Boys Soccer – Shore Conference Top 10, 9/30
In each of the first two editions of the top 10 in 2013, the spots were relatively evenly distributed among four divisions – Class A North, Class A South, Class A Central and Class B North. The trend goes against that of recent years in which the two divisions with the largest schools – Class A North and Class A South – get the most love in the top 10.
This week, the big boys start to throw their weight around a bit more, mostly thanks to a rough week for Long Branch and Matawan in Class B North. While B North is a deep division, teams like Wall (tie against Manasquan), Long Branch (loss to Jackson Memorial), Red Bank (loss to Red Bank Catholic) and Neptune (loss to Point Beach) have not helped the case for the division in their non-division games.
Because of that, a couple of the bigger teams jump into the mix as the Shore Conference continues to play musical chairs, with the last spot or two in the top 10 as the available seats.
1. Ocean (6-0-1, 4-0-1) Last Week: 1
Just like last year, the Spartans are cruising right along, even if it’s not always dominant. Although the goal differential (plus-11) is not completely overwhelming, the Spartans have been slightly more impressive this year than they were last year at this same time. Road games at Freehold and Wall highlight another tough B North week and a road test at Neptune – where the Spartans tied the Scarlet Fliers 0-0 last year – is no cookie either.
2. Rumson-Fair Haven (6-0-1, 4-0-1) Last Week: 2
The Bulldogs are nipping at the heels of the Spartans for the top spot, but there remains some question about how good the division is beyond the Bulldogs and Holmdel. It seems as though Red Bank Catholic, Raritan, Manasquan and St. John Vianney are good teams, but it’s still unclear to what degree. This week should be a good barometer for Rumson as the Bulldogs host a tough Manasquan side, followed by rivalry games against Shore Regional and Holmdel.
3. Manalapan (5-0-0, 5-0-0) Last Week: 4
Heading into this week, the Braves still have not allowed a goal in five games, but that streak is probably in jeopardy during an upcoming four-game week on the road. The Braves go to Colts Neck on Monday, Middletown South on Wednesday, CBA on Friday and Jackson Memorial on Saturday. Colts Neck is very banged-up and Middletown South started the season with five straight scoreless outings, but CBA has not lost since opening day and Jackson has been a force on its home field. If the Braves can get out of this week with one loss, they will likely stay in the top five and if they remain unbeaten, it will be hard to keep them out of the No. 1 spot.
4. Toms River North (4-1-2, 4-0-2) Last Week: 5
The secret to success in Class A South has been location: grass teams have fared well on grass and turf teams well on turf. The Mariners remain unbeaten within the Shore Conference thanks to a 3-0 record on turf and a hard-fought 1-0-2 mark on grass. Toms River North plays only twice this week, but one of those games will be a home showdown Monday with Toms River East, which will be fighting to stay above .500.
5. Holmdel (6-1-0, 5-1-0) Last Week: 8
Since the Hornets are no longer rolling through the division, the strength of the division will now be a question for them come seeding time. With that said, there may not be a whole lot of validity to the notion that Class A Central presents a forgiving schedule. The seven A Central teams are a combined 9-1-3 outside the division so far this year and the only loss was by last-place Monmouth, which also has a non-division win. The Hornets have a chance to make a run at a top-three spot this week with a home game against Shore and division games against Raritan and No. 2 Rumson.
6. Christian Brothers Academy (4-1-1, 4-1-1) Last Week: Unranked
With their youngest starting lineup in the history of the program, the Colts make their first appearance in the top 10 since the 2012 preseason. After dropping a 1-0 decision to red-hot Manalapan to open the year, CBA has not lost and the one tie during the run came Saturday against Colts Neck with both teams missing significant players. With a win over Freehold Township, which beat Colts Neck this week, the Colts take the No. 2 spot in A North for the time being. Middletown North, Freehold Township and Manalapan are on tap during a very tough week.
7. Jackson Memorial (6-1-1, 3-1-1) Last Week: 6
The Jaguars took their first loss of the season at Lacey, but bounced back with wins over Southern and a Toms River East team that has given Jackson Memorial trouble in past years. Jackson has enjoyed a heavy dose of home-cooking early in the schedule and will play its first two official games on turf this week against Brick and Toms River South. If they can get through those two tests, the Jaguars can wind up for a haymaker against No. 3 Manalapan at home on Monday that would likely push them into the top three.
8. Freehold Township (5-2-0, 4-2-0) Last Week: 7
Even with Manalapan off to a fast start, Class A North is shaping up to be a battle to the very end and the Patriots are set up to be in the thick of things down the stretch. Like Manalapan and CBA, the Patriots play a lot of key non-seniors and if they can pay back CBA and Manalapan for early-season losses, this race will get crazy. Middletown South, CBA and Marlboro are on the schedule this week.
9. Colts Neck (3-1-2, 3-1-2) Last Week: 3
The Cougars are badly banged up, with center midfielder and 2012 All-Shore second-teamer Brian Winderman (ankle) joining senior center back Michael Jelinsky (concussion) and senior center midfielder Dom Ricci (illness) on the injury report. Winderman is day-to-day with his ankle injury, which he suffered in the first-half of a hard-earned tie against CBA Saturday. Colts Neck will try to get healthy in the standings against Manalapan and Howell this week.
10. Lacey (4-2-1, 3-2-1) Last Week: Unranked
In a division in which road wins have been especially tough to come by, Lacey scored the best road win of the A South season by winning at Toms River South. That win was part of a four-game winning streak that vaulted Lacey into the top-10 picture and a 1-1 draw against No. 4 Tom River North at home solidified the Lions’ spot. A rematch against Brick Memorial – which beat Lacey 5-2 in the Lions’ opener – highlights the week for the Lions.
Long Branch (2-3-2, 1-2-2) Last Week: 9 – The Green Wave are in a mighty slump, going 0-3-2 in its last five games.
Matawan (3-3-0, 3-3-0) Last Week: 10 – The Huskies tasted the top 10 last week, but an 0-2 week leaves them hungry to win their way back in.
On the Bubble
Toms River South (3-2-1, 3-2-0) Last Week: Unranked – The Indians have won three straight and have a big home date with Jackson Memorial to cap off this week.
Wall (4-1-3, 2-1-2) – The Crimson Knights are still looking to break through against the top teams on their schedule and an opportunity against Ocean in a rematch is fast approaching.
Point Boro (6-2-0, 6-0-0) – A 3-0 loss to Shore is the only thing keeping the Panthers out of the top 10.
Red Bank Catholic (4-2-1, 3-2-0) – Outside of a 5-1 loss to Rumson, the Caseys have been in every contest and have strong wins over Raritan, Manasquan and St. John Vianney, as well as a tie against Middletown North out of Class A North.
Toms River East (3-3-0, 3-3-0) – They haven’t quite found their groove, but the Raiders have remained tough in A South and have a shot at Toms River North this week.