Entering the Shore Conference Tournament, Holmdel had a considerable lead on the field for the No. 1 spot in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. Now that the Hornets have been eliminated in their first SCT game, that delta has closed considerably.

It might seem strange for a team that is no longer playing for the conference championship still in the No. 1 spot but to this point, there are still eight teams left trying to distinguish themselves and Holmdel is still, technically, undefeated. While the latter point may remain a week from now, at least one team will jump Holmdel by next week's rankings, when the SCT will be down to two teams vying for the championship.

For now, Holmdel stays at the top and there are some scenarios in which the Hornets could stay No. 1. More than likely, however, the countdown to a new No. 1 begins now.

 

1. Holmdel (13-0-1, 6-0-0) Last Week: 1

This will be the last week Holmdel spends at No. 1 during the month of October. The Hornets extended their unbeaten streak to 50 games, but it happened in tie with Toms River South that ended with the Indians advancing on penalty kicks to knock No. 1 Holmdel out of the Shore Conference Tournament in the round of 16. The competition for No. 1 remains heated but when the smoke begins to clear after Saturday’s SCT semifinals, there will be a new No. 1.

2. Christian Brothers Academy (10-3-1, 4-2-1) Last Week: 4

CBA has a case to be the No. 1 team right now simply on the basis that the Colts appear to be playing better than any other team in the Shore Conference right now. Although CBA can’t win Class A North outright, the Colts just beat a Freehold Township team that might end up winning the division. On top of that, CBA has wins over Washington Township and its recent play suggests the Colts will be hard to beat in the SCT.

CBA junior Brett Sieg. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

3. Freehold Township (11-5, 5-1) Last Week: 2

After ripping off five wins in a row, Freehold Township got a reminder this week to not take too much for granted. After losing at CBA for their first division loss, the Patriots appeared set to run Rumson out of Freehold before things got sticky. With a 2-0 lead and a man advantage for the next 65 minutes, Freehold Township gave up two shorthanded goals and missed a penalty kick before eventually pulling out a 3-2 win over the Bulldogs. The bracket is setting up nicely for Freehold Township but the Patriots will still have to take care of business against some quality teams, starting with Wall at home in the quarterfinals.

4. Jackson Memorial (12-2, 6-0) Last Week: 6

A loss to Colts Neck dropped Jackson Memorial all the way to No. 9 and ever since, the Jaguars have been creeping their way back up the ranks. The Jaguars scratched out a win over Neptune in the SCT round of 16 and will now get another shot at CBA, this time at home, in the conference tournament quarterfinals. CBA beat Jackson on a golden goal in last year’s SCT semifinal round and if the Class A South champs can cool off the Colts, they could be in line for a move to the No. 1 spot before the championship game if everything breaks right.

5. Marlboro (10-2, 5-1) Last Week: 3

A home loss to Manasquan in the round of 16 was indeed disappointing for Marlboro, but the fact that it was so disappointing is a reminder of how far the Mustangs have come in two years. Manasquan opened the season as the No. 2 team in the Top 10 so that was an exceedingly difficult first game for a No. 2 seed to play. In any case, Marlboro plays in one of the deeper sections in the NJSIAA Tournament and if the Mustangs can make some noise in Central Jersey Group IV and grab at least a share of the Class A North title by beating Long Branch, they can continue to hang around the top five.

6. Wall (13-2, 6-1) Last Week: 5

Wall is a missed penalty kick from being a one-loss team heading into the SCT quarterfinals and with the way things are breaking on their side of the bracket, the Crimson Knights should have every opportunity to make their case to be the No. 1 team over the next six days. After a strong second-half performance to put away a 12-win Monmouth team, Wall will go on the road to take on Freehold Township in a game that pits the two of the remaining tournament favorites against one another after Holmdel and Marlboro went down.

