Playoff fever in full swing for local teams


Staff Writer

JEFF GRANIT staff Monroe goalie Megan Boyce knocks the ball away before Edison’s Kayla Duncan can make a play during the second-round GMCTournament game in Monroe on Oct. 26.JEFF GRANIT staff Monroe goalie Megan Boyce knocks the ball away before Edison’s Kayla Duncan can make a play during the second-round GMCTournament game in Monroe on Oct. 26. Several local boys and girls soccer teams are busy this week as they look to take their respective shots at sectional titles, while four squads are also eyeing a potential trip to the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament finals.

In girls action, the East Brunswick Bears opened their Central Jersey Group IV run with a convincing 3-0 win over rival Old Bridge. The 15-1 Bears got two goals from Kristie Lange after Casey Caruso opened the scoring 31 minutes into the affair.

While the Bear win ended the Knights’ season at 8-7-2, head coach Lou Kosa’s team advanced to today’s second round, where they are scheduled to take on 12th-seeded Manalapan.

The Braves shocked the fifth seed, Sayreville, on Monday with a 3-0. The Bombers fell behind 1-0 about 14 minutes before the half, and thought they had tied the game about nine minutes later when a Sayreville shot was deflected and rolled along the goal line. However, officials ruled that it never crossed the plane, and a pair of Manalapan goals in the second half sealed the Bombers’ fate.

With the loss, the Bombers finished up at 11-4-2 on the year, while their brilliant senior goalkeeper Jessica DaRold ended her career with four saves in the game.

If the Bears can get past Manalapan today, they will likely get the matchup they’ve been waiting for all year.

East Brunswick has made it to the Central Jersey Group IV championship game the last three years, only to lose each time to Brick Memorial in heartbreaking fashion — a 1-0 affair and two games decided by a golden-goal penalty kick.

Needless to say, the Bears would love to get another shot at the Mustangs, who are the first team to win three consecutive Group IV championships.

The Mustangs, who were crowned the Shore Conference champs on Saturday, take on Hillsborough today in their second-round game. If they can get by the Raiders, and the Bears can knock off the Braves, the two teams will meet on Monday in what has become one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season.

But East Brunswick has more on its plate than just its state tournament run. The Bears also have a Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinal set for Saturday in North Brunswick against fourth-seeded Piscataway.

All season, the Bears have been pointing to the postseason as their venue to shine. They’re getting their chance to do just that this week.

The Monroe Falcons also got off to a fast start this week, winning their CJ Group III opener, 3-0, over Red Bank Regional.

The seventh-seeded Falcons got a quick goal from Sarah Gibbons just three minutes into the match, followed by a Alyssa Gioino tally just five minutes later to jump out to what turned out to be an insurmountable lead.

Monroe added an insurance goal from Allison Arnold in the second half, but the Falcons (11-5-1) were well in control by that point, thanks to a stellar defensive effort and the strong play of goalie Megan Boyce (eight saves). It was Boyce’s ninth shutout of the year.

With the win, the Falcons advanced to today’s quarterfinals where they will take on a very tough Ocean Township squad that is seeded second. Ocean was one of the Shore Conference’s elite teams all season, and will certainly provide the Falcons with their toughest test to date.

The Spotswood Chargers are the top seed in the CJ Group II bracket and will open their run at a sectional crown today against Shore Regional.

The eighth-seeded Blue Devils knocked off A.L. Johnson, 1-0, on Monday to advance to the quarterfinals. Shore is another team that is battle-tested having played a tough Shore Conference schedule, and will give the Chargers a battle.

Like East Brunswick, Spotswood also has a GMCT semifinal game coming up on Saturday, and needs to be careful not to get caught looking ahead today.

The Chargers advanced to the GMCT semis with a 4-1 win over J.P. Stevens this past Saturday, as they tallied four goals in the first half, all from different players, to effectively knock out the Hawks and clinch their school record 17th win of the year.

Their opponent on Saturday is the tournament’s third seed, Woodbridge, a team that advanced to the tournament finals last year.

That leaves the South River girls, the second seed in CJ Group I, who will open their run at a sectional title on Monday against third-seeded Florence. The Rams would love to advance to the final, where they’re likely to meet a team they’re very familiar with — Metuchen.

South River’s boys already had their shot at Metuchen, and took full advantage of it, beating the Bulldogs, 3-2, on Tuesday in their CJ Group I opener. The eighth-seeded Rams and ninth-seeded Bulldogs played to a 2-2 tie through regulation and an overtime period, leaving the game to be decided by a shoot-out. In that shoot-out, the Rams’ Claudio Roque was able to connect on the game-winner as South River beat Metuchen, 5-4.

This was a fiercely contested battle throughout, with South River taking the early lead on an Eric Perkin goal off a pass from Andre Freire. Metuchen’s Pat Baffuto then tied the game just before the half.

The Bulldogs then took the lead in the second half on a successful penalty shot by Sam Shampain, but the Rams turned up the heat in the final 15 minutes, getting the game-tying goal with just under five minutes left in regulation when Fabian Csombok sent a perfect cross to Johnny Salvador, who headed the ball in the net.

With the win, the Rams advanced to tomorrow’s quarterfinal round, where they will travel to take on top-seeded Highland Park.

Their Blue Division rival Spotswood Chargers will also be in a action tomorrow, as they open the CJ Group II run with a game against Manasquan. The 11th-seeded Big Blue Warriors looked impressive in knocking off sixth-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven, 5-0, on Tuesday, and should provide the third-seeded Chargers with a stiff test.

In CJ Group III, the top-seeded Monroe Chargers open up with a tough Colts Neck team coming off a 2-1 win over Lakewood in their first-round game on Tuesday.

Monroe is another team that needs to remain focused, as they too have a GMCT semifinal game slated for this weekend. Monroe is scheduled to take on South Brunswick on Sunday in North Brunswick at noon.

The second GMCT boys semifinal features the top-seeded North Brunswick Raiders against the fifth seed, East Brunswick.

But prior to that game, the Bears will be taking on defending sectional champion Rancocas Valley in CJ Group IV play. East Brunswick advanced to the quarterfinals with a 4-3 win in a shoot-out over Hunterdon Central on Tuesday. Brian Roebles came up big for the Bears, converting on a pair of penalty kicks, including what proved to be the game-winner.

The Bears outscored the Red Devils 6-4 in that shoot-out, which followed a hard-fought game throughout.

Two other local teams were eliminated from CJ Group IV play on Tuesday, as the sixth-seeded Sayreville Bombers fell to Howell, 2-1, and the 15th-seeded Old Bridge Knights lost, 4-0, to Rancocas Valley.