State finals tripleheader – live blog

March 9, 2012 on 5:25 pm | In breaking news | 1 Comment

I kept a running blog of Friday’s state championship games. It’s a little long, but hopefully it gives you some idea of the evening and perhaps some perspectives you might not get from newspaper recaps. Check it out after the jump: Continue reading State finals tripleheader – live blog…

State semifinal key moments

March 7, 2012 on 12:54 am | In analysis, game recap | No Comments

I was able to trek up to Mennen Arena for Tuesday’s state semifinal tripleheader (unfortunately I won’t be able to make Wednesday’s games, but I will see the finals on Friday for the first time since I was in high school), and while the final scores weren’t all that close, each game was intriguing in its own way. The biggest storyline across all three games, however, was the favored teams producing an immediate response to the underdogs’ big chance at a comeback. Remarkably, each of the three winning teams scored within 35 seconds of the opponent scoring what could have been a momentum-gaining goal. Read on for the details. Continue reading State semifinal key moments…

Historic underdogs

March 2, 2012 on 4:23 pm | In analysis | 1 Comment

I’m in the middle of soccer work in Florida – you can catch me on ESPN3 Saturday night at 6 and 8 p.m.! – but had to write a quick post about some of the amazing underdogs still going in this year’s public tournaments.

Of 15 games on Thursday, four went to overtime and another five were upsets, so it was quite a night. In the end, four double-digit seeds (No. 13 Pascack Valley in Public A, No. 15 Glen Rock in Public B, No. 21 Point Pleasant Borough in Public B, and No. 27 Montville in Public B) reached the group quarterfinals.

This is not unprecedented; the 2010 public tournaments saw six of the 16 combined quarterfinalists be double-digit seeds, including Public A champion Toms River South (No. 16), Public B runner-up Hopewell Valley (No. 10), and Public B semifinalist Madison (No. 21). But we’ve never seen two seeds ranked 20th or lower reach the quarterfinals as we have this year with No. 27 Montville and No. 21 Point Pleasant Borough.

For my money, Montville should not have even been in the tournament. Its staff was unable to avoid a scheduling situation that kept both Montville and Parsippany from qualifying automatically, and its team failed to deliver in a win-and-in game against Mountain Lakes. The Mustangs’ best result was a tie against Princeton. But Montville did play a tough schedule – including seven non-league games against teams still playing and two more against teams that lost on Thursday – and got the bid. Montville has certainly made the most of its chance, stunning sixth-seeded Ramapo (highest-seeded team ever to lose in the preliminary round) and Indian Hills in a four-day span. To put it in perspective, they probably would’ve been seeded around No. 50 in the old, single-public-tournament format, while Ramapo would have been around 17.

Point Pleasant, meanwhile, had a great season but struggled head-to-head against Marlboro and was hard to rank due to its schedule. The Panthers have certainly proved themselves now, edging streaky Lakeland 2-1 and taking down Big North Silver champion Paramus, seeded fifth, 4-3. Now the common thread here? Four teams from the Big North – Silver frontrunners, Green contenders – failing to perform on the big stage. Something to keep in mind and a reason to schedule more non-league games during the regular season!

At any rate, in the five years of the Public A/B split, only one other 20+ seed has reached the quarterfinals, and that was upstart Madison in 2010, a team that ultimately reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion West Essex. Two other underdogs for the ages reached the quarterfinals as 20+ seeds in 2003 and 2005. Fair Lawn, seeded 25th, stunned No. 8 Montclair en route to the quarters in 03, while a No. 22 seed surprised teams seeded 11th and 6th before falling in overtime to No. 1 Randolph in 2005. That team? Montville’s opponent on Sunday, Tenafly.

Overall, in the five years of split tournaments, 18 teams have reached the quarterfinals as a double-digit seed, and those teams have a 4-10 record (with four games to be played this weekend) in the quarterfinals. In the 13 years of one public tournament, 19 double-digit seeds reached the quarterfinals, amassing a 3-16 record in the quarters. Despite the numbers, I hope the underdogs come out firing this weekend, because they certainly have a shot at things. If I had to pick one of the four double-digit seeds to advance, it would be Point Pleasant, although Tenafly certainly looked vulnerable against Park Regional.

Hit the rinks this weekend and let me know how the games are – I’ll be back in Jersey to see some of the semifinals and all of the finals next week!

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