NJSIAA boys soccer semifinal preview
Delran vs. Holmdel
Tuesday, 5 p.m.
at St. Augustine Prep
Delran won the South Jersey Group 2 bracket despite being seeded eighth in the tournament. The Bears are 12-6-5 this season, but that record includes losses to Peddie, St. Benedict’s, St. Augustine and league rival Rancocas Valley.
The Bears play a very simple and direct brand of soccer. Possess the ball, play it short on the ground and win it by outworking the opponent. The 2015 Bears are a team without a real stud player, but they succeed because everyone buys into this philosophy.
The Bears have been without injured keeper Kevin Robinson in recent games. Phillippe Alves has filled in. They still posted three consecutive clean sheets before finally conceding against Cinnaminson.
The Bears have also scored just four goals in four playoff games. Jeremy Rafanello has two of them. He's Delran's leading scorer, with 15 goals. Junior forward Skyler Diggs has seven goals. Ryan Strauss, Rudy Engel and Gabriel DaSilva have four each.
Delran is an eight-time state champion. No other South Jersey team has won as many crowns. The Bears have won 11 sectional titles.
Holmdel won the Central Jersey Group 2 bracket with four straight road wins, after being seeded ninth in the tournament. They defeated Bordentown 1-0 in the championship game. It was the only time this season the Scotties were shut out. Holmdel is 12-6-5 and has won six in a row.
Their recent turnaround is part of an even bigger one; the Hornets went 1-4-2 over their first seven games. They defeated Rumson-Fair Haven on Oct. 8 and again in the quarterfinal round of the sectional tournament. The Bulldogs were the top seed in the Central Jersey 2 bracket.
Freshman Joe Arena was the goalscorer against the Scotties. Leo Norbrega scored in back-to-back games before that. Hunter Chapman, Justin McStay and Mikey Neff are all offensive options for the Hornets. Defensively, goalkeeper Tyler Marchiano has 11 shutouts.
IF YOU GO: Atlantic City Expressway or Route 206 to Route 54 south. Stay on 54 to the end, then turn left onto Route 40 east. After 3 miles, turn left at light onto Cedar Avenue. School is on the left after ½-mile.
– John A. Lewis