OCEAN TWP. - Ocean Township High School has been the sight of some memorable moments - some good and some not - during the current four-season run of Holmdel boys soccer.

It is where the Hornets won the final two games of the 2017 Shore Conference Tournament to capture their first ever conference title and it is also where Ocean ended Holmdel's bid for a second straight SCT title by eliminating the Hornets on penalties in 2018.

On Monday, Holmdel made another memory at Ocean - the latest during a remarkable 60-game run.

The Hornets - ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - beat No. 9 and previously-unbeaten Ocean, 2-0, to run its ongoing unbeaten streak to 60 straight matches. The unbeaten run began on Oct. 10, 2017 against Rumson-Fair Haven, which followed a 1-0 loss at Pingry - the last team to officially defeat Holmdel.

The Hornets have been bested on penalty kicks in three different tournament games during the streak, but because all games decided by shootout are officially counted as draws, Holmdel is 56-0-4 over its last 60 games.

"When I was a freshman and watched the great alumni before me play here representing Holmdel, I dreamed of being on that field and playing in that game," said senior Connor Hinds, whose older brother, Eric, started for Holmdel in 2018 and 2019 and played heavy minutes off the bench in 2017. "Now it's my opportunity, it's my senior year and I am going to give it everything I've got along with my fellow seniors."

Holmdel senior Connor Hinds. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Holmdel senior Connor Hinds. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

This year's Holmdel team has made a habit of scoring early and turning the game over to its skilled back four and junior goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych - a trend that continued on Monday. In the 16th minute, junior Brendan Worobel dribbled his way free on the right side of the 18-yard box and unleashed a right-footed shot from a difficult angle. Ocean freshman goalkeeper Francisco Castelo got his fingertips on the ball but his reach wasn't enough to keep the ball from tucking into the far left side netting for the game's first goal.

"It's been huge for us being able to score early in these games," Chyzowych said. "I almost think we need to experience being down so we can have that feeling of having to keep our composure and come back. But if scoring early every game is how we're going to keep winning, then that's what we want to do. That's been our formula."

In the two wins over Rumson-Fair Haven that preceded Monday night's win, Holmdel (6-0, 5-0) scored within the first seven minutes of the game in both. Senior Tomas Zolofra scored the first of his two goals on Thursday in the seventh minute and in Saturday's 1-0 Hornets win, senior Ben Milstein scored just 45 seconds into the match.

"Our pre-game preparation is big: everybody is thinking about the game, coach (Matt Isaacson) gets us fired up," Milstein said. "We're always fired up at the start of the game and it's something we have to work on to keep going for the entire game."

Although Ocean (5-1, 4-0) never broke through for a goal against Chyzowych on Monday, the Spartans tested the second-year starter in goal for the remainder of the first half. Ocean's best chance came two minutes after Worobel's goal, when junior Aidan Tisony took a pass from classmate Peter Baillergeau and got a clean shot off from 10 yards out, but missed just wide to the left with a defender riding his hip.

"We were slow," Hinds said of Holmdel's first-half performance. "One hundred percent credit to Ocean. They are a great team and they came out on all cylinders. Coach pulled us aside and all of the captains tried to get us fired up at halftime. We said, 'Something's got to change now or Ocean will end up winning this game.'"

Once the second half arrived, however, Holmdel further asserted itself and converted another shot from distance. Hinds provided the insurance goal in the 49th after senior Ben Milstein slid the ball back to him, he created space and ripped a left-footed strike from the edge of the 18-yard box and just inside the top left corner of the goal.

Through six games, Holmdel has posted a 9-1 goal differential against four teams that have played in at least one NJSIAA sectional final since 2016: Ocean, Rumson-Fair Haven, Monmouth Regional and Middletown North. It is an eye-opening start for a team that lost its top three scorers, a central defender and a head coach from a 2019 team that went 16-0-2 but was eliminated from both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II Tournaments on penalty kicks.

"This team's got character - different from last year and even the year before that," Hinds said. "This is a group that hasn't really played together before but we figured some things out in the preseason and we gained confidence and I feel like things are starting to click a little bit."


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