The Shore Conference Tournament is almost here, and this year it will be here earlier than usual.

The tournament is slated to open up on Monday, Oct. 16, which was part of the calendar in which the field was seeded in recent years. With the tournament starting three days earlier, it will now be seeded four days earlier, which has pushed the cutoff to qualify with a .500 record to this coming Thursday.

While it makes qualifying a crunch and seeding more difficult (the Class A South division is still not decided) the benefit to the scheduling change is that the two teams that reach the championship game will not have more than one day to recover before starting the NJSIAA Tournament. In years past, the SCT final would be played on a Saturday night and the NJSIAA Tournament would open the following Monday afternoon.

This year’s final is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 26 at Ocean Township High School, which will give the two finalist plenty of time to regroup for the state tournament.

As for who will play in that game, this season has been building toward a showdown between two teams and those two – Holmdel and Christian Brothers Academy are still likely to be Nos. 1 and 2 in some order. While those teams remain the favorite, this week provided a look at how one or both could get picked off. CBA lost its first game of the season to a Shore Conference opponent, while Holmdel lost its first game, period.

Those are still the teams the field is shooting to beat, and as for the teams in that field, it’s a mix of hot and cold, as well as mainstays and upstarts. As many as 29 teams could be fighting for the conference title, which means there is plenty to break down. Let's get to it.

CBA's Charlie Daly (21) congratulates Dominic Bellomo. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Updated with games from Wednesday, Oct. 11

1. Christian Brothers Academy (14-2, 11-1)

Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Freehold Boro (2), Howell (2), Manalapan (2), Marlboro (2), at Freehold Twp.
Division Losses: Freehold Twp.
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Peddie, DeMatha (Md.), Chaminade (N.Y.)
Non-Division Losses: St. Benedict’s
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: Vs. Neptune
Why They’re Here: There is still some debate regarding which team will head into the SCT as the top seed, and the picture is even a little more complicated after both CBA and Holmdel lost to end last week. Despite suffering their first loss within the Shore Conference Friday against Freehold Township, CBA takes over No. 1 for the first time this year and is the projected No. 1 seed on the strength of its superior schedule – both outside of the conference and within it. It also remains worth noting that the Colts were tied with St. Benedict’s – the No. 1 team in the USA Today Super 25 national ranking – with a minute left in regulation.

2. Holmdel (11-1, 10-0)

Division Wins: Matawan (2), Shore (2), Red Bank (2), Rumson-Fair Haven (2), at Raritan, at St. John Vianney
Division Losses: None
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Woodbridge
Non-Division Losses: At Pingry
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: Vs. St. John Vianney
Why They’re Here: If Holmdel could have put away Pingry on Saturday, the Hornets would be No. 1 with a bullet heading into the SCT. Instead, they will be the clear No. 2. Holmdel has played impressive soccer all year and while its strength of schedule does not quite stack up to that of CBA, A Central has been good enough this year that Holmdel’s legitimacy should not come into question at all. It would not be a crime either if the Hornets were awarded No. 1, but CBA does probably own the overall edge in resume.

Photo by Paula Lopez

3. Freehold Township (10-4, 9-3)

Division Wins: Colts Neck (2), Marlboro (2), at CBA, Freehold Boro, Howell, Manalapan, Neptune
Division Losses: CBA, at Howell, at Neptune
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Wall
Non-Division Losses: At Fair Lawn
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: At Manalapan
Why They’re Here: Freehold Township now has the biggest win on the board after scoring three second-half goals to beat CBA on Friday and if the Patriots can avoid a letdown against both Marlboro and Manalapan this week, they will likely move into the No. 3 spot. Freehold Township entered the season a top-five team and after some peaks and valleys, the Pats are on the cusp of entering the SCT the same way they started the season.

