Boys Soccer – SSN Top 10, Sept. 18
One of the major themes throughout this Shore Conference soccer season is the continued examination of how the new schedule will affect teams – both in their preparation and in their profiles come tournament time. When it comes to the top 10, one of the side effects that has become apparent is that increased number of crossover games could cause more confusion than clarity.
That currently being the case, the latest installment of the top 10 is going to look perplexing to a handful of teams that figured they would be in after some big wins last week. With so many teams beating one another, the default is stick with the original top 10 unless there is clear proof there needs to be a change. In the third week of September, we're still waiting on some more evidence.
Beyond that, it’s pretty tough to decipher one team in the bottom five from an unranked team, so consider the current version of the top 10 extremely volatile, particular outside the top four.
1. Holmdel (4-0, 2-0) Last Week: 1
Even without defending Shore Sports Network Player of the Year, Holmdel has been a juggernaut. After Anthony Arena left Saturday’s game against Colts Neck with a hamstring injury, the Hornets put up three goals in a win over Colts Neck and three more in a win over previously-unbeaten Monmouth with Arena still sidelined. Through four games, Holmdel has outscored opponents 17-0.
2. Christian Brother Academy (4-1, 2-0) Last Week: 2
CBA’s second week of the season included a narrow win over Long Branch and a 3-0 loss to a St. Benedict’s team ranked No. 1 in the country according to USA Today. The Colts managed to reach halftime against the Gray Bees 0-0 but could not keep up in the second half. After that kind of challenge, the next stretch of games should be more manageable, even up at the Delbarton Invitational this weekend.
3. Jackson Memorial (5-0, 2-0) Last Week: 4
The Jaguars move up to No. 3 and now have CBA in their sights for the No. 2 spot. There is not much margin for error, however, so Jackson Memorial will have to keep rolling through opponents like they have and come through when it gets a shot against an A North team. Jackson lost a game vs. Howell due to rain, but the Jaguars still have Freehold Township and Freehold Boro in a three-day span in early October.
4. Ocean (4-1, 2-0) Last Week: 3
Despite slipping up against Manasquan last week, the Spartans only fall one spot based on their still-strong record, 13-3 goal differential and program pedigree over the last several years. It also helps Ocean that it is still early in the season and there are plenty of teams either with slip-ups or who have yet to be tested by their schedule yet.
5. Howell (3-1, 1-1) Last Week: 5
Another team that lost doesn’t get punished too much for a loss, Howell is helped by the fact that it responded to a loss to a top-10 team (Freehold Township) with a win over a top-10 team (Freehold Boro). The Rebels also lost without standout keeper Shane McBride, who returned to action right after the Freehold Township loss and immediately recorded two shutouts. Howell gave up two goals in each of the first two games with McBride sidelined.
6. Neptune (3-0-1, 2-0-0) Last Week: Not ranked
The Scarlet Fliers debut in the top 10 with a resume that looks better and better with each passing day. They got off to a slow start and rallied to tie fellow unbeaten Lakewood, beat both St. John Vianney and Colts Neck and hammered a Manasquan team that knocked off Ocean. With a senior-laden team that includes one of the Shore’s top scorers – Wilby Alfred – Neptune will be tested on Thursday against that very Ocean team.
7. Freehold Township (2-1-1, 1-1-0) Last Week: 9
A loss to a suddenly-dangerous Manalapan team on Monday slowed Freehold Township’s momentum in Class A North, but the Patriots still have a win over Howell that both keeps them in the top 10 as well as in the mix for the A North public title. With many of the A North public teams cannibalizing one another, it’s looking more and more like the second place team in A North will be fighting off the rest of teams behind it for the public title rather than pushing CBA to the limit for the overall title.
8. Freehold Boro (3-2, 1-1) Last Week: 7
The Colonials had a chance to gain the inside track in the A North public race, but dropped a tightly-contested, 1-0 overtime game at Howell on Monday. Both of Freehold Boro’s losses are to top-five teams and the Colonials have three solid wins to boot, so they don’t suffer much of a drop following the loss to the Rebels.
9. Manasquan (4-1, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked
Losing 6-0 to Neptune and narrowly beating Brick Memorial, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven aren’t reassuring results when considering Manasquan for a top-10 spot, but a 3-2 win over an Ocean team that still looks like a clear top-four team is as good a win as there is at the Shore this season other than CBA’s win over Delran. The Warriors are still on the young side and have some new pieces working into the formation, so the improvement over the first two-plus weeks plays to their advantage.
10. Monmouth (5-1, 1-1) Last Week: 8
Although Monmouth’s best wins don’t match that of teams like Long Branch, Southern and Manalapan, and despite the fact that Toms River North and Lakewood are still unbeaten, the Falcons hold on to a top-10 spot because their loss is to the best team in the Shore Conference. They could run into trouble down the line because Holmdel was the only team on their schedule ranked in the preseason, but now that Manasquan and Neptune are off to strong starts, Monmouth will, in fact, have a few more marquee games on its slate.
Toms River South (1-1, 1-1) Last Week: 6 – The Indians bounced back from a loss to Southern by beating rival Toms River East. The Indians miss Clem Slavick (academy commitment) but they have a history of making a run in October, regardless of roster issues.
Toms River North (3-0-2, 2-0-0) Last Week: 10 – A scoreless tie vs. Marlboro and Point Boro’s continued struggles have dampened Toms River North’s resume a bit, but the draw vs. Freehold Township keeps the Mariners right on the cusp of the top 10.
On the Bubble
Lakewood (4-0-1, 3-0-0) – The Piners are right on the top 10 doorstep but with Barnegat and Asbury Park on the schedule between now a Saturday, this likely won’t be the week they kick the door down.
Long Branch (4-2, 1-1) – After battling CBA and winning overtime thrillers over Southern and Middletown South, Long Branch is close to sliding in despite a loss at Middletown North. If the Green Wave keep stepping up against a challenging schedule, they will be in before long.
Southern (4-1, 2-0) – Were it not for a loss at Long Branch on Saturday, Southern likely would have debuted in the top five, which means leaving them unranked might be a little cruel. As it is, it’s still hard to place them without knowing what Toms River South is, although Manalapan’s recent performance might make the case.
Manalapan (2-2-1, 2-0-0) – Manalapan looked like a lost team after being outscored 12-2 over its first two games, but has responded with A North wins over Marlboro and Freehold Township and a scoreless draw against a Bridgewater-Raritan team that began the season in the state’s top 20.
Wall (3-1, 1-0) – After dropping its opener to Freehold Boro, Wall has handled its business vs. St. Rose, Rumson and Red Bank.