Boys Soccer – Arena Returns, Holmdel Survives vs. No. 10 Manasquan
HOLMDEL - Anthony Arena 's teammates did not necessarily expect to see their teammate back as early as Wednesday after the senior forward suffered a hamstring injury on Sept. 15, but his presence in the starting lineup sent the message that the Shore Conference Class A Central showdown vs. Manasquan was especially important.
Arena admittedly was not 100 percent for his Wednesday return, but he was good enough to score a goal and help spark the Hornets - No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - to a gritty, hard-fought, 2-1 win over a No. 10 Manasquan team that pushed the Hornets as much as any team has in the last two seasons.
"I felt alright - I'll probably have to take off the next game," Arena said. "This was an important game for us, so it was my goal to get back for this one and help my team any way I could."
Arena returned from a four-game absence due to a left hamstring injury and scored in the 15th minute to stake Holmdel (8-0, 4-0) to a 1-0 lead. Senior Joe Arena played the ball over the back line and his cousin ran it down before drilling a shot to the far side netting from the right corner of the six-yard box.
"I got behind (Manasquan's Chris Pierro) but then I saw (Sam DelGuercio) keeping me on so I kept making the run," Arena said. "Joe is great at playing those kind of balls over the top and he played that one perfectly."
Senior Mark McStay scored the winning goal in the 74th minute when he followed up a free kick by classmate Joe Arena that Manasquan junior goalkeeper Joe Weinstein saved initially.
McStay drew a foul 25-yards away from the goal to set up his game-winner. Joe Arena then drilled the direct kick on frame and McStay was on the spot when Weinstein stopped it in front of the goal.
"I got whacked in the thigh so I had to get up first," McStay said. "I knew Joe would hit a great first one and the keeper made a great save. I knew another shot was going and I knew it was going in as soon as it came off."
The McStay goal was Holmdel's lifeline in a game that posed a serious threat to its perfect start to the 2018 season. Manasquan (5-3, 3-1) pulled even in the 37th minute on a goal by junior Drew Greenblatt. Junior Frank Manno tracked down a punt by Weinstein and slid it to Greenblatt, who finished inside the near right post.
From there, Manasquan threatened several times in the second half, including a shot on goal by senior Matt Drake in which Holmdel keeper Jack Murray made a diving save to his left.
Sophomore Tommy Johnson had two quality chances in the 49th minute - one that he popped over the crossbar with Murray off his line and another one-timed strike that Murray deflected over the bar.
"We know every team is coming at us with their best effort, whether it's in-division, out-of-conference or whatever," McStay said. "We're No. 2 in the state right now so teams are trying to beat us to make a name for themselves."
Manasquan pushed the Hornets to their limit Wednesday, but Holmdel still owned a 15-10 shot advantage and won despite Arena and fellow senior starter Jack Russo playing below 100 percent while returning to the lineup after multiple-game absences.
"It's encouraging knowing that if someone gets hurt, there are guys to step up," McStay said. "I takes a lot of pressure off."