In each of the past two years, any attempt to move Holmdel out of the No. 1 spot has proven a fool’s errand. The Hornets found their way back to the top each time by proving that, in the end, they were the class of the Shore Conference in both 2017 and 2018.

It’s still early and this is not the same Holmdel team, but 2019 is providing a similar narrative. After climbing two spots from No. 5 to No. 3 last week, the Hornets make the big jump in Week 3 after another perfect week and losses by the two teams ahead of them.

The shakeup at the top is minor compared to the chaos happening in the bottom half of the Top 10, which continues into this week with no end in sight. While Holmdel’s ascent to No. 1 is the headline, it is not the biggest jump of the week. That distinction goes to the new No. 5 team, which was not ranked in either of the first two weeks.

Holmdel senior Jack Giamanco. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Holmdel senior Jack Giamanco. (Photo by Matt Manley)

1. Holmdel (5-0, 2-0) Last Week: 3

The Hornets have a resume worthy of No. 1 consideration regardless of what the competition did this past week, so when both CBA and Manasquan swallowed close losses, Holmdel became the obvious No. 1 for this week. It was not an easy week by any means either, with both Raritan and Colts Neck giving the Hornets a fight. Holmdel needed overtime to get by Colts Neck on Saturday but once Connor Hinds’s golden goal found the back of the net, Holmdel had locked up the No. 1 spot for the first time this year.

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

Despite some close calls, Jackson Memorial is right where it wants to be given the circumstances it has faced. The Jaguars are playing without injured senior All-Shore defender Ben Schnaak and are still getting used to life without Dan Russo, but to this point, it has not cost them any games. They found ways to beat Pinelands, Manalapan and Howell and are looking at a big week coming up, with Manasquan and Toms River South on back-to-back days.

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

After impressive wins over Washington Township and Howell, CBA got knocked to the mat by Long Branch, which picked off the Colts, 1-0, with a late goal. The Colts lacked varsity experienced coming into the season and it stands to reason that experience would bite them at some point, which it appears to have done in the loss to Long Branch. When it comes to the long haul, CBA still looks the part of a contender and seemed to shake it off with a 2-0 win over St. Joseph of Pa. A tough test awaits Tuesday in the form of a road match at unbeaten Marlboro.

4. Wall (4-0, 1-0) Last Week: 5

Wall made it three-and-a-half games without allowing a goal before Rumson scored twice in the last 23 minutes to make the Crimson Knights sweat out a 3-2 win. With that victory, Wall has outscored its four opponents by a combined total of 11-2 with three shutouts and those opponents have been quality: Freehold Boro (4-1), St. Rose (3-1), Red Bank (2-2) and Rumson-Fair Haven (0-3). Wall has two big B North showdowns this week against Matawan and Middletown North.

5. Marlboro (4-0, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked

After three-win week that included three wins, two routs and two wins over previously-ranked opponents, Marlboro surges not only into the top 10 but the top five. The Mustangs have communitively outscored their opponents 17-2, including 9-0 against their last two opponents: Manalapan and Toms River North. Throw in a win over Middletown South earlier in the week and the Mustangs have opened plenty of eyes so far in 2019. They can open even more Tuesday when CBA pays them a visit.

6. Manasquan (2-1, 1-0) Last Week: 2

There are some striking similarities between Manasquan’s loss to Ocean on Friday and Ocean’s loss to Manasquan last year. Manasquan went into Ocean struggling, with a 6-0 loss to Neptune in its rearview mirror and beat a Spartans team with aspirations of winning the Shore Conference Tournament and the Group III title (they went on to win both) by erasing a 2-0 deficit late in the second half. Ocean went into Manasquan struggling, having lost to Middletown South 6-0, and also overcame a 2-0 halftime deficit to beat a talented Warriors team set on winning at least one championship this year. It is a setback now, but if Manasquan needs any indication that this kind of loss can be productive, the Warriors need not look further than the program that just beat them.

