Boys Soccer – SSN Top 10, Sept. 19
A week-and-a-half into the season, not all that much has changed in the actual top 10: of the first nine teams in the rankings, eight were in the preseason top 10 and the other was firmly on the bubble as a team not far from making the jump.
The real surprise in the Shore Conference begins with this week’s No. 10 and some of the teams that are now on the cusp of a top 10 spot after hot starts. Class B Central has shown some chops, with St. Rose doing some noteworthy work outside the division and Asbury Park doing some big things inside of it. Four or five games has not been enough to dramatically alter the face of the top 10, but there are some serious rumblings below the surface.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: 1
It is going to take more than one slip-up to knock CBA from the top spot given how strong the Colts have looked over their first four games. After handling Freehold Boro on opening day, CBA has defeated No. 3 Marlboro in overtime, No. 6 Colts Neck 6-0 and a Don Bosco team that was ranked the NJ.com preseason top 20.
2. Toms River South (4-0, 4-0) Last Week: 2
Despite losing its main source of goals from last year, Toms River South has had little trouble scoring during a 4-0 start. Even when they only scored one goal against Central on Friday, the defense and goalkeeper Dom Pizzi came through to author the team’s first clean sheet of the season.
3. Marlboro (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: 3
The Mustangs took CBA into overtime on their home field and have pulled out three other wins over the course of their start to the season. They just did get by Manalapan and Howell in 1-0 wins, but showed some more goal-scoring prowess in a 4-1 win over Middletown South.
4. Ocean (4-0, 3-0) Last Week: 8
Despite losing three All-Shore players in the field, Ocean looks poised for another push at a sectional title and SCT final four appearance behind a good core of seniors and a talented crop of sophomores. The Spartans earned a hard-fought win over Manasquan but the going gets a little tougher this week with games against Middletown North, Middletown South and Wall.
5. Middletown North (3-0-1, 3-0-0) Last Week: 4
The Lions drop one spot after squandering a 2-0 lead against Manalapan and ultimately tying the Braves. Freehold Boro beat Manalapan on Thursday, then lost to Ocean, 4-1, so that gives the Spartans the early edge over Middletown North. It likely won’t matter after this week, because the two B North rivals square off on Monday.
6. Colts Neck (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: 7
An ugly loss to CBA does not prevent the Cougars from moving up a spot in the rankings because the rest of Colts Neck’s start has been pretty good. They handled their business in 3-0 wins over Neptune and Red Bank and also won a wild 6-4 game against Freehold Township that the Cougars led the entire way.
7. Toms River North (4-1, 4-0) Last Week: Not ranked
The Mariners began the season on the periphery of the top 10 and quickly proved their exclusion was a mistake. Toms River North won by multi-goal margins against Southern, Toms River East and Jackson Memorial, and also put away Central, 1-0, to hand the Golden Eagles their first loss. With only a 2-1 loss to Kearny disrupting an unbeaten start, the Mariners are looking at a Thursday showdown with currently unbeaten Toms River South for early control of A South.
8. Shore (2-0-3, 1-0-2) Last Week: 5
The Blue Devils are working out some kinks while replacing half of their 2016 lineup, so three straight draws is mostly understandable. On the bright side, Shore managed to pull out wins over Matawan and Long Branch and the draws are to three quality opponents in Donovan Catholic, Raritan and Holmdel. That was enough to drop them three spots, but not nearly enough to give up on the Blue Devils this early.
9. Freehold Township (3-1, 2-1) Last Week: 10
With almost an entirely-new starting lineup, Freehold Township probably won’t hit its stride for another couple of weeks, which makes a 3-1 start pretty noteworthy. The Patriots showed some fight in a 6-4 loss to Colts Neck and bounced back with 3-0 wins over Neptune and a Wall team that was ranked No. 6 in the preseason.
10. Matawan (4-1, 3-1) Last Week: Not ranked
After letting a 2-0 lead disappear in a 4-3 opening-day loss to Shore, the Huskies have grown from it, evidenced by a four-game winning streak since. Whether in dominant fashion (three-goal wins over St. John Vianney and Manasquan) or down to the wire (1-0 wins over Holmdel and Rumson), Matawan has shown it can handle any scenario and do so against quality competition.
Wall (1-3-1, 1-1-1) Last Week: 6 – One-goal losses to St. Rose and Middletown North and a scoreless draw against Middletown South were all tough results to swallow for the Crimson Knights.
Rumson-Fair Haven (1-2, 1-1) Last Week: 9 – Even if the win over Don Bosco counted as a regular-season win, Rumson would still have to establish some consistency to remain a top 10 threat.
Top 10 Watchlist
Asbury Park (3-0, 3-0) – St. Rose did some heavy lifting for B Central with two big non-division wins, only to have Asbury Park whack the Purple Roses, 5-1.
Southern (4-1, 3-1) – The Rams lost 4-0 to Toms River North but have quickly regrouped under new coach Guy Lockwood with four straight wins and one of the more surprising starts at the Shore.
St. Rose (5-1, 3-1) – Despite a rout at the hands of Asbury Park, St. Rose already has a stellar resume with a solid division mark and wins against St. Rose and Rumson outside B Central.
Pinelands (4-1, 4-0) – The first-place Wildcats gave up two late goals to Southern in a 2-0 loss, which is the only thing keeping them out of the top 10.
Raritan (4-0-1, 1-0-1) – The Rockets have been impressive thus far, but their only real test so far has been Shore, which was ended in a draw.
Ranney (5-0, 4-0) – Like Raritan, Ranney’s hot start has at least something to do with a soft schedule out of the gate. That changes this week with games against Holmdel, Asbury Park and Pinelands.
Central (3-2, 2-2) – Central’s wins are against teams with losing records, but the losses are 1-0 decisions against Toms River South and Toms River North. The Golden Eagles are still very much in the mix.