Boys Soccer – Holmdel Marches On, Extends Streak to 55
HOLMDEL - After a tumultuous week, the Holmdel boys soccer team finally took the field to open their 2020 season and did exactly what they have done for the last seasons: win.
Less than a week after head coach Ron Poll suddenly resigned from his post, the Hornets officially opened their season with a 1-0 win over Monmouth Regional - No. 10 in the Shore Sports Network - to extend their three-year unbeaten streak to 55 matches.
Poll's 23-year-old assistant Matt Isaacson took over as the acting head coach and earned his first win as a head coach. Isaacson is a Matawan graduate and the son of Matawan head coach Tyler Isaacson.
"It's never easy to lose your head coach, especially right before the start of the season," Isaacson said. "These boys didn't let it get to the. Obviously, people weren't sure what was going to happen, who the next head coach was going to be, but regardless of that, they were ready. There is something different about these Holmdel guys. No matter what the personnel is, who the coach is, they are going to play hard."
Isaacson's first assistant coaching job was last year under Poll, with whom Isaacson said he is close.
"It sucks to lose a head coach," Isaacson said. "This shows a lot of character out of every single one of these guys."
On top of playing for a new coach, this year's Holmdel side is working to replace three players - Mark Walier, Jack Giamanco and Eric Hinds - that combined for 41 goals and 18 assists and were the only three players who played significant minutes on the 2018 NJSIAA Group II championship team.
"We might not have the individual talent that we have had recently, but these guys have been playing together their whole lives," Isaacson said. "It's not going to be as easy as it has been in the past but we can absolutely do what we have done."
With a new coach and starters in new roles, Holmdel found the best remedy: a fast start. Senior Connor Hinds drew a takedown just inside the 18-yard box and senior Felix Doebbel trotted up from his center fullback spot and knocked in the ensuing penalty kick for a 1-0 Holmdel lead 2:46 into the match.
"A lot of huge players left us and a lot of people are underestimating us, so we want to show what we are," Doebbel said. "It was a great feeling to score the first goal but it's one of many more for us, so we're going to keep going."
The goal was a career first for Doebbel, whose family moved to Holmdel from Germany three years ago when his father accepted a job nearby. Doebbel's stateside soccer experience has been unique compared to his home country - where there are no school-affiliated athletics - and it has been enhanced by landing in a program that has lost one game since his freshman year.
"It's been a great experience," Doebbel said. "You can show what you can do for your school and for your friends. I didn't know Holmdel was this good when I came (to the U.S.), but I think my parents did. That's probably why we chose to move to Holmdel."
Doebbel's penalty kick turned out to be the difference in the game because he and his defensive unit - led by seniors Brendan Rebele, Matt Kline and Doebbel - turned in a pristine defensive game in front of junior goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych.
"Our job is to keep the clean sheet today," Doebbel said. "It was the most important job because it was just a one-goal difference."
After Holmdel's dominant 20 minutes to open the game, Monmouth settled in and broke up the Hornets' possession while creating its first wave of shots. While Monmouth evened out the possession over the course of the game, the Falcons did not do much to test the 6-foot-5 Chyzowych.
Holmdel's unbeaten streak extends back to October of 2017, when the Hornets dropped a 1-0 decision at Pingry before finishing the season 12-0-1 with Shore Conference Tournament of overall Group II championships. They went 22-0-1 the following season and 16-0-2 in 2019 to push the streak to 54 games heading into 2020.
"We're proud of what the guys before us did for the program and we want to keep it going," Doebbel said. "We want to keep the high level and we have the high potential to do that."
Monmouth will host Holmdel Wednesday at 6 p.m. while attempting to snap Holmdel's unbeaten streak, as well as their three-game losing streak to open the season.