Sectionals: Vin’s predictions

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These are never easy, but after a few hours to look over some brackets and think some things over, I’m finally ready to release my playoff predictions. My track record with these predictions has been pretty good, as I accurately picked six out of the eight section finalists before sectionals even started last season. The only problem was, I only picked the right winner in one of the four finals.

I’m sure you guys will let me know where you think I went right and wrong, but I encourage you all to post your own predictions in the comments section. If you get more than 75 percent of your picks right in the first round (or beyond), I’ll give you a shout out on the blog and on Twitter.

Lastly, don’t forget that I’ll be hosting a live chat at 7:30 tonight! That will be a great chance to ask me questions and get on me about my picks. If you’re a fan of Section 1 soccer, it wouldn’t be wise to miss out…

Here are my picks (you can tell which teams I picked in each outbracket game based on who I put in the first round):

CLASS AA

First round
No. 1 Arlington over No. 16 Suffern
No. 2 Mamaroneck over No. 15 Ossining
No. 14 Greeley over No. 3 Yorktown
No. 4 John Jay-EF over No. 14 Carmel
No. 5 Mahopac over No. 12 White Plains
No. 11 Port Chester over No. 6 Spring Valley
No. 7 North Rockland over No. 10 Scarsdale
No. 9 Ketcham over No. 8 Fox Lane
NOTES: The only teams that were relatively easy to pick in this round were Arlington and Mamaroneck. Class AA is deep this season – even more so with the addition of PC – and there will be some dangerous road teams as a result… The big upset that I’m going with is Greeley over Yorktown, which is really a tough draw for the Huskers. The Quakers have had some very strong showings against some of the top teams in AA (a 4-1 win over Scarsdale and ties against Mahopac and PC come to mind), so they come in battle-tested. Yorktown, on the other hand, has yet to play an AA opponent… PC and Spring Valley have the potential for a very exciting game, as both teams have offensive attacks that are capable of putting up goals in a hurry. They play similar styles, but the Rams are a team that has proven that theirs works in the postseason… Tough draw for Mahopac with a White Plains team coming in that has been playing well, but I think the Indians will be able to grind it out at home with Mike Bernardi in net… Scarsdale and North Rockland both went deep in the playoffs last season, but I see N. Rock coming in as the hotter team. Scarsdale has lost two straight, while the Red Raiders are coming off of a big win over Spring Valley and a great performance in a double overtime loss to second-seeded Mamaroneck. These teams met two years ago in the first round with Scarsdale prevailing, but my gut tells me this stout North Rockland defense has the edge at home this time around… JJEF edged out Carmel in a 5-4 shootout in a shootout last week, so don’t be shocked if the scrappy Rams pull off the upset.

Quarterfinals
No. 1 Arlington over No. 9 Ketcham
No. 2 Mamaroneck over No. 7 North Rockland
No. 11 Port Chester over No. 14 Greeley
No. 4 John Jay-EF over No. 5 Mahopac
NOTES: North Rockland gave Mamaroneck a good scare last week, but I think it might be a different story for the Tigers at home. I see the Red Raiders keeping it close, but I’m picking Mamo to move on… PC and Greeley have played twice this year, resulting in a tie in their first meeting and a 2-1 PC win in the second. With this game being at PC, I’m taking the Rams… The other two games feature League I-A showdowns. JJEF swept Mahopac this season, just like Arlington did to Ketcham, so I’ll say that history three-peats itself.

Semis
No. 1 Arlington over No. 4 John Jay-EF
No. 2 Mamaroneck over No. 11 Port Chester
NOTES: The game that everyone has been wanting to see all season is Arlington and Mamaroneck, so why deny the public of what it wants? Arlington swept JJEF this season, and I think that PC will have a hard time keeping up with the Mamaroneck offense.

Final
No. 1 Arlington over No. 2 Mamaroneck
NOTES: I’ve been going back and forth on who I was going to pick in this one all season, but today, my gut tells me the defending state champs have a repeat in them. If you asked me two weeks ago, I would have said the Tigers, as they were ripping through opponents at a torrid pace. Since then, they’ve had a couple of overtime scares and haven’t been putting up quite as many crooked numbers. In the meantime, Arlington has increased its scoring pace while maintaining what many coaches will tell you is the best defense in the section. It’s a battle of strength vs. strength, which is what would make this game so exciting. Mamaroneck’s potent offensive attack, led by the dynamic duo of Nick Tunic and Juan Giraldo, pitted against Arlington’s stellar D. It’s too bad that one team would have to lose, because I legitimately think that they are two of the best in the state, but it’s the Admirals who have the championship pedigree.

CLASS A

First round
No. 1 Byram Hills over No. 17 Somers
No. 2 Lakeland over No. 18 John Jay
No. 3 Pearl River over No. 14 Peekskill
No. 4 Pelham over No. 13 Lourdes
No. 5 Edgemont over No. 12 Riverside
No. 6 Tappan Zee over No. 11 Sleepy Hollow
No. 7 Keio over No. 11 Brewster
No. 8 Nyack over No. 9 Eastchester
NOTES: I know it’s boring to pick all home teams, but I’d be lying if I tried to pretend that I don’t think they’re all going to win. Class A does not look to be very deep this year, and a lot of these road teams will come in without much experience against winning clubs. Byram may have the toughest draw in a Somers team that is much better than its record indicates, but there’s no way that I’m picking the Bobcats to lose now (you’ll see why the further down you read). Eastchester and Sleepy probably have the best chances to pull off the upsets of any road teams, but I’m going chalk.

