Soccer – Boys and Girls 2018 Group Semifinal Preview
Boys Soccer NJSIAA Group Semifinals
At Hopewell Valley High School, 5 p.m.
Holmdel (20-0-1) vs. Delran (17-5-1)
The two most accomplished Group II programs of the last decade have a rich postseason history and Holmdel owns a decided edge. The Hornets are 3-0-2 against Delran in the Group II Tournament dating back to 2012, when the two schools met for the first time since John Nacarlo took over the Holmdel program. Each side has won in penalty kicks over the other, with 2013 the only year Delran eliminated Holmdel from the NJSIAA Playoffs.
Last year, Delran jumped out to an early 1-0 lead before the Hornets tied the game just before halftime and scored two more goals early in the second half to run away with a 3-1 win in the Group II semifinal. Tuesday’s game will be played at the same location and the Bears will be out for some serious revenge. Holmdel, meanwhile, has looked invincible since losing to Ocean on penalties in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, outscoring four Central Jersey Group II opponents by a combined score of 27-1.
The Pick: Holmdel, 3-0
At Toms River North High School, 5 p.m.
Ocean (19-3-1) vs. Seneca (18-1-4)
It has been 22 years since Ocean has reached a group final and the Spartans are looking at, perhaps, their best chance to make it back to the last game of the season since winning Group III in 1996. While Seneca represents a worthy opponent whose only loss was a 1-0 decision to St. Augustine, the Spartans come into the game 8-0-1 in their last nine games – the last seven of which are postseason games. The only tie was against unbeaten Holmdel and Ocean advanced on penalties.
Both teams are coming off hard-fought wins in the sectional finals - Seneca over Pinelands in the South Jersey Group III championship and Ocean against Colts Neck in Central Jersey Group III. The Spartans have both the firepower on the attack with Santieno Harding, James Schutz and Leo Montesinos leading the scoring effort and an organized back line in front of goalkeeper Max Winters. They can win in a few different ways, as they showed in beating both Holmdel and CBA to win the SCT title, so few teams are cut out to handle this part of the tournament better than Ocean.
The Pick: Ocean, 1-0
Girls Soccer NJSIAA Group Semifinals
At Livingston High School, 7:30 p.m.
Middletown North (21-1) vs. Northern Highlands (20-1)
Fresh off its first sectional championship since 2005, Middletown North will now aim to clinch the program’s first ever trip to a group final. To do so, the Lions will have to go through the state’s most dominant girls soccer program of the last decade. Northern Highlands has one loss this season and just paid back the team that beat them (Ramapo) with a 3-0 win in the sectional final. Staying with the revenge theme, Northern Highlands lost in last year’s Group III semifinal to Middletown South and although the Highlanders wilI have to settle for a different Middletown team, they would be happy with a redemption win either way.
It’s not a reach to say this is the best season in the history of Middletown North soccer and there is a lot to look forward to in the near future, but the Lions face, arguably, the state’s best team as they hope to keep it going.
The Pick: Northern Highlands, 2-0
At Toms River North, 7:30 p.m.
Brick (17-4-2) vs. Moorestown (19-4)
Fresh off a dramatic win over Hopewell Valley in a shootout that clinched the program’s first sectional title since 1996, Brick will look to continue to mirror that 1996 team by going all the way in Group III. That means getting through Moorestown – a battle-tested team that caught fire during the South Jersey Group III Tournament and outscored its four sectional opponents by a combined total of 13-1.
Brick takes the field with only three senior starters – Danielle Christ, Jada Lopez and goalkeeper Molly Tully – and some underclass depth as well, so this challenge is a win-win scenario for the Green Dragons: either they lose and will have a chance to try again next year or they win and make a run at multiple championships in Group III. The competition will be fierce the rest of the way, but Brick has been up to the task more times than not this season.
The Pick: Brick, 2-1
Wednesday, Nov. 14
At Paul VI High School (Haddonfield), 7:30 p.m.
Shore (17-5) vs. Audubon (16-4-2)
After winning a seventh straight Central Jersey Group I title last week, Shore will now try to make it seven straight trips to the Group I final. The three-time defending Group I champions took care of Point Pleasant Beach in the sectional final, 2-0, on a pair of goals by Frankie McDonough, who has stormed past the 100-goal mark for her career. Now McDonough and fellow seniors Hannah Birdsal, Marissa DeSantis, Lauren Mendillo, Ashley Davison and Julia Valinoti will attempt to be part of just the fourth girls team in state history to win four straight group titles.
Audubon will try to spoil that pursuit but if the last six seasons are any indication, South Jersey has had no answer for Shore in the Group I semifinals.
The Pick: Shore, 4-1