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The Preseason Top 10 has a tendency to look silly within the first week or two of the season, but the measurement of a good Preseason Top 10 is how similar it looks to Final Top 10, not the next Top 10. How many of the Preseason 10 made it to the final 10? Did No. 1 stay No. 1? What was the highest ranking for a team not ranked in the preseason?

By those measures, our preseason forecast was…a mixed bag. The good: The top four teams in the preseason were all ranked No. 6 or better to end the season and the No. 1 team in the preseason went wire-to-wire. The bad: four teams that were not ranked to open the season ended the season with a ranking. The ugly: The final No. 2 team in the Shore Conference was unranked to open the season and picked to finish in the bottom half of its division.

All-in-all, there was a healthy dose of unpredictability that made this boys soccer season a fun one at the Shore Conference.

1. Christian Brothers Academy (19-1, 6-1) Preseason Rank: 1

The 2022 started with CBA losing to Marlboro, calling to question the Colts’ standing as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference on day one of the season. CBA spent the remaining days of the 2022 campaign not only proving itself the best team in the Shore Conference, but also the best team in New Jersey. For the second time since 2016, CBA finished a season with one loss, a Class A North division championship, a Shore Conference Tournament championship, the Non-Public A championship and the No. 1 ranking in the state. CBA says goodbye to a special group of seniors that includes Will Thygeson, Jack D’Eletto, Charlie Paparella, Logan Szuwalski and Joe Lucignano, but will again return six starters in 2023 to try to win back-to-back state titles for the first time in program history.

Photo: Matt Manley
Photo: Matt Manley

2. Howell (13-3-3, 5-2-0) Preseason Rank: Not ranked

For the second straight season, Howell reached a tournament championship game and lost in a one-goal decision. Unlike 2021, however, the Rebels got off to a strong start and finished second in the Class A North standings in capturing the A North public division championship. They then hit the postseason as a No. 2 seed in the SCT and made it all the way to the championship game for the first time since 2007 by beating Holmdel. Howell then drew the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV bracket and made it back to the sectional semifinal, but came up one win short of a return trip to the Central Group IV final when the Rebels fell to Monroe on penalties. Since the start of last season, Howell has still not lost a match by more than one goal and its strong core from the Class of 2025 will give the Rebels a chance to continue that run in 2023.

3. Holmdel (18-3-1, 5-1-0) Preseason Rank: 4

This season was a return to form for Holmdel, which won a three-way share of its fifth division championship in the last six years after coming in second in the Class A Central standings to Rumson-Fair Haven a year ago. Holmdel reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and won its first Central Jersey Group II championship for the first time since 2018, all while marching toward 18 wins – second-most in the conference behind CBA. The Hornets will have five senior starters to replace, while standout scorers Stephan Kapranov and David Weiner are both due back in 2023 to lead a talented returning core.

Aiden Hynes holds up the NJSIAA sectional championship trophy as Holmdel celebrates. Photo: Matt Manley.
Aiden Hynes holds up the NJSIAA sectional championship trophy as Holmdel celebrates. Photo: Matt Manley.

4. Freehold Township (14-7, 4-3) Preseason Rank: 3

The Patriots continue to churn out winning seasons (19 in a row to be exact) and for the second straight year, they captured the Central Jersey Group IV championship. That is the third sectional title for the program since 2015 and all three have come under the direction of different head coaches, with Mike Tepedino winning the title in his first season this fall. The season unfolded in three phases for Freehold Township, which responded to an opening-day loss to Middletown South with eight wins in a row. The Patriots then dropped five out of the next seven matches, including a round-of-16 loss to Middletown North in the Shore Conference Tournament. Once again, though, Freehold Township bounced back by closing its season with another sectional title and will try to do it again next season with only three starters and nine goals set to return in 2023.

Photo: Matt Manley
Photo: Matt Manley

5. Marlboro (8-4-4, 4-3-0) Preseason Rank: Not ranked

Marlboro was not as dominant as the other top-five teams and some of the teams ranked below them Mustangs might have even been more imposing on a game-to-game basis. Ultimately, Marlboro’s appeal is in its performance against the Shore’s elite, with the Mustangs going 2-0-1 against the top three teams in the rankings and 2-1-2 against the rest of the top six. That includes handing CBA its only loss of the season and dealing Howell its only loss outside of two to CBA. The lone loss was to Freehold Township and the two draws came at Holmdel and Rumson-Fair Haven, with the former coming in the form of a penalty-kick loss in the SCT quarterfinals. Trevor Barrett and Cade Jacobs lead a talented group of players eligible to return in 2023, when the Mustangs should be in the mix for the top spot in A North.

6. Rumson-Fair Haven (11-4-2, 5-1-0) Preseason Rank: 2

After winning a share of a division championship in the challenging Class A Central division, Rumson-Fair Haven came up short of winning a tournament title, in part because of the fact that the Bulldogs ran into top Shore Conference teams in the quarterfinals of both the SCT and the Central Jersey Group II Tournament. Rumson took Howell into penalties in the SCT quarterfinals and was the more dangerous side, but could not get out of the shootout. An early concession and second-half penalty kick doomed the Bulldogs at Holmdel in the Central Group II quarterfinals – a tough exit for a team that shook off a slow start to the season to pick up wins over Holmdel and Long Branch and tie Marlboro and Howell. The Bulldogs will bid farewell to a talented senior core, but are set to return their top overall scorer in Ronan Hogg to help ease the transition.

