of opportunistic goal-scorers and a strong senior goalkeeper.
Middletown North counters with a similar profile, particularly in the back. The Lions defenders are aggressive about pushing up and involving themselves on the attack, most notably C.J. Crolius and Ryan Barnao. Against Freehold Township, the focus is likely to be on the defensive end and the result is likely another low-scoring affair. The difference this time around could be the venue, which is Freehold Township’s natural surface instead of the standard turf at Middletown North. The Pick: Freehold Twp., 1-0.
(24) Toms River East at (8) Colts Neck, 2 p.m. at Five Points Turf
Riding high off a first-round upset of Toms River North, Toms River East will sail into Colts Neck Friday looking to do it again. The Raiders appear to just now be hitting their stride after beating Southern in a key divisional game, then beating the rival Mariners in tournament play. Kajus Matazinskas entered the season as one of the Shore’s most accomplished goal-scorers and he has lived up to the billing, particularly lately, as he delivered the golden goal in Tuesday’s win at Toms River North.
To pull off another upset, Toms River East will have to keep up with a Colts Neck side that is growing more dangerous with every game. Since dropping a 1-0 decision to Howell on Sept. 30, the Cougars have scored 17 goals in their last three games, including a 6-4 win over Central in Tuesday’s opening round. One obstacle Colts Neck will have to navigate is Raiders goalkeeper Bobby Calvo, who will be under the gun against the Cougars’ dynamic duo of Jairo Chira and Kyle Moore. Expect lots of goals and, perhaps, even an upset. Toms River East entered the season a Class A South favorite and is starting to look the part. The Pick: 3-3 tie, Toms River East on penalties.
(16) Southern at (1) CBA, 2:30 p.m.
This is a matchup that might have happened late in the 2020 Shore Conference Tournament if there was such a thing, but the COVID-shortened season was not long enough for an SCT and Southern never got to take its best team in 30 years into a full tournament field. Two years later, the Rams are rebuilt and back on the rise, having won seven of their last eight after a 0-3 start. Southern is built around its defense and senior center back Jonathan Holden, but showed it could put goals on the board in a 3-2, first-round win over Jackson Liberty.
CBA is the Shore’s best and hottest team on the heels of an 11-game winning streak since losing to Marlboro in overtime on opening day. The Colts’ last two non-conference games are an 8-0 dismantling of Chaminade (N.Y.) and a 4-0 win over Monroe, but in between, they had to squeak by division foes Manalapan, Freehold Township and Middletown North – all by 1-0 scores and two of them (Manalapan and Freehold Township) in overtime. At times, the Colts have looked more vulnerable this season than in past years, but for the last 11 games, they have found the goal when needed. The Pick: CBA, 2-0
(15) Manasquan at (2) Howell, 2:30 p.m.
This game will be the ultimate test for Manasquan to see how far it has come since opening day, when Howell dealt the Warriors a 4-0 defeat to start the 2022 campaign. Since then, Manasquan has settled into the season by going 8-3 and even picking up back-to-back wins over Class A North opponents Middletown South and Manalapan – the latter of which was Tuesday’s first-round win. Manasquan is getting a mix of production from underclassmen like Christian Gonzalez, Griffin Linstra and Cruz Farkas, as well as seniors like Matt Karolak and Aidan Sugrue.
Howell has been as good as any team in the Shore Conference other than CBA, which is one of only two teams to beat the Rebels this season. While half the starting lineup is new, the returning core was part of a Rebels team that reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV final in 2021 and that group has gotten a lift from senior addition J.P Candela, sophomore Nick Turturro and junior Bryce Ocholla. It is a high-powered attack that does not concede much of anything, and while Manasquan should keep the rematch closer, Howell remains the decided favorite. The Pick: Howell, 2-0
(22) Toms River South at (6) Marlboro, 3 p.m.
Toms River South slipped into the 20’s by losing Jackson Liberty and the modest seeding turned out to be more of a problem for its first-round opponent than it was for Toms River South. The Indians upended a talented Neptune squad on Tuesday to earn a trip to Marlboro and will be a real threat to the Mustangs on Friday as well. Toms River South will attack with speed behind Kenny Caruso and Jon Fitzgerald and, for the most part, have been solid in the back.
