Girls Volleyball- Home Stretch for No. 1, All But Safe at the Top
October 9th; a day across the shore that could very well go down as the shapeshifter throughout the rankings.
As No. 1 Southern and No. 2 Donovan Catholic are set to matchup, which will all but determine the top team for the foreseeable future, No. 4 Howell and No. 6 Midd. South face off to settle what could be the division for Class A North.
The Class B Central race continues to be a dogfight, as newcomer No. 15 Point Beach looks to solidify a title in 2023. No. 3 St. John Vianney has clinched Class B North, looking to stay perfect within their respective division. The division races continue to unfold and the power points continue to be garnered as a new Shore 16 is unveiled.
1) Southern Regional (17-1, 11-0) Last Week: 1
After taking their first loss on a road trip to Immaculate Heart Academy, the Rams found themselves going a perfect 4-0 last week which included a win at home against No. 4 Howell. The clash of all clashes takes place on Monday, as the Rams travel to No. 2 Donovan Catholic. If they can get through unscathed in which very well could be a Shore Conference Tournament Championship preview, the sky is the limit and there's no telling how far this program will go until it all unfolds.
2) Donovan Catholic (18-1, 10-0) Last Week: 2
The Griffins started as the number two team in the shore and have stayed in this very spot all season long. After clinching the Class B South last week, the program has a real opportunity to overtake the top spot in the rankings as they host No. 1 Southern Regional to begin their week. While this is an incredibly tall task, it's just as tough for their opponent as the two are a combined 35-2 going into the matchup. In what's already been a historic season for the Griffins, they have the chance to turn up the heat once again across the state.
3) St. John Vianney (14-4, 10-0) Last Week: 3
The Lancers continued to do their thing across the shore last week, going unscathed and clinching the Class B Central. Freshman Ayana Warren continues to establish herself as one of the best playmakers in the entire conference, as she is only seven assists away from 350. The Lancers will once again have an opportunity to build their strong resumé, taking on Rumson-Fair Haven on Friday.
4) Howell (11-2, 9-0) Last Week: 4
In what has been a magical regular season for the Rebels, the program has continued to stay focused on their divisional title bid. After taking down No. 15 Point Beach in back-to-back sets, the Rebels travelled to No. 1 Southern and had their hands full through two sets. Matches like that are to get themselves set up for matches like No. 6 Middletown South, in which Howell can outright clinch a Class A North title with a victory.
5) Barnegat (13-3, 6-3) Last Week: 6
The Bengals jump up a spot from last week after taking down Middle Township on the road and finishing off their week with a two-set victory over Manchester. The Bengals faced off against No. 2 Donovan Catholic on the road, losing in two sets. Huge takeaway was that the Bengals lost both sets by single-digit totals (4 & 8). The Bengals have proven all season long that they can hold their own against top teams across the shore and state, with a strong case at a top five seed in the Shore Conference Tournament rankings.
6) Middletown South (10-3, 8-1) Last Week: 5
The Eagles did what they needed to do against Freehold Borough and Middletown North, but were faced with a challenge against No. 7 Jackson Liberty. As both sets were determined by two points, the Eagles did drop their third matchup of the year. They'll start off the week on the road against No. 4 Howell, which will all but decide Class A North. With a win, in what's already been a magical season for Middletown South, it'll be compelling to see what seed may await for them in the Shore Conference Tournament.
7) Jackson Liberty (10-3, 6-2) Last Week: 10
The Lions saw a huge opportunity to strike, leveraging a major non-divisional win over No. 6 Middletown South, thus allowing them to jump multiple spots this week. The Lions swept the week with two-set wins on the road at Lacey and Manchester. There's another opportunity to further climb up the rankings with matches at No. 5 Barnegat and No. 8 Pinelands this week.
8) Red Bank Catholic (10-5, 6-3) Last Week: 7
The week started off strong, taking down St. Rose in back-to-back sets before having the tall challenge of facing No. 3 St. John Vianney. The week concluded in the third set over Colts Neck, which is currently not an easy task with the resurgence of the reigning Central Group III Champs. The week won't get easier for the Caseys, as they're set to take on No. 10 Raritan and No. 11 Rumson-Fair Haven later this week.
9) Pinelands (11-6, 6-3) Last Week: 12
A five-game winning streak saw the Wildcats jump four spots in the rankings, as well as taking on an established program in Washington Township in two tough sets. They travel to No. 2 Donovan Catholic on Thursday, another Class B matchup which could secure their playoff seeding and act as strong preparation heading into tournament play. Given the depth and talent on Pinelands, a hot streak against strong competition is certainly not out of the question.
10) Raritan (9-4, 5-4) Last Week: 9
The Rockets were able to bounce back nicely with a two-set victory over No. 11 Rumson-Fair Haven after being upset by Holmdel in two sets. While it's been a strong 2023 for the Rockets, they'll need to garner consistency heading into the tournaments. The Rockets will end their week on the road against No. 8 Red Bank Catholic, looking to find their stride late in the season.
11) Rumson-Fair Haven (8-5, 5-4) Last Week: 11
While the Bulldogs found themselves on the side of defeat against No. 10 Raritan, they were able to start their week strong with wins over Trinity Hall and Wall. The schedule gets tricky for Rumson this week, travelling on the road to No. 8 Red Bank Catholic and facing No. 3 Vianney at home on Friday. A 2-1 week would be ideal, as a full sweep would shake things up across the rankings.
12) Brick Memorial (9-4, 5-4) Last Week: 8
The Mustangs gave it all they could against No. 1 Southern, but that isn't the reason for the slide. Even with a victory against No. 13 Toms River East, a loss to Toms River North is the ding that dropped them from No. 8 to No. 12. There's a chance to catapult back up with a loaded schedule this week, starting with No. 16 Marlboro.
13) Toms River East (9-6, 8-3) Last Week: 16
Quietly, the Raiders have been one of the shore's hottest teams, winning five of their last six matches including a win over No. 14 Central Regional. They'll be given the opportunity with a crack at No. 1 Southern to open up their week.
14) Central Regional (8-6, 6-5) Last Week: 14
A three-game midseason skid saw a season go from flying high to trying to hold on. One of the strong assets from this program led by Kate O'Blek has been their resilience. The Golden Eagles have been tasked with a juggernaut schedule all year and it gets no easier, starting the week at No. 12 Brick Memorial. One thing across the shore: you don't want to face this program when they get hot. They're almost impossible to take down.
15) Point Beach (9-6, 6-1) Last Week: NR
The frontrunner of Class B Central has found themselves inside the Shore 16. After a 4-1 week the Garnet Gulls have emerged with some properly timed momentum. Point Beach started the week with a tough two-set match against No. 4 Howell before taking four straight victories including a three-set win over No. 16 Marlboro. The Garnet Gulls can outright clinch Class B Central with a victory over Keyport this week.
16) Marlboro (7-5, 6-3) Last Week: 13
The curious case of the Marlboro Mustangs continues. After starting off the season on a rampant run, the Mustangs have been streaky, losing four of the last six. While they have been faced with a tough schedule at-hand, they need to turn those challenges into wins especially late in the season. They have the perfect opportunity to do this with a five-game week including matches against No. 4 Howell, No. 12 Brick Memorial and at No. 6 Midd. South.
Keep an Eye On:
Colts Neck (6-9)
Toms River North (4-5)