The 2016 boys soccer season ended with the Shore Conference capturing three NJSIAA sectional championship and with the No. 1 team in the conference winning an overall NJSIAA title in one of the state’s toughest groups. The conference turned in a solid season across the board for the second straight year, but 2016 will go down for an especially strong one for Class A North. The division had three Shore Conference Tournament semifinalists for the first time since 2008, which was also the last year the championship game featured two teams from the same division.

The final top 10 reflects A North’s dominance during the 2016 season, beginning with the obvious No. 1 and No. 2 teams.

As for teams on the bubble, there are about eight-to-10 that all have a case to be ahead of the other in the pecking order. To avoid turning the top 10 into the top 20, there is a link to the final standings in lieu of a bubble watch. If a team finished above .500 (and, in some cases, finished close to .500), that team probably had a case to be next in line for the top 10.

CBA celebrates its NJSIAA Non-Public A championship. (Photo by Matt Manley)

1. Christian Brothers Academy (24-1, 13-1) Last Week: 1

The Colts weren’t that far off from a perfect 25-0 season, but it’s fair to say they wouldn’t trade this season in given the chance. The 2016 CBA club won more games and scored more goals (86) in a single season than any other team in program history and capped its campaign with the program’s sixth NJSIAA Non-Public A championship by beating Seton Hall Prep, 1-0. CBA graduates 10 of its 11 starters, so first-year coach Tom Mulligan will face the challenge of reloading in his second year at the helm.

2. Marlboro (20-2-2, 12-1-1) Last Week: 2

The only two losses the Mustangs suffered this season were both to CBA and Marlboro was also the only team to beat the Non-Public A champs this season. Marlboro’s only ties came against Freehold Township when goalkeeper James Weinberg was out due to concussion protocol and against overall Group IV champion Hunterdon Central in the Central Jersey Group IV final – a penalty-kick loss for the Mustangs that ended their winningest season ever. Like CBA, Marlboro will lose most of its starting lineup to graduation, with just two starters set to return.

3. Freehold Township (12-7-1, 8-5-1) Last Week: 3

All but one of Freehold Township’s losses this season came against teams from Class A North and the other was a Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinal loss to Group IV champion Hunterdon Central. The Patriots also earned a draw against Marlboro, beat Wall in a regular season game and reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the third time in nine years. Although the Patriots will lose senior Adrian Barajas, they return most of the roster after working in under first-year coach Josh Mehl.

4. Toms River South (17-3-2, 12-1-1) Last Week: 7

The Class A South champs climbed back into the top five with a run to the Group III championship game for the second straight year. That run began with a draw against Long Branch that the Indians survived in penalty kicks, but they then reeled off four straight wins before running into a Ramapo buzz saw. The Indians lose six seniors to graduation, but the lower levels should keep the program relevant in the short term.

5. Toms River North (14-6, 11-3) Last Week: 4

The postseason catapulted Toms River North into the top five to finish the year, highlighted by a run to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. The Mariners stayed in the Class A South race until the final weekend of the regular season and won one NJSIAA Tournament game by beating Southern in the South Jersey Group IV first round. Leading scorer Mitch Reed will leave a void next year, but the Mariners were a sophomore-heavy team that has a chance to improve in 2017.

6. Matawan (13-4-3, 7-2-3) Last Week: 6

The Huskies had one of the best seasons in the recent history of the program and were an entrenched top 10 team for most of 2016. Matawan shared the Class A Central championship with Raritan, reached the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals for the first time in program history and was eliminated in the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group II tournament by a Bernards team that beat Delran and Newton to win the Group II championship. The Huskies had a senior-heavy roster and will have to begin a rebuilding phase in 2017.

7. Middletown North (14-5-2, 11-3-0) Last Week: 5

With a roster deep in senior talent, the Lions won a share of the Class B North division championship for the program’s first division title since 2004. Middletown North also reached the SCT quarterfinals for the second straight year and advance to an NJSIAA sectional final for the first time since 1999. Middletown North’s season ended against Hopewell Valley for the second straight season, with the Bulldogs defeating the Lions, 2-1, in the North Jersey Section 2 Group III championship. Although Middletown North will miss a talented senior class, juniors Liam McGregor and Ryan Binn are set to return as seniors.

8. Point Pleasant Boro (18-4, 13-1) Last Week: 8

The Panthers swallowed another tough, season-ending pill in the form of a 1-0 loss to Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group II semifinals. Despite the bitter ending, Point Boro finished the season as the outright Class B South champion for the third straight year and has positioned itself to be a Class B South favorite year after year with the way the Panthers have been able to overcome graduation losses in recent seasons.

9. Colts Neck (9-9, 7-7) Last Week: 9

The Cougars benefit from Class A North proving, once again, to be the Shore’s superior division. Colts Neck beat Freehold Township once and Manalapan twice during the season, while suffering six of its nine losses against CBA and Marlboro. In light of Manalapan’s strong NJSIAA Tournament showing, the Cougars settled into the final Top 10.

10. Manalapan (11-9-2, 6-8-0) Last Week: 10

Despite missing out on the Shore Conference Tournament, the Braves finish the season in the top 10 thanks to a solid finish to the season – particularly in the NJSIAA Tournament. Manalapan beat No. 2 seed and one-loss Princeton in penalty kicks and knocked off Old Bridge in the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs before dropping a 1-0 overtime game against Marlboro in the sectional semifinals. The Braves also beat Freehold Township in the final week before the Shore Conference Tournament.

Final 2016 standings

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