As the 2018 boys soccer season moves into October, the top 40 percent of the top 10 remains very stable while the rest of it continues to be extremely volatile. Holmdel, CBA, Jackson Memorial and Ocean have been the top four teams all year and the only change among the group was that Jackson Memorial and Ocean flipped Nos. 3 and 4 after Ocean lost to Manasquan.

The Nos. 5 through 10 spots are a different story. For the third straight week, No. 6 is a team that is making its first top 10 appearance of the season, which might be the kiss of death. No. 7 is also a team that was not ranked last week, but has been ranked more than once this season.

Other than that, the top 10 has a little more stability than in past weeks, but don’t expect that to become a trend. There are more than a few teams on the cusp of breaking in and the next 10 days will give those teams plenty of opportunities to get there prior to the Shore Conference Tournament, which will be seeded on Oct. 10.

1. Holmdel (9-0, 4-0) Last Week: 1

Anthony Arena is still not 100 percent, but he made an appearance in a 2-1 win over Manasquan this week and even picked up a goal. Holmdel has not been clicking quite as smoothly as it did during its first four games of the season, but the Hornets continue to get the job done. It’s looking like the Oct. 6 game vs. CBA in Holmdel will indeed be for the No. 1 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament.

2. Christian Brothers Academy (9-1, 4-0) Last Week: 2

CBA began a huge two-week stretch with a 3-2 win over Ocean on the road on Friday, which inches the Colts closer to a top-two seed in the Shore Conference Tournament. They still have some work to do, however, with A North matches against Howell, Manalapan and Freehold Township still to come and a huge trip to Holmdel scheduled for Saturday night.

3. Jackson Memorial (8-0, 4-0) Last Week: 3

Although CBA’s win over Ocean and Holmdel’s win over Pinelands created some distance between the top two teams and Jackson Memorial, the Jaguars still have an avenue to the No. 1 ranking and seed in the Shore Conference Tournament. If Jackson can run the table – which would include wins over Freehold Township and Freehold Boro – CBA beats Holmdel and Freehold Township beats CBA, the Jaguars would have a pretty ironclad case.

4. Ocean (8-2, 4-0) Last Week: 4

Friday’s loss to CBA means Ocean is unlikely to inch into the top three prior to the Shore Conference Tournament but there is still some potential movement in Ocean’s future. The Spartans play three teams with a losing record before travelling to play Wall in what will likely be the game that decides the Class B North division title and, potentially, the No. 4 seed in the SCT.

5. Freehold Township (6-1-1, 3-1-0) Last Week: 9

As the second-place team in Class A North, Freehold Township looks like the No. 5 team at the moment, but there is a long way to go for the Patriots to nab a top-five spot come tournament time. They still have to play Long Branch, Middletown South and CBA in division and Jackson Memorial outside the division – a slate with landmines all over the place. If, however, Freehold Township can win three out of the four, that could make for a top-four resume.

6. Wall (9-1, 4-0) Last Week: Not ranked

Winners of nine straight, Wall is the latest team to debut in the top 10 at No. 6, joining Neptune and Long Branch as teams with that distinction. Up until this past week, Wall had not defeated a team with a winning record, but the Crimson Knights changed that by taking out Manasquan and Neptune. If Wall can avoid stumbling against St. John Vianney and Colts Neck, the Knights will have a chance to win the division by beating Ocean on the road.

7. Howell (6-2, 2-2) Last Week: Not ranked

The Rebels are back in the top 10 after beating Long Branch this past week, which followed a one-sided win over St. Rose to open the week. Howell fell out of the top 10 after losing to Marlboro and although that loss might still end up stinging as the Rebels pursue a Class A North public title, it is part of the overall environment within the hyper-competitive division. At 6-2 overall, with wins over Freehold Boro, Long Branch and Toms River East, Howell still has a strong top 10 case.

8. Long Branch (5-4-1, 1-2-1) Last Week: 6

As a reward for making its first appearance in the top 10 last week, Long Branch had to face Ocean to open up this past week and lost a valiant 1-0 battle. The Green Wave later lost to Howell on a late goal, 2-1, making it four losses by one goal apiece. Long Branch jumped back over .500 by beating Matawan on Saturday and will make its push for the postseason against Freehold Township, Marlboro and Freehold Boro in divisional play.

9. Southern (4-3-1, 2-1-1) Last Week: 7

The Rams ended a three-game losing streak by earning a draw at Toms River North to close out the week. An early win over Manalapan is keeping Southern in at the moment, but there is still plenty of sorting-out to be done in the final few spots of the top 10 and the Rams will have to handle Howell and Jackson Memorial this week as they try to stay on the right side of .500.

10. Manalapan (3-3-2, 2-1-1) Last Week: 8

A win over Freehold Township is enough to keep Manalapan in the top 10 and while Manasquan’s win over Ocean is an even better win, the Braves also have ties vs. Long Branch and Bridgewater. Getting to next week with a .500 record means the Braves will have to beat either Freehold Boro or CBA and if they can do it, it means they will likely find themselves holding onto a top-10 spot for another week.

 

Dropped Out

Neptune (5-3-1, 2-2-0) Last Week: 5 – The Fliers fall out after back-to-back losses to Wall and Point Boro.

Manasquan (5-4, 3-1) Last Week: 10 – After starting 5-1, Manasquan has lost three straight games by a one-goal margin to Wall, Holmdel and Middletown South.

 

Top 10 Watch List

Freehold Boro (5-4, 1-3) – The Colonials’ losses are to No. 2 CBA in overtime, No. 4 Ocean, No. 5 Freehold Township and No. 7 Howell. They also have a win over No. 6 Wall and will be in prime position to make a jump into the top 10 with a win over Manalapan on Tuesday.

Middletown South (5-5, 1-3) – The Eagles have won four straight since a 1-5 start, which included losses to No. 1 Holmdel, No. 2 CBA and No. 4 Ocean.

Toms River East (4-3, 1-2) – The Raiders have won three in a row are looking at a statement week coming up, with road games at Jackson Memorial and Toms River North.

Pinelands (6-3, 5-0) – Although its six-game winning streak came to an end Saturday at Holmdel, Pinelands showed it can hang with the Hornets and is worthy of top-10 consideration.

Toms River North (5-1-3, 4-0-1) – If the Mariners can pay back Toms River East for handing them their only loss of the season, Toms River North will have a very strong top 10 case at this time next week.

Lacey (7-1, 4-1) – With Holmdel, Jackson Memorial and Wall riding more notable winning streaks, Lacey’s current run of seven straight victories flies under the radar but is worthy of praise.

Lakewood (7-1-1, 4-1-0) – The Piners dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten this week by losing to Lacey and will have to get back on their feet to take on Pinelands on Wednesday with senior captain Junior Bravo out while serving a red-card suspension.

 

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