BY VIN RAPOLLA
The Rumson-Fair Haven girls soccer team, which has already sown up another B Central Division title, has qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament (SCT) for the first time in four years.
Entering the deadline with a record of 8-3-2, the Bulldogs were rewarded with the No. 16 seed, which meant a preliminary-round game with No. 17 Holmdel on Wednesday. The winner would get the top seed, Lacey in the next round.
And while the Bulldogs would love to make some noise in the SCT, they’re happy to be there, and will take it one game at a time.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve made it,” said coach Alison Vetterl. “We’re just going to work as hard as we can.”
The 2004 team has been led by their steady core of senior defenders — Leslie Blades, Liz Robinson, Sarah Babcock and Sarah Fetter. All four have all played strong defense, while holding opponents to four shutouts on the season.
“As a whole they’ve really controlled the back. They communicate well and work well together,” said Vetterl. “They play well as a unit and work well with the whole team.”
Another senior who has helped lead the team has been forward Karen Florio. Florio currently has six assists and has been one of the team’s guiding forces on offense.
“She does a really nice job of setting up girls on the cross. She’s a different type of contributor,” said the coach.
The Bulldogs also have a strong core of juniors, including forward Brooke Keany, midfielder Morgan Craney, and outside middle Liz Grimaldi.
“Brooke is our defensive playmaker,” said Vetterl. “Morgan does all the things a coach can ask for, and Liz works hard to every ball.”
The Bulldogs have also received solid contributions from their underclassmen.
Sophomores outside middle Bridget Waclawik and goalie Ana Murphy have truly helped the team this season.
“Bridget is very aggressive, she’s not afraid to challenge for the ball,” said coach Vetterl. “Ana has four shutouts on the season. She’s doing a nice job, becoming more confident and aggressive each game. She’s stepping in and stepping up, and she’s really worked hard and has been a nice surprise.”
Offensively, the team has been led by freshman Hope Atkinson. The midfielder is currently the team’s leading scorer with 13 goals and one assist on the season.
“Hope really knows where to be at all times. She fights for the ball and gets into the mix, and she really does whatever she has to do,” said the coach.
Rumson has also shown off some depth this year, receiving solid contributions off the bench. Sophomore Bree Belmont and freshman Leigh Ann Torcivia have stepped up to fill in key positions during the course of the year.
“Bree has done a nice job in filling in key spots,” said Vetterl. “And Leigh Ann has great speed, and is the kind of player we can use anywhere.”
With the postseason now under way, coach Vetterl is looking at each postseason game as a bonus game. Last year’s team barely made it into the state tournament before finding “lightning in a bottle” and ended up winning Central Jersey Group II, proving that in the postseason anything is possible.
“As long as we come out and play our best, we can make it a game,” said the coach. “The team has just got to go out and play hard every play and do the best we can.
“We really look forward to defending our Group II title,” she added. “ We’re going to take it one game at a time and work as hard as we can.”
Round up… The Bulldogs are just one of many local teams that will be active in postseason play.
When the SCT seedings were determined Monday night, a total of five girls teams and six boys teams found out their fate in the tournament, which began Wednesday, and will continue this weekend
The Red Bank Catholic Caseys, who at 11-0-3 sit atop the Shore’s Class A Central, received the No. 4 seed, and will host the winner of Wednesday’s Red Bank Regional-Howell preliminary round game.
The fourth seed is about what the Caseys expected, as Lacey, second-seeded Brick Memorial (12-1-1) and third-seeded Wall (15-0) were the projected top seeds.
Red Bank Regional, the 20th seed traveled to Howell on Wednesday hoping to knock off the No. 13 Rebels. RBR improved to 7-6-2 on Monday with a 4-0 blanking of Holmdel.
The Ocean Spartans, who knocked off Shore Regional, 3-2, on Monday to improve to 9-3-2 on the year, were given the ninth seed. That meant a Wednesday match-up with 24th seeded Mater Dei, who entered tournament play with a 7-6 record.
The Spartans have played well this season, and trail only Middletown North (11-1 and seeded sixth in the SCT) in the A North division race.
As for Shore Regional’s girls, the Blue Devils got the No. 21 seed and were scheduled to play at No. 12 Manchester on Wednesday, with the winner to get fifth-seeded St. John Vianney this weekend.
Shore entered the tournament at 8-7-1, and has played well in the competitive B Central division.
In boys play, the CBA boys got the No. 3 seed and will await the winner of the Red Bank-Shore Regional preliminary round match-up.
RBR, the 14th seed, entered the game at 8-7, fresh off a 1-0 win over Holmdel on Monday. The Bucs hoped to knock off the 19th-seeded Blue Devils (8-6-2) in order to get a shot at the Colts.
The Ocean Township Spartans, the seventh seed, will get the winner of the Monsignor Donovan-Middletown South preliminary round game. Ocean is a battle-tested team after putting together a 8-6-2 mark this year despite playing in the highly competitive A North Division, which placed four teams in the SCT.
Two other local teams were scheduled to square off in the preliminary round, with No. 12 Rumson-Fair Haven hosting No. 21 Long Branch. The Bulldogs
entered the game at 11-4, coming off a 6-3 win over Asbury Park on Monday, and clinched a tie with Shore Regional for the public school tittle in the B Central Division.
Meanwhile, the Green Wave entered the game at 7-6 and put together a solid season against a tough B North schedule. That division also placed four teams in the SCT.
State tournament deadline this Saturday
While some teams have already started their SCT runs, a few local teams have more at stake this week, with the state tournament deadline looming this Saturday.
Teams must have a record of .500 or better at the end of play on Saturday in order to qualify.
On the girls side, RBC, Rumson, Ocean, Red Bank Regional and Shore Regional are in, while for the boys, CBA, Shore, Long Branch, Ocean, Red Bank Regional and Rumson should all qualify.