Boys Soccer – Toms River East Joins, Middletown North Climbs in Ocean Orthopedic Shore 16 Rankings
There is only a month left in the 2023 boys soccer season and while it would be a stretch to claim that the Shore Sports Network Shore 16 is finally coming into focus, it is certainly moving closer to its final state.
The Shore Conference Tournament almost always produces new teams to consider and new debates to be had and this season has been no different. Last week, no new teams entered the rankings, but that changes this week with a team that not only earned its first ranking this season, but went from unranked to top 10 in the Shore Conference.
The four SCT semifinalists were all top-five teams last week, so the top of the rankings remains relatively static. Over the final four weeks of the season, however, there are potential postseason matchups that could dramatically change the Shore 16 picture, and that begins with the conclusion of the SCT this week.
1. Christian Brothers Academy (13-2, 5-1) Last Week: 1
Since beating Toms River North on the last day of September, CBA has been good while also looking beatable. The Colts are 5-1 this month and have trailed in four of the six games – not exactly a jarring fact, but a noteworthy one considering CBA had trailed just once while going 7-0 vs. Shore Conference teams in September. CBA’s bigger problem is the possible absence of standout senior midfielder Dimitry Corba, who injured his knee in Friday’s 2-1 overtime win over Marlboro.
2. Toms River North (12-2, 6-1) Last Week: 2
Last week was a grind-it-out week for Toms River North, which did not put up lefty goal totals in its two Shore Conference Tournament wins, but did post a pair of clean sheets against Middletown South and St. Rose. The Mariners have already seen CBA up close in one of their two losses and once they play Howell in Wednesday’s Shore Conference Tournament semifinal, Toms River North will have played each of the other top seven teams in this week’s ranking and eight of the other top 10 teams.
3. Howell (9-1-2, 4-1-1) Last Week: 3
Last week, Toms River North moved ahead of Howell in the rankings, partly because the Mariners have been the more dominant side for most of the year. It seems Howell might have got the message. Last week, the Rebels scored four goals for the first time all year in beating Manasquan, 4-2, then did it three days later in a 4-1 win over Ocean. The Toms River North-vs.-Howell match will be one of the games of the year in the Shore Conference and could even be a potential NJSIAA Group IV semifinal preview.
4. Middletown North (11-4, 3-3) Last Week: 5
The Lions were the No. 12 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament only because as a team that finished second in its SCT group, that was the highest possible seed they could be awarded. Armed with a double-digit seed, experience from its 2022 run to the semifinals and plenty of motivation, Middletown North took down both Southern and Toms River East on the way to earning another trip to the SCT semifinal – the first time in program history the Lions have made the SCT semifinals in back-to-back seasons.
5. Southern (9-3-2, 5-1-1) Last Week: 4
Had the Shore Conference Tournament been seeded as it has been in prior years, Southern still likely would have had to beat Middletown North to reach the semifinals, but it would not have been until the quarterfinal round. Instead, Southern got picked off by the Lions in the round of 16, with the Rams falling behind, 2-0, and coming up short in their comeback effort in a 2-1 loss. Southern will now turn its attention to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV Tournament and given the Rams’ 7-0 record on the road, they may be looking to drop in the seeding while everyone else is trying to climb over the next week.
6. Middletown South (6-5-1, 3-3-0) Last Week: 6
Although just barely above .500, the Eagles have the best win of any team in the Shore Conference this season in the form of their home win over CBA. Their losses are also to quality teams as well: Howell, Middletown North, Toms River North, Ocean and Manalapan. It is hard to win consistently in Class A North and while Middletown South has not done that, it has proven it can beat just anybody while maintaining a healthy record and résumé throughout the fall.
7. St. Rose (9-2-3, 4-0-2) Last Week: 9
A 1-0 semifinal loss at Toms River North was the first loss St. Rose has suffered since opening day against Wall. Both of those losses are by one goal, so St. Rose has demonstrated it will stay close with most opponents the Purple Roses encounter. Next up for St. Rose is preparing for the Non-Public B Tournament, in which the Roses had great success a season ago, when they made it all the way to the state final and lost on penalty kicks.
8. Rumson-Fair Haven (9-2-1, 6-0-0) Last Week: 10
The Bulldogs have been flying under the radar in the Coaches Cup, which resumes on Monday. The Bulldogs only lost one game in their SCT group and it was to Middletown South, so the margin between the Coaches Cup and the SCT was razor thin for Rumson. During the regular season, meanwhile, the Bulldogs went unbeaten in Class A Central, which has done well vs. teams outside the Shore Conference in regular-season play, if not so great in SCT group play.
9. Central (7-4-2, 4-2-1) Last Week: 8
The Golden Eagles have gone winless in five matches since shocking Holmdel in a must-win game on Sept. 30. They have gone 1-0-1 vs. Toms River East, but the win was in overtime and the tie was a penalty-kick loss to the Raiders in the SCT. You can make an argument either way on Central vs. Toms River East in the rankings, but Central stays a spot ahead thanks to that technical head-to-head advantage and a higher placing in the A South standings.
10. Toms River East (6-4-3, 3-3-1) Last Week: Not ranked
This might be an overcorrection, but Toms River East goes from unranked to the Top 10 after knocking off two top 10 teams in Central and Colts Neck to reach the SCT quarterfinals for the first time since 2011. The Raiders had to swallow some less-than-ideal results during a 1-3-2 start, but rattled off a seven-game unbeaten streak before finally losing, 1-0, at Middletown North on Friday.
11. Holmdel (10-2-1, 5-1-0) Last Week: 11 – The Hornets have refocused their efforts on winning the Coaches Cup and making a play for the top seed in Central Jersey Group II come state tournament time.
12. Colts Neck (8-3, 5-0) Last Week: 7 – Not much went right for Colts Neck in a 5-2 loss to Toms River East in the SCT round of 16, so the Cougars will now try to get right for the Central Group III playoffs.
13. Manasquan (9-5, 5-1) Last Week: 12 – The Warriors showed fight in cutting a 3-0 deficit at Howell to 3-2 before ultimately falling, 4-2.
14. Ocean (7-4-2, 4-2-0) Last Week: 13 – A come-from-behind, shootout win over Manalapan in the SCT round of 16 showed Ocean can be a major factor in the NJSIAA Group III Tournament.
15. Marlboro (5-4-3, 2-3-1) Last Week: 14 – The Mustangs don’t have any wins that jump off the résumé, but they have played CBA tough in two losses to the Colts and also have a tie vs. Howell.
16. Manalapan (6-5-1, 2-4-0) Last Week: 15 – With wins over Long Branch and Wall by multiple goals apiece, plus a win over No. 6 Middletown South, Manalapan holds on to its spot in the Shore 16.
Long Branch (9-4-2, 3-2-0) Last Week: 16 – The Green Wave have not done much wrong to fall out of the rankings, but will a shootout loss at Marlboro and a regular-season loss to Manalapan, Long Branch is, essentially, parked in the No. 17 spot at the moment.