Quarters
No. 1 Byram Hills over No. 8 Nyack
No. 2 Lakeland over No. 7 Keio
No. 3 Pearl River over No. 6 TZ
No. 4 Pelham over No. 5 Edgemont
NOTES: In all honesty, outside of the Class AA final, the Lakeland-Keio game may be my toughest prediction of the year. I really think that they are two of the top three or four teams in Class A, but with them being lined up to meet in the quarters, one of them is going to have to go home earlier than expected. Keio is the more explosive team and has the talent to pull this one off, but I can’t escape the fact that Lakeland has a much better postseason resume in past few years. The Hornets always seem to find a way to pull out big games, especially on their home field… Pearl River and TZ tied twice this season, but I really think that the Pirates are the more complete team. The Dutchmen could make it interesting with Juan Umana in goal, but I’m taking PR at home… Pelham and Edgemont split in their two meetings this season, but the Pelicans won their most recent meeting and are the much hotter team.

Semis
No. 1 Byram Hills over No. 4 Pelham
No. 2. Lakeland over No. 3 Pearl River
NOTES: Byram and Pelham will be a must-see game, but the Bobcats have had the Pelicans’ number on that field in the past year. They knocked Pelham out of the playoffs in the quarters at home last season, and they beat them there in a rain-shortened game to start this season. A healthy Pelham team has the juice to pull off the upset, but we’re not even sure than Aidan Murray and Otavio Basso are 100 percent yet… Lakeland beat Pearl River last week and has had the Pirates’ number in recent years. Hard not to take the Hornets here.

Final
No. 1 Byram Hills over No. 2 Lakeland
NOTES: In a battle between two of the top coaches in the section, I’m taking Matty Allen and the Bobcats to outlast Tim Hourahan and the Hornets. Byram has been stellar in the back this season, led by keeper Jack Weitzman and center back Sam Ganeles, and I think they’ll make it very difficult on this young Lakeland team to find the back of the net. That was the case last season when the Bobcats knocked out the Hornets in the semis. It should be a classic, but I’m taking Byram to win its first title since 2010.

CLASS B

First round
No. 1 Bronxville over No. 16 Pleasantville
No. 2 Irvington over No. 15 Albertus Magnus
No. 3 Blind Brook over No. 14 Putnam Valley
No. 4 Briarcliff over No. 13 YMA
No. 5 North Salem over No. 12 Pawling
No. 6 Valhalla over No. 11 Dobbs Ferry
No. 10 Rye Neck over No. 7 Hastings
No. 8 Westlake over No. 9 Woodlands
NOTES: Similar to Class A, I don’t see many potential upsets here. Magnus has a puncher’s chance against Irvington after knocking out Bronxville in the first round last season, but I feel pretty confident picking the top six seeds to move on… Rye Neck has shown its knack for stepping up in big games this season, with strong showings against some of the top teams in the class. I like the Panthers to pull off the upset… Woodlands could pose some problems for Westlake with its speed, and if the Falcons were playing at home on the turf, I might give them the nod. But on the Wildcats’ grassy (and often muddy) home field, they’re my choice.

Quarterfinals
No. 1 Bronxville over No. 8 Westlake
No. 2 Irvington over No. 10 Rye Neck
No. 3 Blind Brook over No. 6 Valhalla
No. 5 North Salem over No. 4 Briarcliff
NOTES: This would be a great slate of games. Each of them could go either way… Briarcliff and North Salem both come in playing well, but it’s hard to ignore the Tigers’ postseason success the past few seasons. They’ve reached the semis two straight years, and I wouldn’t count them out for a third… Rye Neck will definitely keep it close against Irvington, but in senior forward Ben Ovetsky’s final season, I think he wills the Bulldogs to a win at home… Blind Brook and Valhalla are two of my top three Class B teams, but the Trojans had their way with the Vikings the last time that they met at Blind Brook. Very tough draw for Valhalla to have to play the two-time defending champs.

Semis
No. 1 Bronxville over No. 5 North Salem
No. 3 Blind Brook over No. 2 Irvington
NOTES: Two years ago, Bronxville and North Salem played a classic in the semis that came down to the Broncos advancing on PKs. The teams look a bit different now, but they boast two of the best programs in the class. Each team has a proven scorer up top – Sam Aherne for Bronxville and Connor Murphy for NS – but I’ll give the Broncos an ever-so slight edge at home… Despite having to go on the road, I think Blind Brook has the experience to pull it out at Irvington.

Final
No. 3 Blind Brook over No. 1 Bronxville
NOTES: In a rematch of the 2011 section final, I’m taking the same result. I made the mistake last season of picking Blind Brook to go to the section final and lose, and I’m not making the same mistake twice. The Trojans played what I would argue is the most difficult schedule of any Class B team this season, and it’s been a proven recipe for success. I’m calling a three-peat. (Of course, that could also be the kiss of death…)

CLASS C

Semis
No. 1 Solomon Schechter over No. 4 Hamilton
No. 2 Haldane over No. 3 Tuckahoe
NOTES: Hamilton could make it interesting, but I would be very surprised if we don’t see a repeat of last year’s final

Final
No. 1 Solomon Schechter over No. 2 Haldane
NOTES: On a bit of a smaller scale than the potential AA title game, I’ve been going back and forth on this one all season. Ultimately, it was Schechter that beat Haldane in the final, and the Lions have a big part of that cast back to go for the repeat. The Blue Devils have some scorers that could make me eat my words, but Schechter has been playing well of late and has history on its side.

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About Author

VINCENT Z. MERCOGLIANO has been with The Journal News and LoHud.com since March 2010. He graduated from New Rochelle High School in 2005 and from Hofstra University in 2009 with a degree in broadcast journalism. He currently covers boys soccer, wrestling and baseball, while assisting with LoHud's Yankees coverage.

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