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NEPTUNE -- The 2023 season has not gone how the players on the Holmdel boys soccer team envisioned when it first started -- an odd thing to say about at team that entered play Saturday with a season-long record of 11-2-1.

On the morning of Sept. 30, the Hornets had not lost a game. By 9 p.m. on Oct. 3, they had two losses that cost them a chance at two championships: the Shore Conference Tournament and the Shore Conference Class A Central division.

In Saturday's Shore Conference Coaches Cup championship game at Memorial Field in Neptune, the Hornets had a chance to demonstrate their resolve, exact a measure of revenge and salvage a tournament championship.

Photo: Matt Manley
Photo: Matt Manley

Junior Stephan Kapranov broke through with an overhead volley in the 37th minute and senior teammate David Weiner buried a free kick six minutes later as Holmdel -- the No. 2 seed in the field -- rolled through No. 1 Rumson-Fair Haven, 2-0, to win its first Coaches Cup crown.

"This is an important building block toward our goal of winning a state championship," Weiner said. "Of course, we wanted to win the Shore Conference and win our division and it was disappointing that we couldn't get that done. But coach (Matt Isaacson) has been keeping us motivated throughout the season and there is still a lot we can accomplish."

Rumson defeated Holmdel, 3-2, in overtime on Oct. 3 to effectively win the Class A Central championship over the Hornets -- a result Kapranov and Weiner kept in mind when Holmdel had to mentally regroup in time for the Coaches Cup.

"Rumson's our big rival," Kapranov said. "Every time we play them, it's a good game. They beat us last time in overtime and it was a really disappointing results. This time, we came out and killed them."

Kapranov broke open the scoring in the 37th minute with an overhead volley that caught Rumson-Fair Haven goalkeeper Spencer Smith off-guard and tucked into the far left corner of the goal.

"Coach put me out wide for a few (minutes)," Kapranov said. "I just saw the ball in the air and I knew the goal was somewhere behind me so I just had a go at it and it went in."

In the third minute of the second half, Weiner made it 2-0 with a 19-yard free kick that he tucked just under the crossbar.

Smith played a dazzling game in defeat, saving nine shots -- most of which required the senior keeper to leave his feet to stop.

Holmdel junior Matt Campillay earned the shutout with two saves.

"I don't think they had a clear shot on goal, outside of a free kick," Weiner said. "Defensively, we were really good. We were forcing the ball up a little in the beginning, but once we started playing our game, moving the ball, I felt like we dominated."

Holmdel played the final four-plus minutes with 10 men after junior center back Tyler Gravier was issued a red card for taunting. Zach Halpern fouled Kapronov and while coming to the aid of Kapranov, Gravier said something to Halpern that prompted some light shoving among the players and a red card to be issued to Gravier.

Gravier will be required to sit out for two games, which could mean missing as many as two NJSIAA Tournament games. The boys soccer NJSIAA Tournament is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

Holmdel and Rumson could meet again in the Central Jersey Group II sectional playoffs. Heading into Friday, Holmdel sat in the No. 1 spot in the seeding, while Rumson started the day No. 4.

"We wanted to prove a point," Kapranov said. "We proved it here today."


Box Score

Holmdel 2, Rumson-Fair Haven 0

Holmdel (12-2-1)112
Rumson-FH (11-3-1)000

Goals (Assists): (H) Stephan Kapranov (David Weiner) 37'; (H) David Weiner (free kick) 43'
Shots: Holmdel, 15-3
Saves: (H) Matt Campillay 2; (RFH) Spencer Smith 9



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