4. Howell (8-3-1, 8-3-1)

Division Wins: Marlboro (2), Neptune (2), Colts Neck, a Freehold Boro, Freehold Twp., at Manalapan
Division Losses: CBA (2), at Freehold Twp.
Division Ties: Manalapan
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: With Freehold Township beating CBA, Howell drops a spot in the projected seeding and could fall to No. 5 behind Jackson Memorial. That should be the end of the fall, however, considering the Rebels won eight straight games before losing a very competitive game at CBA on Tuesday.

5. Jackson Memorial (13-2-1, 10-2-1)

Division Wins: Brick Memorial (2), Brick (2), Toms River East (2), Central, at Southern, Toms River North, at Toms River South
Division Losses: Southern, at Toms River North
Division Ties: Toms River South
Non-Division Wins: Freehold Boro, St. Rose, at Steinert
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: At Central
Why They’re Here: The Jaguars beat Toms River East and Brick to clinch a share of the Class A South title and have a nice trio of wins outside of A South to boast at the divisional meeting. The Jaguars can easily make a case to be the No. 4 seed, but the debate is probably limited to which team between Howell and Jackson Memorial would host a quarterfinal game.

6. Ocean (11-2, 11-1)

Division Wins: Long Branch (2), Manasquan (2), Monmouth (2), Middletown South (2), Middletown North, Red Bank Catholic, at Wall
Division Losses: At Middletown North
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: At Freehold Boro
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Since a two-game hiccup that included an ugly 5-1 loss to Freehold Boro and a 2-0 loss Middletown North, Ocean has rattled off eight straight wins to win the Class B North championship. Losing to Freehold Boro probably limits them to No. 6, but the Spartans should also be safe from falling any farther.

7. Pinelands (12-1-1, 11-1-1)

Division Wins: Barnegat (2), Jackson Liberty (2), Lakewood (2), Manchester (2), Barnegat, at Lacey, Point Boro
Division Losses: At Point Boro
Division Ties: At Donovan Catholic
Non-Division Wins: Southern
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Wildcats finished off their first division title in 28 years by beating Barnegat on Wednesday and head in with an ironclad case to be a top-eight seed. A scoreless draw against Donovan Catholic this week knocks Pinelands from the top five running and Jackson Memorial and Ocean have a little more meat on their resumes.

8. Toms River South (9-3-1, 9-3-1)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Central (2), Toms River East (2), Brick Memorial, Southern, Toms River North
Division Losses: At Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial, at Toms River North
Division Ties: At Jackson Memorial
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Beating Brick Memorial on Monday gives Toms River South a good chance at a top-eight seed, but losing to Toms River North cost the Indians a chance to move up toward the top five. Without a  win over Jackson Memorial and splits against Brick Memorial and Toms River North, there is a chance the Indians fall a spot or two, but their recent tournament success gives them some benefit of the doubt.

9. Point Pleasant Boro (9-2-3, 8-2-3)

Division Wins: Jackson Liberty (2), at Barnegat, at Donovan Catholic, Lacey, Lakewood, at Manchester, Pinelands
Division Losses: At Lakewood, at Pinelands
Division Ties: Donovan Catholic, at Lacey, Manchester
Non-Division Wins: At St. Rose
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Like clockwork, Point Boro is peaking heading into the postseason. The Panthers are unbeaten over their last eight games and have managed to stay in a B South race that appeared as though it was going to be a runaway for Pinelands just a week or so ago. In addition to finding a formation and lineup that works, Point Boro hopes to welcome Liam Kirinovic back to the lineup in time for the SCT after an ankle injury knocked him out of competition last week.

10. Brick Memorial (8-4-3, 6-4-3)

Division Wins: Central (2), Southern (2), at Toms River North, Toms River South
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), at Toms River East, at Toms River South
Division Ties: Brick (2), Toms River East
Non-Division Wins: Jackson Liberty, St. Rose
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Mustangs have been one of the better turnaround stories in the Shore Conference this season and will enter the SCT as a dangerous opponent giving the scoring firepower they boast. Erik Fatovic has scored in 10 straight games entering the week and the Mustangs are in line to finish third in A South with a strong finish. Two draws against Brick hurt a little bit, but one of those was a game called early in the second half due to the lights going out.

