Boys Soccer – Familiar Foes, Holmdel and Wall, Set for Championship Showdown
For the third time this season, Wall will get a chance to figure out Holmdel – something the Crimson Knights have not been able to do to this point. In both a Class A Central division match and a Shore Conference Tournament round of 16 game, Holmdel shutout Wall, although the Crimson Knights will likely carry some confidence into Saturday based on them holding Holmdel to three goals in two games, including one in the SCT matchup.
When it comes to conceding goals, neither of the Central Group II finalists have given opponents much of a chance. Holmdel has outscored the opposition, 9-0, through three rounds, while Wall owns a 5-1 goal-differential during the state tournament, with the lone concession coming against South River in Wednesday’s sectional semifinals. Anything more than three total goals in this game would be stunning and even three is pushing it with these two teams on the field.
Wall got off to a slow start this season, but came on strong as the calendar flipped to October. It took a 1-0 loss to Holmdel to eliminate the Crimson Knights from the Shore Conference Tournament and Wall has been even better in the state tournament. A significant amount of scoring graduated over the past two years, but over the course of the 2022 slate, the Crimson Knights have gotten good stretches from Nick and James Damiano, Jake Petillo and Bo Pepe. James Damiano and Pepe have been the late-game heroes for Wall, with Damiano taking over during the state tournament and Pepe scoring his second golden goal of the season Wednesday at South River.
Holmdel also had a lot of scoring to replace and did so by welcoming in sophomore Stephan Kapranov, who did not play high school soccer as a freshman. Throw in the continued development of third-year junior starter David Weiner into, perhaps, the Shore’s top midfielder and Holmdel is back to operating with machine-like precision. An injury to talented sophomore outside back Jackson O’Connor has made the lineup a little less dynamic, but the defensive consistency has not fallen off and senior goalkeeper Ilan Golden gets better each game.
Both teams will be plenty motivated, beyond just the championship implications. Wall was eliminated by Holmdel in last year's Central Group II quarterfinal round, while Holmdel made it to overtime of the sectional final before losing to Rumson-Fair Haven on a golden goal. The Hornets already exorcised some of those demons by defeating Rumson in the quarterfinal round, but the job won't be complete without a win on Saturday.
Last year, it took penalty kicks and a dominant performance in goal by Tommy Chyzowych for Holmdel to eliminate Wall in the quarterfinals after a scoreless 100 minutes. Both teams are different this season, but Holmdel is a more balanced team than it was a year ago and while Wall is scrappy enough to hang around, mustering a goal while also holding Holmdel down will be very challenging.
NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Championship
No. 8 Wall at No. 2 Holmdel, Noon
Head Coach: Garry Linstra
Last Sectional Championship: 2019
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 9 Spotswood, 2-0; No. 1 Bordentown, 1-0; No. 5 South River, 2-1 in overtime.
Players to Watch
Nick Damiano, Jr., Midfield (9 goals, 4 assists)
James Damiano, Sr., Forward (5 goals, 4 assists)
Jake Petillo, Jr., Midfield (4 goals, 6 assists)
Bo Pepe, Jr., Midfield (4 goals, 4 assists)
Cooper Harmon, Jr., Midfield (1 goal)
Matt Armenti, Sr., Defense (1 goal, 1 assist)
Chris Miller, Sr., Defense (1 goal, 1 assist)
Head Coach: Matt Isaacson
Last Sectional Championship: 2018
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 15 Raritan, 5-0; No. 7 Rumson-Fair Haven, 2-0; No. 6 Manasquan, 2-0.
Players to Watch
Stephan Kapranov, So., Forward (18 goals, 5 assists)
David Weiner, Jr., Midfield (11 goals, 9 assists)
Max Woodward, Sr., Midfield (3 goals, 2 assists)
Colin Hynes, Sr., Forward (8 goals, 7 assists)
Frankie Brusco, Jr., Forward (5 goals, 7 assists)
Aidan Hynes, Sr., Defense (3 goals, 1 assist)
Ilan Golden, Sr., Goalkeeper (14 shutouts)
SSN Prediction: Holmdel, 2-0