We’re off and running with the 2018 Shore Conference boys lacrosse season. There's been four days’ worth of games so far, but with the holiday weekend and some lingering winter weather wiping out Monday’s schedule, some teams haven’t even played their first game while most others have just one game under their belts.

Let’s dive into the initial set of rankings in the first Shore Sports Network Top 10 of the season. As usual, putting together the rankings was easy at the top and considerably more difficult going down the line. I am very confident in the top three. After that, it could go any which way. I definitely wouldn’t be surprised to see 15 different teams in the top 10 at some point during the season.

1. Manasquan (21-2 last season). Last year’s final ranking: No. 2

The defending Shore Conference Tournament champion Warriors are loaded and primed for another run at an SCT championship and a state title with players like junior attackman Canyon Birch (Army), junior midfielder James Pendergist (Rutgers), junior defenseman Jack Fabean (Richmond) and junior goalie Mike LaPoint (Siena). The Warriors also have two high-impact transfers with junior LSM Mike Page (Syracuse) and sophomore midfielder Matt Franzoni, who will each have to sit out the first 30 days of the season. Manasquan started strong in a season-opening 18-1 win over Lacey where Birch scored 10 goals, then followed it up with an 18-3 win over Red Bank. The Warriors take on No. 9 St. John Vianney today and Colts Neck on Wednesday.

 

2. CBA (10-8 last season): Last year’s final ranking: No. 3

The Colts won their ninth straight Class A North division title and reached the SCT semifinals last season and return good scoring depth and a large senior class. The attack line of seniors Michael Carroll and Robbie Hermansen along with junior Connor Macrae combined for 93 goals last season. Seniors Luke Valentino and Luke Grover lead the midfield with senior Nick Robertson back as the face-off specialist. Senior Ryan Tierney and junior Thomas Gray lead the defense in front of senior goalie Chris Downey. CBA opened their season in impressive fashion with a 16-4 win over St. John Vianney and followed it up with a 13-7 over CBA-Syracuse. The Colts will host Don Bosco Prep on Thursday as they try to improve to 3-0.

 

3. Rumson-Fair Haven (21-4 last season). Last year’s final ranking: No. 1

The defending South Jersey Group II sectional champion Bulldogs lost a ton to graduation - including their top eight scorers, two-thirds of their defense and their goalie – so it will take time for this talented but inexperienced group to come together. Midfielder Peter Lucas, defenseman Stephen Edler, attackman Wyatt Feinberg and FOGO Alex Maldjian lead the Bulldogs cast of returning starters. Their schedule is brutal with games against Chatham, Watchung Hills, Westfield, Seton Hall Prep, Southern, Moorestown, St. Peter’s Prep and St. Augustine. They took their lumps in a season-opening 15-3 loss to Chatham and then lost to Watchung Hills, 6-2. The road doesn’t get any easier with a game against Westfield on Wednesday and a game against Seton Hall Prep on Saturday. Sandwiched in between is a B North game against Long Branch. The Bulldogs could very well be 1-4 heading into next week, and their record probably won’t be very flashy all season. But with the kind of competition they are facing they will certainly be battle-tested come tournament time.

 

4. Southern (14-4 last season). Last year’s final ranking: No. 5

The Rams have taken some major hits to graduation over the last few seasons but have demonstrated what a good feeder system can do for staying power. Junior attackman Nick Fontana leads Southern’s returning starters after posting 92 points last season, while defensemen Luke Gerhardt and Noah Wasacz, midfielders Aniello Russo, Ryan McWhorter and Aniello Russo and attackman Cade Johnson are all back after starting or playing significant minutes. The Rams also have one of the best face-off specialists in the Shore in senior Anthony Firmani. Southern is 2-0 so far with wins over No. 8 Howell and No. 7 Holmdel. The Rams will face Toms River South and Brick Memorial this week.

 

5. Wall (12-3 last season.) Last year’s final ranking: No. 8

The Crimson Knights return several core starters, including Monmouth University recruit Mike McIntyre, as they look to make deep postseason runs in 2018. McIntyre netted 59 goals last season and leads a group which also includes attackmen Tim O’Hern and Jack Textor, midfielders Will Forte, Ryan Kellett and Connor Prindiville, LSM Shane Meyler and goalie Sean DeMott. Forte (33g, 10a, 42gb) was a first-team Class B South pick last season and Meyler was also an all-division pick after collecting 54 ground balls. O’Hern tallied 23 goals and 29 assists last season and Textor had 27 goals and 12 assists. Kellett picked up 72 ground balls and will take over on face-offs where the Knights coaching staff expects him to be among the best in the Shore. Wall opened the season with a 14-5 win over Colts Neck before dropping an 11-10 overtime game to Hightstown. They take on Red Bank Catholic and St. Rose this week.

