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The Holmdel boys soccer team withdrew from the NJSIAA Tournament Monday do to multiple positive tests for the COVID-19 coronavirus among its players, Holmdel athletic director Matt Kukoda confirmed.

The team is now quarantining after as many as seven players either tested positive or were suspected of exposure, Kukoda said. According to multiple sources, a private gathering earlier in the week is the suspected source of the spread among the players.

The decision was made Monday afternoon after consultation with the Monmouth County Board of Health and its contact tracing and quarantining guidelines, Kukoda said.

"I haven't gotten a chance to talk to them yet, but obviously they are going to be devastated," interim Holmdel head coach Matt Isaacson said Monday afternoon. "I think they got to this point of the season and thought they had made it and figure, 'If we made it this far, they are not going to shut it down now.' Unfortunately, you can't think like that with this virus. Every day is a new day and with what is going on, you can't put anyone else at risk. You have to think bigger picture, beyond sports."

Holmdel was scheduled to host Monmouth Regional Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA Central East combined Group I and II section. According to Kukoda, he found out Sunday morning that there were multiple players on the team that either tested positive or were exposed and was expecting Monday's outcome.

"Going back to July, we have taken the approach that it was really important to communicate with all of our athletes and coaches about what they are doing and how they're feeling," Kukoda said. "We have known all along that things could end at any moment and tomorrow is never guaranteed. No matter what, the main focus has been to do the right thing for the teams and the athletes."

Holmdel is the sixth Shore Conference boys team to pull their name from the NJSIAA Tournament while their athletic departments follow COVID-19 protocols, joining Barnegat, Point Pleasant Boro, Central Regional, Middletown South and Middletown North. Not all of those programs actually had confirmed cases within the actual teams, but the respective administrations elected to halt participation.

The Hornets were the top seed in the section after going 12-1-1 during the regular season. Holmdel finished first place in the Shore Conference Class A Central division with a 11-0-1 division record and started the season unbeaten over its first 11 matches. On Nov. 7, Holmdel dropped a 3-1 decision to Christian Brothers Academy, marking the program's first outright loss after 65 straight games without one.

This marks the second straight season that Holmdel was eliminated from the state tournament without absorbing a loss to its record. The 2019 season ended with a loss to Governor Livingston in a round of penalty kicks following a 0-0 draw.

The 2020 season started with turmoil for the Hornets when head coach Ron Poll resigned from his position just four days before the team's scheduled season-opener. With Isaacson taking over, Holmdel authored another banner season despite losing most of its scoring from 2019, losing standout junior goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych to a knee injury in the middle of the season, and playing for a third head coach in three years.

"They were hit with adversity time and time again and they just didn't let it phase them," Isaacson said. "I can't imagine having to go through all of it. It was only six years ago I was playing high-school soccer and I know it would have been incredibly difficult to focus and perform with everything going on this year and these guys did an amazing job staying together and getting as much out of the season as they could."

Isaacson was officially the interim head coach and while a more complete coaching search will be conducted, Kukoda said Isaacson, 23, will be a candidate.

"I'm proud of the way he has handled it all this year," Kukoda said. "The kids really responded to his leadership."

With Holmdel pulling out of the tournament, Monmouth Regional will advance to Thursday's sectional semifinal round to play at the winner of Tuesday's scheduled game between fourth-seeded Point Pleasant Beach and fifth-seeded New Egypt.

"You want to beat the best, so it's a little disappointing for us and you definitely feel for the guys on Holmdel," Monmouth coach Darren Spadavecchia said. "At this point, I think we just want to keep playing so whatever happens, we just want to play another game."

 

Edit, 7:10 p.m.: Holmdel announced it has also shut down its girls soccer and football teams for the remainder of the season as part of its COVID-19 protocol. The girls soccer team played and won its NJSIAA Tournament game vs. Manchester on Monday, while the football team's final game against Brick Memorial has been canceled. The girls soccer team finished the season 15-0 and the football team 6-1 after beating Manasquan on Saturday.