Boys Soccer – Shore Conference Tournament Round of 16 Preview, Predictions
If there was a lesson from the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament, it was this: score first, and it is on to the next round. All six teams that broke the ice in Monday’s opening round advanced, including the lone road team (Toms River East) to make it through to Wednesday’s round of 16. That is not likely to be a universal rule of this tournament, but it held true for at least one round.
After all but one home team held serve at home on Monday, the tournament figures to get far more unpredictable on Wednesday. There is reason to back all 16 teams still playing for the SCT championship, particularly with the way top teams like Christian Brothers Academy and Southern Regional stumbled last week.
It is difficult to predict where exactly the upsets are in this round, but they are most certainly there. Before we actually find out on Wednesday evening, let’s have a guess.
(16) Jackson Memorial at (1) CBA, 3 p.m.
While Jackson Memorial has won five of its last six matches, the last week-and-a-half of results for the Jaguars have been particularly impressive. Last week, the Jaguars took out Southern when the Rams were trying to clinch a division title and on Monday, they picked apart Wall over the final 40 minutes in a 3-1 SCT win. Jackson Memorial boasted plenty of experience coming into the season and it is finally starting to show.
CBA presents a different kind of challenge for the surging Jaguars and as long as the Colts can keep the game on the ground and maintain their pace, they should move on to the next round. That won’t be easy against a Jackson Memorial side that will do everything it can to take CBA out of its game. It was not even a week ago that Middletown South did so successfully – albeit on its home grass field – and a year ago, Southern Regional took CBA into overtime at this same stage of the tournament. This might be as good a time as any to pick off CBA, but there also might not be an ideal time to knock off the two-time defending champions.
The Pick: CBA, 3-0
(15) Manasquan at (2) Howell, 4 p.m.
The 2-vs.-15 matchup has a legitimate chance to be the most entertaining game of the day thanks to Manasquan’s firepower going up against Howell’s solid, battle-tested starting XI. This is a treacherous game for the second-seeded Rebels, who are in a position similar to the one No. 2 Marlboro was in in 2019, when a talented-but-underachieving Manasquan team showed up as the No. 15 seed and started playing to its potential in the SCT. That Warriors team upset Marlboro and made it all the way to the SCT final and this year’s team has a similar opportunity.
Howell is not the ideal draw for Manasquan either. The Rebels are a year removed from reaching the SCT championship game and have demonstrating the same propensity for showing up in big moments that last year’s group displayed. Manasquan will test Howell in the back with its multi-layered attack, but the Rebels have scorers of their own that can match the Warriors shot-for-shot. Expect Manasquan to bring its A-game, but for Howell’s core – Nick Turturro, Tye Maser, Marcello Romano, Brett Romano, Bryce Ocholla and Tyler Borenstein – to step up in the key moments.
The Pick: Howell, 3-2, in overtime
(14) Middletown South at (3) Toms River North, 3 p.m.
Not long after slaying the beast of Monmouth County (CBA), Middletown South will now try to take out the top team in Ocean County. The Eagles are a hot team heading into Wednesday’s road test at Toms River North, with a trip to the SCT quarterfinals on the line. Middletown South survived a shaky second half vs. Shore – which, strangely enough, included both of Shawn McCann’s goals that helped win the game. It was both a good win and a good wake-up call for Middletown South, which will look to summon the level of play the Lions achieved when upsetting CBA late last week.
Before Middletown South beat CBA on its home grass, Toms River North went to CBA’s spacious turf pitch and gave the Colts a praiseworthy challenge in a 2-1 win for CBA. The Mariners’ two losses are to CBA and Southern – both by a one-goal margin – and the Mariners have handled pretty much everyone else. This is another game with the potential to be highly entertaining from start-to-finish and once again, the edge goes to the home team.
The Pick: Toms River North, 3-1
(20) Toms River East at (4) Colts Neck, 2:30 p.m.
Toms River East has not lost any of its last five games and the only teams to beat the Raiders this season are the three top teams in the Class A South division: Toms River North, Southern and Central. In order to earn Wednesday’s showdown at Colts Neck, Toms River East had to pay back Central, which the Raiders did in the form of a penalty-shootout win over the Golden Eagles. Goalkeeper Bobby Calvo was the man of that match and the Raiders have been getting clutch performances from Rowen Joice, Jackson Markovitch, Jack Smyth, Sean Peck, Tommy Renkin and Luke Bodziak.