11. Long Branch (10-4, 8-4)

Division Wins: Manasquan (2), Middletown North (2), Red Bank Catholic (2), Middletown South, Monmouth
Division Losses: Ocean (2), at Middletown South, at Wall
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Red Bank, Shore
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: At Monmouth
Why They’re Here: The Green Wave shook off some of the cobwebs from a 6-0 loss to Middletown South by taking out their frustration on Manasquan, 7-1, on Tuesday. As long as Long Branch beats Monmouth on Thursday, a No. 9 seed is reasonable, even if failing to beat Ocean leaves the Green Wave without a real noteworthy win.

12. Middletown North (8-7, 5-7)

Division Wins: Manasquan, at Monmouth, Ocean, at Red Bank Catholic, at Wall
Division Losses: Long Branch (2), at Middletown South, Monmouth, at Ocean, Red Bank Catholic, Wall
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Westfield, Freehold Boro, at Manalapan
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: If Freehold Township’s win over CBA is the best win of any team in the field, Middletown North’s win at Westfield can’t be too far behind. That's why the Lions are so high in the projection despite a sub-.500 divisional record: not many teams have raised their level of play in non-divisional games like Middletown North has. Throw in a win over Ocean and the Lions have done more than enough to comfortably earn a home game.

13. Toms River North (6-5-1, 6-5-1)

Division Wins: Central (2), at Brick, Jackson Memorial, Toms River East, Toms River South
Division Losses: Brick, Brick Memorial, at Jackson Memorial, at Toms River East, Toms River South
Division Ties: Southern
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They're Here: There are always a few teams that qualify to the tournament thanks to a forgiving schedule or back in with two or three losses in the last week. Toms River North is not one of those teams. The Mariners won four straight to go from 2-5-1 and seemingly buried to 6-5-1 and thriving. During the streak, they beat both Jackson Memorial and Toms River South - the latter in overtime Wednesday to officially qualify.

14. Southern (7-5-1, 6-4-1)

Division Wins: Brick (2), Central (2), at Jackson Memorial, Toms River East
Division Losses: Brick Memorial (2), Jackson Memorial, at Toms River South
Division Ties: At Toms River North
Non-Division Wins: Lacey
Non-Division Losses: At Pinelands
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Rams boast a win at Jackson Memorial and they earned it with top scoring threat Ethan Leming out of the lineup due to a red card from two games earlier. Not much else on the resume stands out, but that’s a very good headline win that will likely earn Southern a first-round home game.

15. Freehold Boro (7-7-1, 6-5-1)

Division Wins: Marlboro (2), Neptune (2), at Colts Neck, Manalapan
Division Losses: CBA (2), Freehold Twp., Howell, at Manalapan
Division Ties: Colts Neck
Non-Division Wins: Ocean
Non-Division Losses: At Jackson Memorial, at Middletown North
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: The Colonials did some really fine work to qualify for the SCT, even if a tie against Colts Neck on Monday took a little bit of steam out of that four-game run to go from 4-7 to 7-7-1. The win over Ocean gets the Colonials a home game, but losing 4-1 to Jackson Memorial hurts considering both Toms River North and Southern played the Jaguars much tougher and each beat the top seed out of A South once.

16. Rumson-Fair Haven (9-3-1, 6-3-1)

Division Wins: St. John Vianney (2), at Matawan, Raritan, Red Bank, Shore
Division Losses: Holmdel (2), at Raritan
Division Ties: Matawan
Non-Division Wins: Marlboro, St. Rose, Mater Dei
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: At Red Bank
Why They’re Here: On talent, Rumson is a top-10 caliber team, but the resume doesn't have the same caliber wins that the teams in front off the Bulldogs have. Had Rumson avoided the loss to Raritan and the draw against Matawan, the Bulldogs would be considerably higher as a team that beat all comers other than Holmdel in a solid division.

