NCS soccer: Playoff brackets top-heavy with NBL squads

By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The NBL earned the top seeds in the North Coast Section playoffs beginning Wednesday but the competition — especially in the boys’ tournament — promises to be wide open.

Madison Gonzalez and the Maria Carrillo Pumas are the top seed in the NCS Division 1 girls soccer tournament. (CRISTA JEREMIASON/ PD)

Madison Gonzalez and the Maria Carrillo Pumas are the top seed in the NCS Division 1 girls soccer tournament. (CRISTA JEREMIASON/ PD)open.

NBL boys league champ Rancho Cotate will host 16th seed Eureka (7-6-2) of the Humboldt-Del Norte Conference Wednesday. MCAL champion Redwood earned the No. 2 seed and will host No. 15 Arcata.

No. 4 seed Montgomery drew the short straw from the committee selections Sunday. The Vikings will face Fortuna, the No. 13 seed, but because Fortuna is the champion of the Humboldt-Del Norte Conference, the Huskies earn the right to host the opener meaning the Vikings have a long bus ride in store Wednesday.

“Hopefully it will be a galvanizing trip for the team,” Vikings coach Jon Schwan said.

The first round is played Wednesday, followed by games Wednesday, Nov. 12, with finals Nov. 15.

Although the NBL was given top seeds by the anonymous committee, the SCL didn’t fare as well.

“The SCL didn’t get quite as much respect,” Schwan said. “And Analy and Elsie didn’t get any love.”

SCL league champion Petaluma got an automatic home game in the first round, but was made the No. seed, so the Trojans will play host to No. 9 Casa Grande at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The top of the SCL was a tangle of split decisions among the top teams, which may have ultimately hurt the squads when the committee made its selections. Petaluma won the crown but both beat and lost to Analy and recorded a victory and a tie against Elsie Allen. Analy and Elsie split their two contests, taking one win a piece.

Those finishes left Analy (14-4-1) as a number No. 10 seed and Elsie Allen (9-5-1) at No. 14. Analy will play No. 7 Novato in Sebastopol Wednesday while the Lobos will travel to No. 3 Terra Linda.

“It’s as wide open as I can ever remember,” Schwan said of the boys competition among the boys’ sides.

In the girls’ tournament, five first round byes leave Wednesday’s lineup of games on the lighter side.

The top five seeds: Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Analy, Casa Grande and Arcata will all have a week off before their first tournament games Saturday. Unlike last year, when 13 squads made it to the tournament, only 11 teams are in.

Coaches pointed to the NCS rules that only teams with an even .500 record or better can apply for an at-large bid to the tournament, leaving out squads on the rise like Rancho Cotate. It also makes teams wary of taking on top-caliber preseason games because early losses can come back to haunt, coaches said.

“It absolutely has,” said Rancho Cotate coach Dennis Holmberg, whose young Cougars were one game from a .500 record that would have given them a tournament berth.

Holmberg watched as Maria Carrillo and Montgomery played top-ranked squads from Washington and Maryland this preseason but was not inclined to jump in because of the effect it could have on end of season play.

“I would love to get in the mix, but if we didn’t do well, it hurts us,” he said.

Maria Carrillo coach Debra LaPrath said the seedings look as she would expect, although she too, expressed chagrin that teams like Rancho Cotate were cut from the mix.

“No surprises at all,” she said. “Everyone is seeded right where I thought they would be.”

In girls Division III competition, the five top-ranked teams all earned first round byes: Sonoma Academy, St. Vincent, Middletown, Roseland University Prep and Cloverdale.

On the boys Division II side, Roseland University Prep is the top-ranked local team at No. 4. They Knights play No. 13 Bentley in the first round. St. Vincent is No. 6 and will face No. 11 Oakland Military Academy while No. 10 Kelseyville will play No. 7 Gateway. Healdsburg, seeded 12th, will face No. 5 Branson, No. 14 Cardinal Newman will play No. 3 Lick Wilmerding and No. 15 Fort Bragg will taken on No. 2 San Francisco University.

In boys Division III, top ranked Anderson Valley and No. 3 Rincon Valley Christian earned first-round byes while No. 4 Tomales will play No. 13 Contra Costa Christian. Geyserville, seeded fifth, will face No. 12 Pleasant Hill and No. 6 Sonoma Academy will taken on No. 11 Summerfield Waldorf. Ninth-seeded Point Arena will play No. 8 Fremont Christian and No. 10 Archbishop Hanna will take on No. 7 Drew.