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We are entering our sixth day of regular season games today, and now that I’ve been able to see a couple games in person and analyze the results of the first five days it’s time for the first Shore Sports Network Lacrosse Top 10 of 2015.

The dozens of games already played certainly helped sort out some of the spots, but this was far from an easy selection process for the first rankings. The top three were the quickest on the board based on both returning production and reputation, but even No. 1 had me going back and forth. In the end I settled on Southern, because it’s just too hard to ignore what the Rams bring back despite the fact that Rumson has owned the Shore Conference over the last four seasons. The Bulldogs are 0-2, albeit against top competition, but they have their work cut out against a brutal schedule after graduating an accomplished senior class.

CBA comes in at No. 3 because, seriously, when has CBA not been a top-five team in the Shore? The Colts opened the season with a solid 5-4 win over Princeton on the road. Starting at No. 4 is where it gets dicey.

I really liked what I saw from St. John Vianney in its 7-6 double overtime win over Freehold Township, rallying back in the fourth quarter before winning in the second extra session. Obviously the Patriots were right there with the Lancers, and rebounded with a win over Robbinsville. Howell also has a victory over Robbinsville and a one-goal road win over Randolph to start its season, and is a veteran squad looking to make a championship run.

Manasquan is a very young team with eight sophomores in the starting lineup, but has shown an ability to learn quickly under first-year head coach Sean Cunningham. The Warriors bounced back from a season-opening loss to Monroe to beat Red Bank Catholic and Colts Neck. The Cougars come in at No. 8 after suffering a 5-4 loss to Manasquan, while Red Bank and Barnegat round out the initial top 10.

As you’ll see below, there are several teams in the 11-20 range that could make the jump into the top 10 with a big win. Southern looks like the class of the conference right now, but the Rams have a monster game with Rumson coming up on Saturday, so we’ll find out who is No. 1 pretty quickly. After that it looks like a year with a lot of parity, which should make for a very interesting season.

 

 

 

1. Southern (2-0, 0-0 A South)

The Rams began their season with a 14-2 victory over Oakcrest before topping Egg Harbor Township 10-3. Senior attackman Dylan Jinks scored his 200th career goal in the win over Oakcrest to continue his assault on the Shore Conference record book. Southern beefed up its schedule this season as it chases conference and state titles, and one of those games lurks this Saturday when the Rams travel to Borden Stadium to meet four-time defending SCT champions Rumson-Fair Haven. It’s a huge game to say the least and should be a great atmosphere. A home game with Holmdel is on tap for Thursday and they open their A South schedule against Toms River East next Monday.

 

2. Rumson-Fair Haven (0-2, 0-0 B North)

Yes, it’s a little shocking to see the Bulldogs at 0-2, but keep in mind both losses came against quality teams in Caldwell and Summit, the latter of which is ranked No. 2 in the state and a perennial juggernaut. The 7-6 overtime loss to Caldwell stings because Rumson was up by three goals very late in the game, so that’s certainly one they’d like to have back. Rumson graduated 18 seniors and has just a few players who saw varsity action back, so it’s going to take time for them to gel. The schedule doesn’t do them any favors, however. They travel to face Bridgewater-Raritan today before Saturday’s showdown at home with Southern. There’s a very real possibility the Bulldogs could be 0-4 by this time next week. Would that mean it’s time to panic? No, but they also don’t have forever to get things turned around if that’s the case.

 

3. Christian Brothers Academy (1-0, 0-0 A North)

The Colts are in a similar situation to Rumson in that they graduated a big senior class that included their top two scorers, but this is a program, led by Dave Santos, that is perennially a top team in the Shore. They opened the season with a nice 5-4 road victory over a Princeton team that features standout defenseman Jackson Andres. CBA opens its A North schedule at Middletown South this afternoon and hosts St. Peter’s Prep on Monday.

 

4. St John Vianney (2-0, 0-0 B North)

The Lancers started their season with a bang when Tom Hanson scored 51 seconds into double overtime for a 7-6 win over Freehold Township on opening day. They followed that up with a 9-5 road victory over East Brunswick to move to 2-0. This is a balanced squad with several scoring options, a solid defense and an experienced goalie, so they can certainly be a factor in the B North race. They’ve got some tests coming up in Somerville and Old Bridge, however. Somerville is usually a standout squad even though the Pioneers are 0-2, and Old Bridge just beat Red Bank 12-2. Both games are at home, though, which is a plus.