7. Southern (11-2-1, 5-1-1) Last Week: 7

The Rams responded to a two-loss week by tuning up with a win over Central and toughing out a 1-0 win over a dangerous, senior-heavy Middletown South squad in the SCT round of 16. That win earned Southern another home game in the SCT and that will come early this week against No. 15 Manasquan, which is suddenly starting to look like the team that was ranked No. 2 in the preseason Top 10. Scoring remains inconsistent for Southern, but the Rams have the ability to win another game and reach the SCT semifinals for the first time since 1990.

8. Colts Neck (8-3-1, 4-1-1) Last Week: 10

The Cougars just keep defying expectations, most recently by edging a scary Long Branch side on a golden goal from sophomore Tom Samaras in the SCT round of 16. After graduating 18 seniors from its Central Jersey Group III runner-up team, Colts Neck got off to a hot start, absorbed a rough week, and bounced back by beating a Long Branch team that has come on strong of late in its own right. Colts Neck unexpectedly finds itself with a home game after Toms River South upset Holmdel and if the Cougars can avoid the same fate as Holmdel, they will be in the SCT semifinals for the first time since reaching the championship game in 2001.

9. Manasquan (7-5-1, 4-2-0)

Manasquan’s season was on life support on Sept. 27, when the Warriors trailed Middletown South 3-1 with 10 minutes to go. Needing at least a tie to live to fight another day, Manasquan rallied to tie the game and salvage a tie. The Warriors then hammered Raritan and pulled out an overtime win over Monmouth to reach the SCT. All of a sudden, the Warriors look like a legitimate contender, handling Toms River North, 3-0, and knocking off No. 2 Marlboro on the road to reach the quarterfinals for the second straight year.

10. Toms River South (5-4-2, 3-2-1)

Like Manasquan, Toms River South was a team ranked in the first Top 10 of the season that fell off the radar early and re-appeared when it counts. The Indians have a pair of ugly losses (Howell and Brick Memorial) for a top 10 contender and their best win is against Toms River North, but they also have two impressive scoreless draws against Southern and, more recently, Holmdel. Toms River South is the first team Holmdel failed to beat this year and that goes along with a 1-0 loss to the Hornets during the regular season. If a team plays Holmdel that tough twice and finds itself among the final eight in the SCT, that team has to have a table reserved in the Top 10.

 

Dropped Out

Long Branch (6-7-1, 4-2-0) Last Week: 8 – Despite falling at Colts Neck, Long Branch is playing its best soccer at the right time and will have another shot to turn that into a postseason run when the Central Jersey Group IV Tournament kicks off in a couple of weeks.

Freehold Boro (7-7-1, 2-5-0) Last Week: 9 – Late-season swoons have plagued Freehold Boro in recent years and a penalty-kick loss to Toms River East and straight-up loss to Lacey dropped the Colonials to .500 again this year.

 

Top 10 Watch List

Middletown South (8-4-3, 2-2-2) – After a tough loss at Southern, the Eagles turn their attention to what is likely to be a challenging state tournament draw.

Monmouth (12-3, 4-2) – The Falcons have gone toe-to-toe with some top teams but are still looking for that big win as they turn their attention to Central Jersey Group II.

Rumson-Fair Haven (7-6, 3-2) – The Bulldogs showed a lot of fight in rallying for two short-handed goals in a 3-2 loss vs. Freehold Township. With an earlier win over Freehold Township and another over Manasquan, Rumson deserves to remain in the conversation.

Neptune (8-5, 2-3) – With a convincing win at Matawan and a near-upset at Jackson Memorial, the Scarlet Fliers look like an emerging sleeper in the state tournament.

Matawan (6-5-1, 4-2-0) – Matawan laid an egg in the SCT vs. Neptune but the Huskies have been a tough out in the state tournament each of the past two seasons.

Toms River East (4-5-3, 2-3-1) – The Raiders pride themselves on playing tough teams close but they finally met their match Saturday at CBA. That should them toughen them up for their next tournament run in two weeks.

Toms River North (6-5-1, 2-2-1) – The win over Freehold Township on opening night keeps the Mariners in the conversation but they are looking to make a little more noise in a loaded South Jersey Group IV bracket.

 

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