The early rounds of the NJSIAA Tournament end more dreams than they make, which usually means not much movement in the first set of rankings to come out during the tournament.

By this time next week, however, there will be 16 NJSIAA sectional champions crowned in boys soccer and as many as four of them could be from the Shore Conference. That is unlikely to impact a top-three that has remained rather constant within the Shore Sports Network Shore 16, but for the three public-school teams outside of the top three that are still playing (Holmdel, Manasquan and Shore Regional), the next two weeks represent a chance to significantly improve their standing, not to mention win some championship hardware.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (15-2-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 1

The Colts return to the pitch Tuesday after a nine-day layoff and will begin their NJSIAA Non-Public A title defense against St. Joseph of Metuchen. While CBA only needs four wins to claim another title, the last three would likely have to come against sides ranked among the top 15 teams in the state.

2. Howell (12-2-2, 4-1-1) Last Week: 2

In the past two seasons, Howell has lost to Freehold Township in the 2021 Central Jersey Group IV final, then lost to Monroe in the 2022 semifinals on penalties. The Rebels are hoping this is the year they break through and end a 35-year sectional title drought and the team standing between then and another trip to the sectional final is 14th-seeded Old Bridge.

3. Toms River North (14-3, 6-1) Last Week: 3

For the fifth straight year, Toms River North has reached at least the sectional semifinal round of the NJSIAA Tournament after beating Williamstown and Eastern last week. The Mariners will take to the road for at least one game this week, starting with a trip to Lenape on Wednesday.

4. Middletown North (12-6, 3-3) Last Week: 4

Just as it did last year, Middletown North rode into the NJSIAA Tournament coming off a run to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and went out in heartbreaking fashion. The Lions were a minute away from advancing to the sectional semifinals, but gave up a tying goal at Lawrence in the final minute of regulation, then lost in overtime.

5. Southern (10-4-3, 5-1-1) Last Week: 5

Although the Rams did not make it out of the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals, they acquitted themselves well in a shootout loss to No. 1 Washington Township on Saturday morning. Southern was in the mix for a lot of hardware this year and although the Rams came up short in the Class A South race and getting to a tournament semifinal, they are set up well for the future.

6. Middletown South (9-6-2, 3-3-0) Last Week: 6

The Eagles were one of five Shore Conference teams to bow out in the sectional quarterfinal round in a game that ended either in overtime or on penalty kicks. Middletown South could not survive a shootout with Hopewell Valley and its season ends without a deep postseason run or challenge for the Class A North title. On the bright side, it also ends with some memorable results: wins over CBA, Rumson-Fair Haven and Marlboro.

7. Holmdel (14-2-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 7

With Middletown North, Southern and Middletown South all out of the state tournament heading into this week, Holmdel is back in the running for a top-five finish. The Hornets are set up to make a serious bid for the overall Group II championship – an accomplishment that would almost certainly push Holmdel to at least the No. 4 ranking.

8. St. Rose (10-3-4, 5-0-2) Last Week: 8

The Purple Roses also have a chance to inch up into the top five, but without any high-level opponents in the South section of Non-Public B, it is going to take winning the whole thing by beating the Gill St. Bernard’s dynasty. While a top-five finish would be a great accomplishment for St. Rose, the Roses don’t need any extra motivation after coming so close to winning a state title last year.

9. Central (10-5-2, 4-2-1) Last Week: 9

A 2-0 loss like the one Central suffered to Rancocas Valley Friday in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals does not look like an especially close loss on paper, but the Golden Eagles outshot the Red Devils, 20-3, and dominated possession in a win-or-go-home game that just didn’t go their way. Central has made significant strides this season, but the exit on Friday was a tough way to end things.

10. Toms River East (7-6-5, 3-3-1) Last Week: 10

There are times in which a hot team heading into the state tournament is dangerous and other times in which a hot team runs out of magic once the tournament starts. Unfortunately for Toms River East, it was the latter, heading into the South Group IV Playoffs with only two losses in October, but losing at Rancocas Valley, 3-1, in the opening round.

11. Colts Neck (10-5, 5-1) Last Week: 11 - Despite a dynamic attack that was difficult to stop to the very end, Colts Neck had too many problems keeping opponents from scoring at a similar pace. The was evident in a 5-3 loss to Steinert on Saturday.

12. Manasquan (11-6-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 13 – With a sectional title still in play and Holmdel likely standing in the way, Manasquan still has a shot to finish in the top 10.

13. Ocean (8-6-3, 4-2-0) Last Week: 14 – The Spartans lasted two rounds in the Central Group III Tournament and had to face the two finalists from last year: Allentown (Ocean won via penalties) and defending champion Robbinsville (beat Ocean, 3-0).

14. Long Branch (12-5-2, 4-2-0) Last Week: 16 – The Green Wave drew a pesky No. 14 seed in Old Bridge, which not only knocked Long Branch out in overtime in the first round of Central Group IV, but also upset No. 6 East Brunswick in the next round.

15. Jackson Memorial (8-8-4, 4-3-0) Last Week: Not ranked – The Jaguars deserve at least a week in the rankings after advancing past Marlboro on penalties in the Central Group IV playoffs. Jackson Memorial was eliminated by No. 1 seeds in both the Shore Conference (CBA) and CJ IV (Princeton) Tournaments.

16. Marlboro (7-4-5, 2-3-1) Last Week: 12 – In the SCT, Marlboro survived penalties against Long Branch to reach the quarterfinal round. In the state tournament, however, the Mustangs were undone in penalties before reaching the sectional quarterfinals.


Dropped Out

Manalapan (9-7-1, 2-4-0) Last Week: 15 – The bottom of the rankings are a tangled web and despite the fact that Manalapan’s season is over after losing to Howell on Saturday, the Braves are not necessarily out of the running for a ranking at the end of the season.

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