17. Middletown South (8-5-1, 6-5-1)

Division Wins: Red Bank Catholic (2), Long Branch, Manasquan, Middletown North, at Wall
Division Losses: Ocean (2), at Long Branch, at Monmouth, Wall
Division Ties: At Manasquan
Non-Division Wins: At Mater Dei, at Marlboro
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: For the first time since 2012, Middletown South is back in the Shore Conference Tournament and the Eagles rolled into the last full week of the regular season playing well. A 3-0 loss to Ocean could, perhaps, take some wind out of their sails, but the Eagles will keep riding the underdog wave and be a tough first-round opponent.

18. Shore (7-7-1, 6-4-1)

Division Wins: Red Bank (2), St. John Vianney (2), Matawan, Raritan
Division Losses: Holmdel (2), at Matawan, at Rumson-Fair Haven
Division Ties: At Raritan
Non-Division Wins: Donovan Catholic
Non-Division Losses: Hightstown, at Long Branch, at Haddonfield
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They're Here: Shore's collection of wins isn't overwhelming, but the Blue Devils played some very good competition outside of the division. With no bad results and  that non-division schedule, Shore has distinguished itself just enough to be in the conversation for a home game.

19. Raritan (6-4-2, 4-4-2)

Division Wins: Red Bank (2), Rumson-Fair Haven, Matawan
Division Losses: Holmdel, at Rumson-Fair Haven, at St. John Vianney, at Shore
Division Ties: St. John Vianney, Shore
Non-Division Wins: Keyport, Monmouth
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: A loss and tie to St. John Vianney hurt Raritan’s case for a first-round home game, but beating Rumson-Fair Haven and Monmouth Regional make the Rockets intriguing. It’s also worth noting that Raritan played Holmdel tougher than any Shore Conference team during the regular season, so even if the results are mixed, Raritan has shown it can battle a top team.

20. Monmouth (9-6, 7-5)

Division Wins: Red Bank Catholic (2), Wall (2), Manasquan, Middletown South, at Middletown North
Division Losses: Ocean (2), at Long Branch, at Manasquan, at Middletown North
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Keyport, Ranney
Non-Division Losses: At Raritan
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: Vs. Long Branch
Why They’re Here: Monmouth's loss to Raritan and the fact that they don't currently have a win over either of the top two B North teams - Ocean and Long Branch - is holding the Falcons back in this latest projection. A win over Long Branch on cutoff day would change that.

21. Wall (7-7, 6-6)

Division Wins: Red Bank Catholic (2), Long Branch, Manasquan, at Middletown South, at Middletown North
Division Losses: Monmouth (2), at Manasquan, Middletown North, Middletown South, Ocean
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: St. Rose
Non-Division Losses: Freehold Twp.
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They're Here: Outside of Ocean, which has distinguished itself over the last three weeks, the teams in B North have all beat up on one another. Wall is the last of the B North teams because the Crimson Knights are .500 while playing Ocean and Long Branch only one time each.

22. Lacey (8-5-1, 8-4-1)

Division Wins: Donovan Catholic (2), Jackson Liberty (2), Manchester (2), Barnegat, Lakewood
Division Losses: at Barnegat, at Lakewood, Pinelands, at Point Boro
Division Ties: Point Boro
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: At Southern
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: With a loss to Southern in its only non-divisional game and the chance to beat Pinelands coming after the cutoff, Lacey has been pretty firmly entrenched in this area since the beginning of the week. The Lions’ best result is a draw against Point Boro, and while that is meaningful, it probably won’t make a dramatic difference given the rest of the resume.