 

6. Freehold Township (13-6 last season). Last year’s final ranking: No. 4

The Patriots took a good hit to graduation but bring back one of the top attackmen in the Shore as well as both their starting goalies. Senior Chris Novella leads the offense after a 43-goal, 30-assist season last year and will be joined up top by fellow senior Matt Graybush and promising sophomore Brendan Doel. Juniors Matt Kondrup and Nick Elimanco lead a midfield that will be breaking in several newcomers, while junior Evan Nastarowicz leads the defense in front of senior goalie Billy Patten and junior goalie Aidan Purcell, who will likely split time again. Freehold Township opened its season with an 8-3 win over Red Bank. The Patriots will host Allentown on Wednesday and travel to rival No. 8 Howell on Saturday.

 

7. Holmdel (10-9 last season). Last year’s final ranking: not ranked

Despite graduating two-time All-Shore face-off stud Jack Cook, all-division midfielder Billy DiMaio and starter Kevin Burmeister, the Hornets return a solid core and will also be bolstered by an impact transfer. Leading scorer Justin Arredondo is back to lead the attack line after tallying 55 points last year and senior Jake Preziose joins him up top after a 34-goal campaign as a junior. Holmdel also has a solid defense with seniors Sean Dolan and John Mackey leading the way in front of junior goalie Nick Tuccillo. Holmdel’s attack line will be fortified after RBC transfer Jack Kapcsos sits the required 30 days. Kapcsos had 32 goals and 17 assists last season. Holmdel has played two close games already, beating South Brunswick, 6-4, before falling to No. 4 Southern, 6-5 in overtime. This week they face Toms River North and Middletown North.

 

8. Howell (14-5 last season). Last year’s final ranking: No. 6

The Rebels are coming off a solid season but also one in which they lost their top three scorers to graduation. The name of the game for Howell this year will be defense with LSM Sean Mylod, goalie Nick Roberto and defenseman Braedon Baldwin leading the way. Junior Joey Sorrentino will look to lead the attack line while sophomores Vaughn Meehan and Logan Dennison will have expanded roles. Meehan looks to be a major weapon on face-offs and this year will stay on the field after draws. The Rebels fell to No. 4 Southern, 9-3, to open the season and will try to bounce back this week with games against Brick Memorial, Jackson Liberty and No. 6 Freehold Township.

 

9. St. John Vianney (11-10 last season). Last year’s final ranking: No. 7

After the program’s first run to the Shore Conference Tournament final four, the Lancers return several key pieces and will try to continue their success under longtime Shore Conference head coach Mike Dowd. The Lancers were hit hard by graduation with Ryan Gilfillan, Andrew Porretta, Chris Kelly, Tino D’Amore and Ed Sheridan, among others, exiting the program. They also lost midfielder Matt Franzoni to Manasquan via transfer. Back in the fold this year are sophomore midfielder Anthony Brett, sophomore defenseman Kyle Harris, senior defenseman Jim Guilbert, junior goalie C.J. Hanson, junior defenseman Mike Noble, senior midfielder Nick Peckyno and junior midfielder Andrew Gosse. Harris was a second-team Class B North selection last year while Brett had 31 points and 88 ground balls as a freshman. The Lancers lost big to No. 2 CBA, 16-4, on opening day and will face No. 1 Manasquan today. It’s a brutal start for sure, but the Lancers should be able to bounce back in the coming weeks.

 

10. Toms River East (9-9 last season). Last year’s final ranking: not ranked

It was a tough call for the final spot in the initial rankings. We go with the Raiders after a 9-7 win over Ocean to start the season. Toms River East is coming off a 9-9 season in which head coach Mike Alfieri was the Shore Conference Lacrosse Coaches Association Coach of the Year. The Raiders bring back three of their four top scorers in Matt Gannon (23g, 19a), Evan Otten (28g, 8a) and Salvatore Esposito (30g, 5a) plus all-division defenseman Anthony Marinelli. East returns to action on Friday against Jackson Memorial.

 

Teams to Watch

Middletown South (2-0)

Brick (2-0)

Ocean (1-1)

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

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