7. Southern (2-0-1, 1-0-1) Last Week: 6

During the early days of 2019, Southern is having some trouble finishing off goals but the Rams look like a real threat based on the strong play of their back line and midfield. This past week, Southern managed only one goal in 180 minutes, which included a scoreless draw against a Toms River South team that gave up four goals to Toms River East in its next match. Southern finally broke a scoreless spell of more than 160 minutes with a second-half goal to beat Brick Memorial and will try to carry that over to this coming week against Toms River East and Long Branch.

8. Middletown North (5-1, 1-0) Last Week: Not ranked

Despite taking its first loss of the season on Saturday, Middletown North joins the rankings after winning its first five matches prior to Saturday’s overtime defeat at the hands of Steinert. All six of Middletown North’s games have been decided by a one-goal margin, so Saturday’s loss was the rare instance in which the ball did not bounce in the Lions’ favor. This upcoming week will be a big one, with a trip to Wall looming on Thursday.

9. Freehold Boro (4-1, 1-0) Last Week: Not ranked

The Colonials have racked up a few quality wins in the early going, with their victories coming against Ocean, Brick, Middletown South and Point Boro. The wins over Ocean and Point Boro came in overtime and the win over Middletown South marked a positive result against the No. 8 team in the rankings at the time. Factor in that Freehold Boro’s lone loss is against No. 4 Wall and the Colonials have made a strong first impression heading into a pivotal week that includes matches against Howell and Freehold Township.

10. Toms River North (2-1, 0-0) Last Week: 9

Despite a humbling loss to Marlboro in its first action in a week, Toms River North remains in the top 10 on the strength of its win over Freehold Township. So far this season, this No. 10 slot has not been kind to its occupant and the Mariners will have to get back on track against the A South schedule in order to hold off a whole host of challengers.


Dropped Out

Freehold Township (2-3, 1-0) Last Week: 7 – The Patriots’ only two wins are over one-win teams (St. John Vianney and Howell) so they will have to make some noise in A North to get back in the rankings, starting this week against Manalapan and Freehold Boro.

Middletown South (2-3, 0-2) Last Week: 8 – The A North public title might have already slipped through Middletown South’s hands but the Eagles have an experienced team that has played a tough schedule. Don’t count them out.

Matawan (2-2-1, 0-1-0) Last Week: 10 – The Huskies walked the tightrope in their first three games and the wire snapped in a 3-0 loss to Colts Neck and an overtime loss to Raritan. Matawan has been an October team in recent years so expect the senior-heavy Huskies to improve.


Top 10 Watch List

Colts Neck (2-1, 1-0) – The Cougars appear primed to challenge for B North after nearly knocking off No. 1 Holmdel.

Monmouth (6-0, 1-0) – The schedule is very light so far but that changes when Holmdel comes to town on Monday.

Neptune (5-1, 1-0) – With one lone loss to Manasquan, Neptune is well-positioned to again be a postseason factor.

Pinelands (3-1, 2-0) – There is a long way to go but a road win at Lacey gives Pinelands the early inside track in the B South race.

Barnegat (5-0, 3-0) – The Bengals are off to their best start in program history and after beating Point Boro and Lacey, they may be the No. 1 challenger to defending champion Pinelands in the B South race.

Toms River South (1-1-1, 1-0-1) – The Indians shook off a loss to Howell by playing Southern to a scoreless draw and winning a wild, 5-4, overtime showdown vs. Toms River East.

Raritan (2-2, 0-1) – The Rockets graduated a lot of talent but have been feisty early on, with their two losses coming to No. 1 Holmdel and No. 9 Middletown North.

Red Bank (2-2, 0-1) – An opening-day win over Long Branch is looking pretty solid right now after the Green Wave topped CBA last week. The Bucs badly needed a win following a two-game skid and got it vs. Lacey to cap the week.

Long Branch (1-2-1, 1-0-0) – The Green Wave has only one win but it’s a big one: 1-0, on the road vs. CBA on a Patrick O’Dwyer goal in the final five minutes.

Toms River East (3-1, 1-1) – After a 5-4 overtime loss to Toms River South, the Raiders will try to take a big step toward the top 10 by beating Southern and Toms River North this week.