HOLMDEL - On sheer volume, the Manasquan boys soccer team brought back more starters and a higher percentage of its offensive production than Holmdel did and the difference between the two teams on the field in 2018 was a mere goal.

On Wednesday, Holmdel's three returning starters - Jack Giamanco, Mark Walier and Eric Hinds - showed their championship pedigree against a team trying to dethrone them.

Giamanco recorded his second hat trick of the season and Hinds and Walier each added a goal and an assist to lead Holmdel - No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - to a convincing 5-2 win over the Warriors.

Holmdel senior Jack Giamanco. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Holmdel senior Jack Giamanco. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We have guys who have been in this spot before," Giamanco said. "Me, Wally and Eric - we have been in the tournaments before, we were undefeated last year. We know what it's like to have the target on our backs and to have to be at our best every day. It's no different this year, it's just a matter of the younger guys stepping up and they have been doing that all year."

The win is Holmdel's 10th in a row to open the season and clinches the Hornets at least a share of the Shore Conference Class A Central championship. It also extends the program's unbeaten streak to 46 games, dating back to October of 2017.

"For the players who haven't done this before, I do feel like they have to be reminded that we have to take this day-by-day and not start thinking about tournaments and championships and being undefeated," Holmdel coach Ron Poll said. "For the guys that have been here, there is not much I have to say.

"I thought we got into some bad habits last week so I worked them hard in practice and those guys - Mark Walier, Omar (Abbuattieh), Jack and Eric - they got the team together and made sure they knew that last week wasn't good enough and it has to be better."

Giamanco headed in a flick by junior Tomas Zolofra off the bounce in the 13th minute to open the scoring and Holmdel settled for a 1-0 lead on Manasquan at halftime after controlling play throughout the first 40 minutes.

"We're a possession team so I think sometimes our physicality is overlooked," Poll said. "We're not a big team but if you push us, we'll push back. Our guys don't back down and they know if you want to possess the ball and ultimately score goals, you have to win the ball."

The Hornets stormed out of the gate in the second half, with Giamanco again involved in the attack. The senior striker got loose inside the 18-yard box, drew a defender and slipped a pass over to Hinds, who flipped a shot into the left side of the goal with the outside of his left foot 32 seconds into the half.

Manasquan answered 56 seconds later when senior Drew Greenblatt headed in corner kick by junior Simon Cardenas, but Holmdel came right back within two minutes.  this time, it was Walier who shielded a defender to receive senior Jason Ng's throw, turned and fired a shot to the upper right corner of the netting.

Giamanco scored his second goal by running onto a through ball from Hinds to the far right post and knocking it in in the 55th. He capped the hat trick and the scoring in the 73rd with a counter-attack goal off an assist from Walier.

"Manasquan is a really good team so we definitely got up to play them," Giamanco said. "We knew they were dangerous so we never really felt like we could let up."

Junior Tommy Johnson scored Manasquan's other goal, which came on a direct kick that cut Holmdel's lead to 4-2 in the 70th.

Manasquan played Holmdel as tough as any team last season, ultimately losing to the Hornets, 2-1, in Holmdel. This year's showdown did not go so well for the Warriors, which are now 3-5 and have just three scheduled games remaining before the Shore Conference Tournament cutoff date on Oct. 4.

Teams must have a .500 winning percentage by that date, meaning Manasquan - which reached the SCT quarterfinals and the South Jersey Group II final last year with a junior-and-sophomore-heavy team - will have to go no worse than 2-0-1 against a slate that includes Middletown South (5-3-2) on Friday and divisional opponents Monmouth (8-1) and Raritan (5-3) next week.

"I can't imagine we have heard the last of them," Poll said of Manasquan. "They have too much talent and are too well-coached not to make a run. They have lost some close games that could have gone the other way and when you look at a team like that, they are just one goal away from taking off."

Holmdel, meanwhile, is the front-runner to earn the No. 1 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament. The Hornets play on the road against Pinelands on Saturday and will not play again before the SCT cutoff date. They can win the A Central title outright by beating one-win Red Bank Catholic on Oct. 11 or if Monmouth, Raritan and Rumson-Fair Haven all suffer a divisional loss before then.

"We look are looking at it like we have four stages of the season," Poll said. "Pinelands is our last game of the first stage, then we'll get a week to get some much-needed rest and to refocus. Then Middletown North and RBC are our next stage. Then it's the Shore Conference Tournament and then states. We are focused on Pinelands next then we'll move on to the next challenge."

"We are definitely playing with chip on our shoulder," Giamanco said. "We weren't picked to win our division and we weren't really in the picture at the top of the conference and the state in the preseason so we know we can't take anything for granted. We just want to keep proving we belong."

Box Score

Holmdel 5, Manasquan 2

Holmdel (10-0, 5-0)145
Manasquan (3-5, 2-2)022

Goals (Assists): (H) Jack Giamanco (Tomas Zolofra) 13', Eric Hinds (Jack Giamanco) 41', Mark Walier (Jason Ng) 44', Jack Giamanco (Eric Hinds) 55', Jack Giamanco (Mark Walier) 73'; (M) Drew Greenblatt (Simon Cardenas) 42', Tommy Johnson (DK) 70'
Shots: Holmdel, 11-5
Saves: (H) Tommy Chyzowych 2; (M) Joe Weinstein 1


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