23. Lakewood (7-6, 6-6)

Division Wins: Barnegat, Donovan Catholic, Jackson Liberty, Lacey, Manchester, Point Boro
Division Losses: Pinelands (2), at Barnegat, at Jackson Liberty, at Lacey, at Point Boro
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Academy Charter
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Losing to Jackson Liberty eliminates any chance Lakewood had to inch toward the top 16. The Piners have lost to every team in the division other than the next two opponents - Donovan Catholic and Manchester. A win over Point Boro helps, but the more recent meeting between the teams was a 5-0 rout for the Panthers.

24. Matawan (5-5-1, 4-5-1)

Division Wins: St. John Vianney (2), Shore, Red Bank
Division Losses: Holmdel (2), at Raritan, Rumson-Fair Haven, at Shore
Division Ties: At Rumson-Fair Haven
Non-Division Wins: At Manasquan
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Now that Shore is officially in the field, Matawan has a win over an SCT team and also has that draw against Rumson. With a young roster that has been in just about every game, the Huskies will be a dangerous 20-plus seed, even if the resume does not jump off the page.

25. Barnegat (8-7, 6-7)

Division Wins: Jackson Liberty (2), Donovan Catholic, Lacey, at Lakewood, Manchester
Division Losses: Pinelands (2), at Donovan Catholic, at Lacey, at Lakewood, at Manchester, Point Boro
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: Keyport, at Brick
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Making their first SCT appearance in program history, the Bengals will likely enter the field in the middle-20’s now that at least 28 teams are in. Wins over Lacey and Lakewood highlight the resume, which will probably make No. 25 the ceiling for Barnegat.

26. Asbury Park (12-2, 10-1)

Division Wins: Keyport (2), Mater Dei (2), Point Beach (2), St. Rose (2), at Henry Hudson, Ranney, Point Beach
Division Losses: At Ranney
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: At Metuchen, Roselle
Non-Division Losses: At Ewing
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Asbury Park doesn't have any real noteworthy wins and losing to Ranney on Wednesday means the Blue Bishops likely have to go behind everybody else in the field outside of the two other A Central teams. There may be a case for Asbury Park to be seeded ahead of Barnegat, but that's probably a stretch.

27. Point Pleasant Beach (10-4, 9-3)

Division Wins: Henry Hudson (2), Keyport (2), Mater Dei (2), Ranney (2), Keyport, at St. Rose
Division Losses: Asbury Park (2), St. Rose
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: at Manchester
Non-Division Losses: At Manasquan
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They’re Here: Point Beach has faced a pair of out-of-division challenges and played pretty well in both. The Garnet Gulls beat Manchester and lost an overtime game against Manasquan after jumping out to a 1-0 lead.

28. St. Rose (8-8, 8-3)

Division Wins: Henry Hudson (2), Keyport (2), Mater Dei (2), at Point Beach, Ranney
Division Losses: Asbury Park (2), Point Beach
Division Ties: None
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: At Wall, Rumson-Fair Haven, Jackson Memorial, Point Boro, at Brick Memorial
Non-Division Ties: None
Why They're Here: St. Rose is 0-5 outside of B South and has just the one win over Point Beach as a noteworthy win. Point Beach's collection of wins is not much different and St. Rose did play a better non-division schedule, so there is a case to be made that the Purple Roses should be a spot higher.

 

Still Alive

Toms River East (5-6-1, 5-6-1)

Division Wins: Central (2), Brick, Brick Memorial, Toms River North
Division Losses: Jackson Memorial (2), Toms River South (2), at Southern, at Toms River North
Division Ties: At Brick Memorial
Non-Division Wins: None
Non-Division Losses: None
Non-Division Ties: None
Before the Cutoff: Vs. Southern
Chances to Qualify: Decent. The Raiders will host a solid Southern squad with a chance to qualify with a win. Toms River East was overmatched in the first meeting with the Rams, 4-0, but with the game being played on the Raiders' turf and so much on the line, this game should be a lot closer.

 

Eliminated

Manalapan (4-6-3, 4-5-3)

Neptune (4-7, 3-7)

 

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