Boys Soccer – SSN Top 10, Sept. 24
Another week, another very different Top 10, at least in the range from No. 5 to 10. Holmdel, CBA and Jackson Memorial continue to set the pace and Ocean bounced back nicely from its first loss of the season, so the top of the conference remains clear-cut. Beyond that, however, not much more has been settled in the last week and there are now only two-and-a-half weeks to figure our the pecking order before the Shore Conference Tournament seeding meeting.
So, to the three teams making their first Top 10 appearance of the season: welcome and enjoy it. If the season continues as it has to this point, it might not last.
1. Holmdel (6-0, 3-0) Last Week: 1
The Hornets continue to roll on the scoreboard and in the standings, but the Shore’s No. 1 team has some major concerns. After Anthony Arena went down with a hamstring injury, outside back Jack Russo injured his foot and Joe Arena has been bothered by a groin ailment. Holmdel surrendered its first goal of the season Saturday against Toms River South before pulling out a 2-1 win and this week won’t be much easier with Matawan, Manasquan and Pinelands on tap.
2. Christian Brothers Academy (7-1, 3-0) Last Week: 2
For the third straight year, CBA went 2-1 at the Green Wave Invitational at Delbarton, this time by scoring a combined seven goals in wins over La Salle and Chaminade. Only national powerhouse St. Benedict’s has been able to beat the Colts, although CBA has had to fight off challenges by Delran, Long Branch and Middletown South. A trip to Freehold Boro this week should provide a challenge within A North and a road game at Ocean Friday will be one of the big regular-season games of the season for both top-five teams.
3. Jackson Memorial (6-0, 3-0) Last Week: 3
With Holmdel finally allowing a goal, Jackson Memorial is now the team with the eye-popping goals-scored-vs.-goals-allowed numbers. Not only are the Jaguars unbeaten, but they have scored a Shore-best 30 goals – eight more than the next best team (Lacey) – while giving up only two. Last week’s 3-0 win over Toms River South might have been more symbolic than anything given that Southern and Toms River North are closer to Jackson Memorial in the standings, but vanquishing the Indians is always a big deal for any A South team.
4. Ocean (6-1, 3-0) Last Week: 4
After coughing up a 2-0 lead to lose to Manasquan two Fridays ago, Ocean bounced back with three straight wins over Red Bank, Neptune and Rumson-Fair Haven. That home victory over Neptune was particularly important as the Scarlet Fliers entered the game unbeaten on heels of the Spartans in the Class B North race. It appears the division will come down to Ocean vs. Wall on Oct. 11 but before then, the Spartans will have to fight off Long Branch and Colts Neck before a huge home game Friday against CBA.
5. Neptune (4-1-1, 2-1-0) Last Week: 6
Despite losing to Ocean on Thursday, Neptune moves up a spot in the rankings. Not only did the Scarlet Fliers bounce back by beating Point Beach, 3-0, but in losing, 2-1, at Ocean, they showed they belong on the same field with one of the Shore’s most talented squads. Neptune will face another challenge on Wednesday when it travels to play a Wall team that has won six straight entering the week.
6. Long Branch (4-2-1, 1-1-1) Last Week: Not ranked
Just as Neptune did last week, Long Branch makes its Top 10 debut at No. 6 this week after beating Middletown South in overtime and holding on for a 2-2 draw at Manalapan. The Green Wave’s win over Southern is the result that makes the biggest impact on its top 10 case but this week might be even bigger. The Green Wave take on Ocean on Monday and travel to Howell on Wednesday for a game with A North public title ramifications.
7. Southern (4-2, 2-0) Last Week: Not ranked
Despite entering the week on a two-game losing streak, Southern enters the top 10 for the first time this season. The Rams’ losses are in overtime at Long Branch and 1-0 to a perennially-strong Shawnee side. Meanwhile, Southern not only has a road win at Toms River South, but its 4-0 win over Manalapan is looking a lot better now that the Braves have regrouped and charged to the head of the pack of Class A North public teams. After a dangerous game against an improved Brick team, Southern has another big showdown in Toms River, this time against Toms River North, before wrapping up the week against a red-hot Lacey side.
8. Manalapan (2-2-2, 2-0-1) Last Week: Not ranked
After the first two games of the season, it appeared as though Manalapan might be on its way to one of its worst seasons in recent memory. The Braves lost to Southern and Jackson Memorial by a combined score of 12-2 and the A North schedule figured to be no less forgiving. Instead, Manalapan has completely reversed its course by earning a scoreless draw against a strong Bridgewater-Raritan team, beating Marlboro and Freehold Township in divisional play, and battling back to tie Long Branch to cap last week. There is still a long way to go in A North but it seems like Manalapan will be in the mix for as long as the A North public race lasts.
9. Freehold Township (3-1-1, 2-1-0) Last Week: 7
The Patriots faced their first real must-win game of the season on Friday against rival Freehold Boro and they showed some big-game chops by winning a 2-1, overtime match against the Colonials to bounce back from Monday’s loss to Manalapan. With that win, the Patriots stayed within striking distance of CBA and Manalapan in the overall and public A North races.
10. Manasquan (5-1, 3-0) Last Week: 9
Manasquan remains in the top 10 thanks to one of the best wins of the season by a Shore Conference team – a come-from-behind, 3-2 win over Ocean. This week will put Manasquan’s top-10 standing to the test, as the Warriors play road games at Wall, Holmdel and Middletown South. The Holmdel game, in particular, is a huge opportunity for the Warriors to take over first place in A Central and knock off the No. 1 team at the Shore while they are dealing with injuries to some of their key players.
Howell (4-2, 1-2) Last Week: 5 – The Rebels dropped a match to Marlboro that puts a damper on their pursuit for an A North public title and bounces them from the top 10 for the time being.
Freehold Boro (3-3, 1-2) Last Week: 8 – This part of the season has given Freehold problems each of the past two years, so it will be critical for the Colonials to stay afloat this week against Brick, CBA and Colts Neck.
Monmouth (5-2-1, 1-2-0) Last Week: 10 – Not only did Monmouth drop out of the top 10 by going 0-2-1 last week, but the Falcons also lost senior captain and center midfielder Brian Waltsak indefinitely to an ankle injury.
On the Bubble
Lakewood (5-0-1, 3-0-0) – The Piners remain on the cusp of the top 10 and will have a chance to continue to build its case this week against Point Beach and Lacey.
Wall (6-1, 3-0) – Since losing its opener to Freehold Boro, the Crimson Knights have won six straight and will get a chance to boost their resume this week against No. 10 Manasquan and No. 5 Neptune.
Toms River East (3-3, 0-2) – The Raiders’ three losses are all by one goal and two of them were overtime games. Wins over Pinelands and Toms River North make Toms River East worth consideration.
Toms River North (4-1-2, 3-0-0) – If not for Saturday’s loss to Toms River East, Toms River North might have squeezed its way back into the top 10 again this week.
Pinelands (4-2, 3-0) – Since losing at Jackson Memorial and Toms River East to open the season, the Wildcats have righted the ship with three straight wins. This week ends with a trip to play No. 1 Holmdel.