The 36th Essex County Tournament was seeded last night with not many surprises.
And truth be told, the tournament, over the years, has been seeded well and the ultimate champion is the team that plays the best, anyway. So, while we all enjoy debate over the choices, and I’m as guilty as anyone, when it’s all said and done, this is about the kids who play the game that we as fans and writers, enjoy watching and discussing.
The top 10 seeds were Livingston, Mount St. Dominic, Nutley, Bloomfield, West Essex, Cedar Grove, Newark Academy, West Orange, Glen Ridge and Caldwell.
My top 10 was Livingston, Mount St. Dominic, Nutley, West Essex, Cedar Grove, Bloomfield, Newark Academy, West Orange, Caldwell and Glen Ridge.
Not much of a difference, other than my picking West Essex and Cedar Grove both ahead of Bloomfield. If form holds and the top seeds advance to the quarters, you’d see four outstanding games in West Essex at Bloomfield, to go along Cedar Grove at Nutley, Newark Academy at Mount St. Dominic and West Orange or Caldwell (it’s an 8-9 game) playing at Livingston.
But not so fast, because the first round of games, set for May 4, could provide some interesting matchups. Don’t forget, there’s the play-in games first to determine the top 16. Belleville and Montclair are among the schools that will play-in, and hey, you never know there. Last year, Newark Academy went the play-in route, then stunned defending champion and second seeded Nutley in the first round and eventually made it to the semis.
In 2010, a major upset occurred in the quarters when unheralded West Orange defeated two-time defending champion Mount St. Dominic before losing to the eventual champ, Cedar Grove, in the semis.
Some of the first round games with interest this year could be #12 MKA playing at West Essex in a rematch of a game played on April 22, won by West Essex late; #11 Verona at Cedar Grove, if nothing more than the schools are located a mile apart; Glen Ridge at Newark Academy in what could be anyone’s guess and Caldwell venturing over to West Orange in the traditional 8-9 game.
If there are upsets in the first round, the tourney stays on bracket, meaning there are no re-seeds. For example, if Verona upset Cedar Grove, it would still play the winner of the Nutley-Millburn game in the quarters.
“Ultimately, the best team wins the tournament,” West Essex coach Andrea Mondadori said.
And Mondadori, who led West Essex to the 2007 championship and the 2010 championship game, along with last year’s semifinal, is correct. It all comes down to the kids, anyway.
Following the play-in games, we’ll have previews of the May 4 first round games. The quarterfinals are set for May 11 at the home of the higher seed, followed by the semifinals at Ivy Hill Park on May 17 and the finals on May 18, also at Ivy Hill.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of tough Super Essex Conference games awaiting, including today’s Popcorn Supreme at Livingston when Nutley comes to town. These two played a great game a few weeks back, won by Livingston, 1-0.
Then again, most Livingston-Nutley games are tremendous, most notably the 2011 ECT semi which Nutley won, 5-4, and a regular season, extra inning thriller in April, 2012, won by the Lancers, 3-2.
Word is that Livingston pitcher Jess Peslak should be in the circle today. The senior missed Monday’s game with Bloomfield and played sparingly on April 23 at West Orange as she battled back from an illness.
So, as I always say, Get your Popcorn Ready.