FREEHOLD TWP. - After playing with two All-Americans and five other All-Shore players on last year's 22-0-1 Holmdel team, senior Jack Giamanco is still getting used to the attention he is drawing from defenses on the field.

Off the field, he is getting used to his team being doubted after graduating eight starters from the No. 1 team in the state at the 2018 season's end.

If the first two games are any indication, Giamanco and his Hornets teammates are adjusting to their new reality quite nicely.

Holmdel senior Jack Giamanco. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Holmdel senior Jack Giamanco. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Giamanco scored in the 15th minute for the lone goal in Thursday's showdown with Freehold Township - No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10 - and No. 5 Holmdel held on for a 1-0 win for their second straight win over a top-10 opponent to open the season. The win also extends a 38-game unbeaten streak dating back to the 2017 season.

"I know we weren't picked to be at the top of the table this year and that's motivation for guys like me and Mark (Walier)," Giamanco said. "We know this team has the ability to be at the top. We're not scared of any team. We know we are better than any team in the Shore or in the state so it doesn't really matter to us. We just keep competing."

After a quiet start by both teams, Giamanco won a battle for the ball inside the 18-yard box and whipped a shot in during the 15th minute for the game's lone goal. In Tuesday's season-opening, 2-1 win over Middletown South, Giamanco generated three early chances for himself and one for a teammate but Holmdel did not score until the 70th minute.

This time, Giamanco took a pass from junior Ben Milstein, shook off two defenders inside the 18-yard box and slammed a left-footed shot past Freehold Township goalkeeper Josh Wilhelm.

"Now that there are going to be a lot of defenses trying to shut me down, we're going to have to finish the opportunities we get," Giamanco said. "I'm not going to get a lot so I have to make them count. The big thing is guys around me are stepping up and playing well and without them, I can't be successful."

On Thursday, the early score was enough to down Freehold Township, which lost its opener to Toms River North, 5-4, in overtime.

Sophomore goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych saved three shots - including two solid strikes by senior Tiron Shatku. Shatku recorded a hat trick in his first high school soccer game Tuesday night at Toms River North.

Holmdel senior Mark Walier denied Shatku on his best chance in the 64th, when he leaped in front of a wide-open Shatku shot from the corner of the six-yard box and deflected it out of bounds.

Walier helped fortify a Holmdel defense that shut down a dangerous Patriots attack, holding it to four shots in the game. In its two games, Holmdel's back line of senior Omar Abbuatieh, junior Brendan Rebele and Byron Ng has given up four shots in each.

"I don't want to say I'm surprised to be 2-0 because it will sound like I didn't have confidence in them, which I do," Holmdel coach Ron Poll said. "I just didn't think it was going to come this quickly.

"But I'm pleasantly surprised and happy for the kids because there is a lot of pressure on them to fill some very big shoes."


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