7. Colts Neck (9-5-1, 6-1-0) Preseason Rank: Not ranked

Colts Neck entered the season with questions surrounding its ability to score goals and answered them in resounding fashion. The Cougars averaged better than 2.5 goals per game over the course of the season and rode that attack to the outright Class B North division championship to make them the only public-school program at the Shore to win an outright division title in 2022. The tournaments were not as kind to Colts Neck, which suffered from a difficult draw in the Shore Conference Tournament and an upset in the NJSIAA Tournament. The Cougars did pick up an SCT win over A South co-champion Toms River East before bowing out to CBA in the quarterfinals, which preceded a disappointing, 4-2 loss to Matawan in the state tournament. Colts Neck is lined up to return standouts Kyle Moore and Sam Gershon as juniors to lead the team in 2023.

8. Toms River North (11-4-1, 5-1-1) Preseason Rank: Not ranked

The lone Ocean County team to crack the final Top 10, Toms River North enjoyed a strong follow-up to its three straight sectional titles considering the Mariners returned only one starter from its impressive 2021 team. Toms River North pulled out a share of the Class A South championship, although a loss to Jackson Memorial in its last division match cost the Mariners a chance at the outright championship. A first-round loss to rival Toms River East quickly ended any designs of a deep Shore Conference Tournament run, but the Mariners got their revenge by beating the Raiders in the first round of the South Jersey Group IV playoffs. Toms River North made it to the sectional quarterfinals before falling to eventual Group IV champion Cherokee and will once again take the experience of a deep tournament run into 2023, when the Mariners will have much more experience around the pitch.

9. Long Branch (9-5-3, 4-1-2) Preseason Rank: 7

A move from the Class A North division to Class B North did not net Long Branch a division championship, but the Green Wave were again a contender near the top of the table and again in the tournaments. Long Branch finished second in the division behind Colts Neck, reached the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals and lost on penalties to Middletown North and lost to South Brunswick in the Central Group IV quarterfinals while playing a man down for most of the match. Coach Adrian Castro stepped down at the end of the season to take a vice principal job, but the Green Wave are positioned to be good again in 2023 with the returns of Chris Lopez, Nick Danhi Borges and three quarters of the defense.

10. Manasquan (13-6, 4-3) Preseason Rank: 9

The last spot of the 2022 top 10 goes to Manasquan, which battled injuries at key junctures of the season and still won 13 games and was eliminated from both tournaments by the top two public schools in the conference: Howell in the SCT round of 16 and Holmdel in the Central Group II semifinals. It took penalty kicks for Howell to knock out Manasquan and Manasquan made it to the sectional semifinals despite top scorer Matt Karolak going down with an injury in the final regular-season game – a 3-0 win over Wall. Karolak and Aidan Sugrue are the top seniors headed toward graduation, but the Warriors are positioned for an even better 2023 with most of the starting lineup and deep bench due back.


The Next 10

St. Rose (10-4-5, 5-0-0) – This season was more than just a good postseason for St. Rose, which drew Gill St. Bernard’s 0-0 in the Non-Public B final before losing on penalties. The Purple Roses beat Wall, tied Colts Neck and were competitive in losses to Long Branch and Manasquan.

Middletown North (7-8-1, 2-5-0) – Although they finished with a record under .500, the Lions made major noise this season by beating Marlboro during the regular season and stormed to the SCT semifinals for the first time since 2004.

Wall (11-7-2, 5-1-0) – Without a lot of starting experience back, Wall still managed to win a share of the Class A Central championship and captured the magic in the NJSIAA Tournament again by reaching the Central Jersey Group II championship game.

Toms River East (8-5-3, 5-1-1) – The Raiders started off slow, but rallied to win a share of the Class A South championship and won a first-round game over Toms River North in the Shore Conference Tournament behind the play of Ocean County Player of the Year Kajus Matazinskas.

Neptune (13-5-1, 4-2-1) – Neptune was in the running for the Class B North title until the end of the race and rebounded from a disappointing first-round loss in the SCT to reach the semifinals of the Central Jersey Group III Playoffs.

Point Pleasant Boro (11-3-3, 6-0-1) – After roaring out of the gate with wins over Lacey and Rumson-Fair Haven and seizing a share of the Class B South division title, the Panthers bowed out of both the SCT and Central Jersey Group II Tournament with losses at home. It was a disappointing finish, but Point Boro is back among the Shore contenders with a capable group coming back.

Southern (9-6, 4-3) – After losing its first three matches of the season, Southern responded with a six-game winning streak and solid showings in both postseason tournaments. The Rams won a first-round game in each before losing to the top seeds in both the SCT (CBA in overtime) and South Jersey Group IV section (Rancocas Valley).

Jackson Liberty (11-5-2, 6-0-1) – The Lions snagged a share of their first ever division championship in boys soccer and was a competitive side throughout the season, which included a tournament win in the Central Jersey Group III section.

Middletown South (7-8-1, 4-2-1) – Although they finished with a winning percentage below .500, Middletown South took third in the always-tough Class A North division, which included wins over Freehold Township, Marlboro and Middletown North.

Ocean (8-8-1, 4-3-0) – Ocean could not make much of a promising start to the season, which included wins over Neptune and Long Branch. The Spartans went out on a high note, beating Middletown South in overtime in the NJSIAA Tournament before falling to Robbinsville, the eventual Group III champion.


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