Boys Soccer – SSN Top 10, Oct. 22
The Shore Conference Tournament is coming to its conclusion this week and the Top 10 is starting to settle into its final form. The top four teams proved they belong in those spots by making it to Monday's semifinal round and while the order of those teams could change by next week, those four teams will fill those spots.
The next six spots, however, are still not settled and may never be. The more open schedule has shined a light on the parity throughout the conference and whatever form the top 10 takes from here on out - barring a number of significant state tournament runs by the teams in question - is going to be vulnerable to scrutiny.
For the next three days, though, the focus is on which team will in the conference tournament and, in all likelihood, finish No. 1 in the rankings in 2018.
1. Holmdel (15-0, 6-0) Last Week: 1
The Hornets have once again established themselves as the heavy favorite to win the Shore Conference Tournament, even with three quality sides joining them in the SCT semifinals. Holmdel now leads the Shore in goal differential (plus-46) and goals allowed (six) and is tied with Jackson Memorial and Point Beach for the most goals scored (52).
2. Christian Brothers Academy (14-3, 6-1) Last Week: 2
CBA let Lakewood hang around in their SCT quarterfinal match before ultimately running out the clock. The one-goal margin perhaps calls into question the Colts’ No. 2 spot considering how well Jackson Memorial has played, but CBA will hold at No. 2 heading into its showdown with the Jaguars in Monday’s semifinal.
3. Jackson Memorial (13-1, 6-1) Last Week: 3
The best a team can hope for after losing its first game is that the loss serves as motivation for the remainder of the season and that certainly seems to be the case with Jackson Memorial. Since losing to Southern, 1-0, the Jaguars came back to beat Freehold Township and won comfortably against Toms River North, Lacey and Manalapan. They will shoot for the No. 2 spot vs. CBA on Monday and if they succeed there, the Jaguars will have their sights set on the No. 1 spot.
4. Ocean (14-3, 6-1) Last Week: 4
The Spartans played one of their better games Friday in a 3-0 SCT quarterfinal win over Raritan but now, they will have to make a significant jump in competition when they play Holmdel in Monday’s semifinal. At the very least, Ocean has mostly solidified its No. 4 position and can dramatically improve it with an upset on Monday night.
5. Southern (8-5-2, 4-1-1) Last Week: 5
The Rams gave Holmdel a brief scare in the SCT quarterfinals when they tied the game at 1-1 in the 30th minute. Although Holmdel pulled away to win, Southern had a moment against one of the state’s best and will enter the grueling South Jersey Group IV bracket with a top-four seed and an even more battle-tested frame of mind.
6. Manalapan (8-6-2, 4-2-1) Last Week: 6
Although they lost the game, the Braves showed against Jackson Memorial that they have come a very long way since losing to the Jaguars, 8-2, in their second game of the season. As much as any team at the Shore, Manalapan will battle when the outlook looks grim and that could be a real asset once the NJSIAA Tournament starts next week.
7. Wall (11-3-2, 5-2-0) Last Week: 8
Wall was eliminated before the SCT quarterfinals, but that came in a shootout after a 0-0 draw against a Manasquan team the Crimson Knights beat earlier in the year. That explains why Wall is actually a spot higher in the rankings this week – that, plus it’s hard to find a whole lot of teams with cut-and-dried top-10 resumes.
8. Howell (10-5-1, 4-3-0) Last Week: 9
Like Wall, Howell was not eliminated from the SCT with a loss and the Rebels even lost to the No. 5 team in the rankings. Even better for Howell, it beat Southern earlier in the year. The problem for the Rebels is they lost three straight games heading into the tournament and the win that ended the streak was against a sub-.500 Red Bank Catholic squad in the opening round of the tournament. Howell is also in the challenging South Jersey Group IV bracket and can greatly improve its stock with a deep run in that.
9. Manasquan (10-6-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 10
Showing up in big games is a good trait to have at this time of year and even in some of their losses, Manasquan has represented itself well in its highest-profile matches. The Warriors took down Wall on penalties in the SCT round of 16 and then battled CBA in a 2-0 loss. There was a loss to Point Beach mixed in there, but Manasquan was resting most of its starters in preparation to play Wall.
10. Colts Neck (7-7, 5-2)
The No. 10 spot is very much up in the air and for the first time this season, Colts Neck grabbed an open chair in the top 10. The Cougars battled to get into the SCT and took advantage of the opportunity by winning at Pinelands and pushing Manalapan in a 3-2 loss. There are certainly blemishes – losses to Shore and Freehold Boro – but almost every team outside the top four has an ugly loss somewhere.
Freehold Township (7-5-2, 4-3-0) Last Week: 7 – Another early exit in the SCT drops the Patriots out of the top 10. Freehold Township’s only win over a top 10 team came against No. 9 Howell when the Rebels were missing their starting goalkeeper in September.
Top 10 Watch List
Marlboro (7-5-3, 2-4-1)
Toms River East (8-6-1, 3-3-0)
Pinelands (9-4, 7-0)
Lacey (12-3, 6-1)
Raritan (7-8-1, 4-2-0)
Toms River North (8-4-3, 4-2-1)
Toms River South (7-5-1, 3-3-1)
Lakewood (10-4-1, 4-3-0)