Marlboro will want to slow the game down and possess and while its choppy home field might make possessing hard, the Mustangs are usually adept at controlling the pace. The key will be creating and cashing in on scoring opportunities and paying mind to Toms River South’s ability to strike quickly. This match has the makings of another seed-based surprise, but playing on its homefield and experience in close games vs. good teams should guide Marlboro into the next round. The Pick: 1-1 tie, Marlboro on penalties.
(10) Middletown South at (7) Rumson-Fair Haven, 3 p.m.
A rematch from early September, Rumson-Fair Haven blanked Middletown South, 2-0, to bounce back from an ugly loss to Freehold Township just days earlier, while Middletown South was coming off wins over Freehold Township and Brick Memorial to open the season. Five weeks later, the two will clash again with a spot in the SCT quarterfinals on the line. Middletown South is one of the Shore’s best turnaround stories this season and has notched wins over Freehold Township, Marlboro and Middletown North behind an organized attack and capable finishers in Shawn McCann and Alex Soto.
Rumson has been an exciting team to follow, even if that has led to the Bulldogs’ downfall in several games. Last week, they erased a three-goal deficit in the second half against Wall, only to lose in overtime. The Bulldogs since bounced back by pounding Jackson Memorial, 6-1, in round one and now they are starting to look like the team that won the program’s first ever NJSIAA sectional title last year. Middletown South is a dangerous team, but Rumson – with senior leaders Alec Pentikis and Antonio Santos as scoring threats – is built for the big moment. The Pick: Rumson, 3-2.
(14) Wall at (3) Holmdel, 3:45 p.m.
The two Class A Central rivals reconnect in the SCT quarterfinals with both trending in the right direction. Wall struggled out of the gate with a 1-2-1 start, but has since gone 7-1, with a dramatic, 1-0 win over Ocean in the first round its latest triumph. The Crimson Knights have relied on the creativity of Nick Damiano and have gotten consistent production from Jake Petillo, James Damiano and Bo Pepe in recent weeks.
The only team to beat Wall over the last eight games was Holmdel, which took care of the Crimson Knights, 2-0, in Wall during Class A Central divisional play. The Hornets might be the most complete team in the field: their only loss was an overtime defeat at the hands of Rumson-Fair Haven and outside of that 2-1 loss, Holmdel has conceded just two goals total in its 11 wins. These two teams met in last year’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II quarterfinals as well and it went all the way to penalties, with Holmdel surviving behind current Lehigh goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych. This game could have a similar feel to it, but expect the Hornets to find the goal this time. The Pick: Holmdel, 1-0.
(12) Long Branch at (5) Point Boro, 3:45 p.m.
The seeds in this match suggest Point Boro is the favorite, but when you consider the overall lack of success that teams out of the Class B South division have had in the SCT and that Long Branch has been a very successful postseason team over the past three seasons, the Green Wave might be considered the favorites in this match. From Long Branch player’s perspective, they should like their chances: the Green Wave have an experienced defense led by Jeremy Hernandez and senior goalkeeper in Chris Lazo and have been within striking distance in all but one game this season – a 5-1 loss to Middletown North. Scoring goals has been a little more of a challenge, but Long Branch can possess the ball and has generally found ways to finish when needed.
Point Boro has shown some vulnerability along the way, mainly in draws against Jackson Liberty and Shore Regional – the latter of which is a team that did not qualify for the SCT. The Panthers have indeed had to survive some close calls, but they have also turned in some impressive performances as well, particularly a 4-1 home win over Rumson-Fair Haven. The Panthers are experienced and tested, which means they should be ready for what Long Branch throws at them. This is a tossup game and with the way things have gone for both teams this season, Point Boro is playing like the team that will play an organized, disciplined game and finish in the big moment. The Pick: Point Boro, 2-1.
First Round Picks Record: 11-3