The South Jersey high school girls soccer tournament begins Monday.
Twenty-one area teams are competing in five different sectional tournaments. While last year's defending South Non-Public B champion Holy Spirit is looking to keep its crown, top seeds Ocean City and Mainland Regional will lead a competitive S.J. Group III tournament.
S.J. Group I
2016 winner: Haddon Heights
Favorites: Though Haddon Heights is the second seed, it's been there before. Audubon has the top seed and a first-round bye.
Look at locals: Fifth-seeded Buena Regional has had a good season and could make some noise in the tournament. The Chiefs have two prolific scoring players, senior Kayla Davila (22 goals, 18 assists) and sophomore Sophia Ridolfo (22 goals, 13 assists). 13th seeded Wildwood will have a hard time with No. 4 Haddon Township.
S.J. Group II
2016 winner: Haddonfield
Favorites: Top-seeded Haddonfield and second-seeded Cinnaminson would make for an excellent final.
Look at locals: Oakcrest grabbed the fourth seed after a tremendous season which included its first Coaches Tournament appearance and victory. Gabi Johnson has 30 goals, a single-season school record, and is joined by fellow seniors Jana White (18 goals, 13 assists) and defender Haleigh Whitcraft (six goals), and junior goalie Brielle Smith. Sixth-seeded Cedar Creek and seventh-seeded Pinelands Regional earned first-round home games. Also competing are No. 11 Middle Township, No. 12 Lower Cape May Regional and No. 16 Barnegat.
S.J. Group III
2016 winner: Seneca
Favorites: Last year proved anything can happen in Group III with Seneca winning as the No. 9 seed. Ocean City and Mainland Regional earned the top two seeds, and either one could win.
Look at locals: Ocean City, chasing its first sectional title since 2000, won the Cape-Atlantic League National Division and Mainland, looking for its first title, won the CAL American Division. Both feature a lot of talented players and should make a deep run in the sectional tournament. Fourth-seeded Lacey Township and sixth-seeded Hammonton could challenge some teams in this wide open tournament. Ninth-seeded Absegami could face Ocean City in the second round, and No. 15 Cumberland Regional is also competing.
S.J. Group IV
2016 winner: Toms River North
Favorites: Unbeaten Eastern Regional (20-0-1) is the top seed and fresh off a Coaches Tournament victory.
Look at locals: Egg Harbor Township is the only area team with a home game in the first round. The seventh-seeded Eagles host No. 10 Williamstown, which is never an easy team to beat. Also competing in Group IV is No. 12 Millville and No. 15 Southern Regional.
S.J. Non-Public B
2016 winner: Holy Spirit
Favorites: Second-seeded Moorestown Friends is looking to get back into the final. Rutgers Prep earned the top seed and a first-round bye.
Look at locals: Third-seeded Holy Spirit and fifth-seeded Our Lady of Mercy Academy were in the finals last year and could make another run this year. OLMA has senior Abby Ward, whose 37 goals leads the CAL United. Spirit turned around quickly after graduating much of last year's team. St. Joseph, despite playing most of the season with 11 players or fewer, is seeded 10th but faces a really tough Holy Cross team. Wildwood Catholic is the 15th seed.