 

5. Freehold Township (1-1, 0-0 A North)

After falling to St. John Vianney in overtime, the Patriots rebounded with an 11-6 win over Robbinsville to even their record. Senior middie Billy Sasso has been great so far with six goals and four assists in two games while continuing to excel on draws. The Patriots open their A North schedule at home against Middletown North today, then travel to face Manasquan on Thursday. They also have a road game against Jackson Memorial on Monday.

 

6. Howell (2-0, 0-0 A North)

The Rebels have a pair of hard-fought victories under their belts in the opening week after outlasting Robbinsville 11-9 on opening day and edging Randolph 8-7 this past Saturday. Senior attackman Marc Buannic has six goals and eight assists in two games and senior Jake Sherman has seven goals. The Rebels host Jackson Liberty today and face Ranney on Friday in search of a 4-0 start before opening their A North schedule against rival Colts Neck next Tuesday.

 

7. Manasquan (2-1, 0-0 B South)

After a 13-6 loss to Monroe in their season opener, the Warriors bounced back with a pair of solid nondivisional wins over Red Bank Catholic and Colts Neck to start the season 2-1. In both games the Warriors rallied in the fourth quarter to win, a great sign for a young team under first-year head coach Sean Cunningham, the former star defenseman at CBA. A big stretch is on the horizon for Manasquan in the next 10 days with a home game against Freehold Township on Wednesday before games against Red Bank and CBA next week.

 

8. Colts Neck (0-1, 0-0 A North)

The Cougars fell to Manasquan 5-4 in their season opener, getting a pair of goals from Tice Smit and a sensational 21-save performance by sophomore goalie Andrew Halmi. The Cougars don’t play again until a home game versus Howell next Tuesday, which will start a seven-game stretch that looks to be their toughest of the season.

 

9. Red Bank (1-1, 0-0 B North)

It was night and day for the Bucs in their first two games of the season, erupting for 22 goals in a 22-12 win over Donovan Catholic on opening day before being shut down by Old Bridge in a 12-2 defeat. The Bucs should be able to score on most teams with a balanced offense that will be buoyed by the debut of CBA transfer Ryan Gilmartin on April 15, but an inexperienced defense that has yielded 24 goals in two games will need to improve. Junior goalie John Pierce  is strong between the pipes, though, so there’s certainly a solid base to work from in the back end. Red Bank travels to Wall on Wednesday, hosts Jackson Memorial on Thursday and travels to Rockland County, New York, to face Tappan Zee on Saturday.

 

10. Barnegat (1-0, 0-0 B South)

The Bengals were the surprise team of 2014 with a 13-3 record and return the nucleus of their offense led by senior Ricky Gerena and junior J.J. McKenna. They opened their season on Monday with a 17-11 victory over Shore in a nondivisional game, showing the offensive punch that should characterize them this season. The Bengals graduated standout goalie Matt Grobelny and top defenseman Greg Moran, so the question will be whether the defense can match the offense and give them a complete team. If the Bengals can build off last season’s success they’ll find themselves climbing up the rankings. If not, there are plenty of teams behind them waiting for them to slip up and take their spot in the top 10. A big game with Lacey looms on Wednesday.

 

Teams to watch

Holmdel (1-1): The Hornets beat Edison 15-0 before falling to Toms River North 4-2. Standout senior goalie Justin Ruiz leads a solid defense.

Lacey (1-0): The Lions beat Middletown South 16-6 in their season opener and have a big game against No. 10 Barnegat at home on Wednesday.

Ocean (0-0): The Spartans return standout long-stick midfielder Steven Graziano along with top scorers Erik Rant and Joey Appio as they look to build off their success late last season.

Red Bank Catholic (0-1): The Caseys fell to No. 7 Manasquan in their season opener, but with standout defenseman Matt Pieringer, Division I attackman Tim Barile, Division I midfielder Brett Habich and goalie Matt Benjamin in the fold they are more than capable of getting into the rankings.

Toms River North (1-0): The Mariners opened their season with a 4-2 victory over perennial top-10 squad Holmdel and could be a factor behind Southern in Class A South.

Wall (0-0): The Crimson Knights open their season on Wednesday at home against No. 9 Red Bank.