Boys Soccer – Holmdel Overcomes Injuries, Unbeaten Raritan to Run Streak to 64
HAZLET - When the 2020 season started, the Holmdel boys soccer team had to figure out how to overcome the loss of three top scorers and championship-winning players as part of a wave of graduating starters, as well as the last-minute resignation of their head coach.
All the Hornets did was start the season on a six-game winning streak.
Now that Holmdel - the No. 7 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - has adjusted to its new lineup and new head coach Matt Isaacson, the Hornets have run into a rash of injuries that added to Monday's challenge of facing unbeaten and No. 9 Raritan on the road.
Just as they overcame losses early in the season, Holmdel showed it was resilient enough to overcome the in-season losses by dealing the Rockets their first loss of the season Monday, 2-0. The win extends Holmdel's official unbeaten streak - which began in October of 2017 - to 64 straight matches.
PHOTO GALLERY: Holmdel at Raritan by Paula Lopez
"The thing I kept hearing about Holmdel when I came here was these guys play up to the competition," Isaacson said. "When there is a big game, we show up and that has been true this year.
"I told the guys this was the most important week of the season and they really responded. We had to work through some things last week (vs. Red Bank Catholic) with all the injuries and that was crucial to get us ready for this week."
Senior Matt Kline staked Holmdel to a 1-0 lead by taking a throw-in from classmate Dan Vesely, carrying it forward and scoring in the ninth minute for what turned out to be a deciding goal. Kline started at forward on Monday after opening the season as the left outside fullback because Holmdel was without forward Ben Milstein and junior midfielder Brendan Worobel due to injury.
"It felt like a smooth transition," Kline said of his move up to the top of the formation. "I like playing up top. I like getting forward and working with the guys we have up there so I felt like it could be good for me and our team if I played up there."
Holmdel's other striker, senior Tomas Zolofra, created the second goal in the 63rd minute, when he drew a trip inside the 18-yard box and converted the ensuing penalty kick to stretch the lead to 2-0.
The other starter missing from Holmdel's starting lineup was standout junior goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych, who suffered a season-ending knee injury. In addition, backup goalkeeper Arrendondo was also unavailable due to an eye injury, giving fellow sophomore Ilan Golden a chance to make his first varsity start.
Golden saved three shots to earn the shutout, with the Holmdel defense protecting him for most of the game and Golden making a key save on a shot by Raritan senior Chris Fontanazza in the 72nd to preserve the clean sheet.
Holmdel continued its trend of scoring early, which it has done in each of its nine wins this season. Raritan, however, responded by taking over an advantage in possession for the final 15 minutes of the first half and held a 5-4 edge in shots heading into the intermission.
The Hornets responded by dominating second-half possession and taking the first six shots of the half. Raritan's first shot attempt of the second half did not come until a Fontanazza free kick in the 68th minute.
"We knew Raritan is a second-half team," Kline said. "They are a very tough opponent and we knew we had to be at our best coming out in the second half."
Monday's win puts Holmdel in position to finish in first place in the Shore Conference Class A Central field with either a win or draw in Wednesday's rematch between the division's top two teams on Wednesday. Regardless of the outcome, both teams still have to finish their divisional schedules next week, but Holmdel has the more favorable matchup in the regular-season's final week. The Hornets are scheduled for two games vs. sixth-place Shore Regional (2-8) while Raritan will have to get past third-place Rumson-Fair Haven (5-4-1 overall, 5-2-1 in the division).
"We don't ever look too far ahead," Kline said. "We are a team that takes things one game at a time, so the next game is going to be our only focus. We want to finish strong, we want to keep winning and it starts on Wednesday."