It will take a total team effort for Toms River East to slow down Colts Neck’s sibling tandem of Kyle and Sean Moore, who have run roughshod over opponents throughout the season. The Cougars have seen the schedule get tougher this week and answered the bell with a 5-3 win at Manasquan following a 2-1 loss at Point Boro. That loss to the Panthers raises just enough questions for Colts Neck to be considered at risk of an upset, particularly against a hot team with an All-Shore goalkeeper. As good as Calvo is, he will need his teammates to limit the number of quality looks while also scoring enough to keep up in order to deliver a win.
The Pick: Colts Neck, 3-2
(12) Middletown North at (5) Southern, 2 p.m.
Both Southern and Middletown North enter Wednesday’s round of 16 coming off rough weeks. Southern had a chance to win the Class A South championship outright and let it slip away with a loss to Jackson Memorial, then lost its SCT Group-Play finale at home to Point Boro. Middletown North had a chance to win the Class A North public title, but tripped up vs. Freehold Township, then lost to Howell with the championship on the line.
Southern has been a more explosive team on turf this season, so while the Rams will be hosting a turf team on grass in this one, it likely won’t be much of an advantage. Middletown North is also a proven team, with most of last year’s SCT semifinalist making up this year’s starting lineup. This will be goalkeeper showcase, with Southern’s Ryan Schweigart and Middletown North’s Landon Terrell posing a significant challenge to the other side. Southern has more scoring weapons, but Middletown North is the more physical defense and team overall, while also boasting a dominant scorer in Josiah Stepney.
The Pick: Middletown North, 2-1
(11) Toms River South at (6) St. Rose, 3 p.m.
Toms River South was the lowest-seeded of the SCT group winners and if the seeding was open from 1-through-22, the Indians might have come in as the No. 20 seed. Amid some close losses, they have not been able to break through against top-level competition this season and in order for the Indians to advance, they will have to earn their best win of the season. On the other hand, Toms River South has a rich history of turning SCT brackets upside down and this is the sort of game in which the Indians thrive.
St. Rose will have to be on its toes and while the threat of an upset is real – perhaps even imminent – there is one player who should shield the Purple Roses from such an exit. Goalkeeper Jack Harmon is among the Shore’s best between the pipes and while scoring could be a challenge for a Purple Roses attack that has run hot-and-cold, Harmon will hold it down in the back. Expect this one to go the distance, with the edge going to St. Rose.
The Pick: 1-1 tie, St. Rose advances on penalties.
(10) Manalapan at (7) Ocean, 3:45 p.m.
Ocean has made just one foray into the Class A North division this season and it was a successful one. The Spartans beat Middletown South, 1-0, during SCT group play, which is Ocean’s biggest win to date on several fronts. Without that result, the Spartans likely fall short of the SCT and even if they could have found a way in without it, that win has boosted Ocean’s status in a way its victory over Long Branch cannot.
All that is in the past now and with Manalapan coming to town with a talented, hungry group, Ocean will need to summon its best performance of the season to ward off the Braves. Noor Eraky has been Ocean’s go-to player when it needs a goal, with Eraky scoring a game-winner in three straight 1-0 wins by the Spartans. Goalkeeper Zach Frabizi has also been a constant for Ocean, which will try to hold down a balanced Manalapan attack that is fortified by its own standout keeper in Matteo Paolillo.
The Pick: Manalapan, 1-0
(9) Long Branch at (8) Marlboro, 4 p.m.
Marlboro opened the season ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network rankings and since the start of the season, the Mustangs have done just enough to hold onto a top 10 spot – both in those rankings and in the SCT seeding. Since upsetting CBA on opening day of the 2022 season, Marlboro has been searching for another statement victory and has come close on several occasions – including vs. CBA again this season. Scoring has been a challenge for this year’s Mustangs team, which has scored four goals in its six games vs. teams with records of .500 or better – including two in a 3-2 loss to Middletown South last week.
Long Branch, meanwhile, enters on something of a hot streak. The Green Wave lost to Manasquan on Friday, but that is the only loss Long Branch has suffered since its 0-2 start to the season. Since then, the Green Wave has played with more composure, starting with the standout play of Chris Garcia Lopez. Despite the hot streak, Long Branch has run into its own struggles finishing goals and while the Green Wave will not be phased playing on a beat-up grass field at Marlboro, it could find finishing hard to come by. With two teams on the field that have been inconsistent finishing goals, a tough surface and so much on the line, this one could be scoreless for a while and the first goalkeeper to blink could be what decides it.
The Pick: 0-0, Long Branch advances on penalties.
Round 1 Picks Record: 6-0