Holmdel in Hunt for State Title By James Smith


Experience throughout the lineup and three key pieces from the Academy circuit have been the recipe for success in Holmdel.


But how far can this program go?

Is a return trip to the Group 2 state finals, a platform Holmdel reached two years ago, in store?

Though some New Jersey soccer pundits seem to believe so, coach John Necarlo isn’t looking that far ahead.

“This is a process,” said Necarlo. “And we’re at the very beginning of it. Is it a goal of ours? Absolutely. Do I think this group has the potential to get to that point? Certainly. But we’re not talking about that right now. There’s a lot more work that has to be done to get to that point.”

If the Hornets’ hot start to the season is any indication of this club’s caliber, then they just might be playing on the state title stage in November, as Holmdel has dominated the competition through the first three weeks of the season.

In six games the Hornets have played to an undefeated mark of 6-0, while recording three shutouts and failing to surrender more than one goal in their three other contests.

Over that stretch Holmdel has registered 31 goals, notching no less than three goals in each of their opening games, and logging at least five tallies in their last five outings.

Much of this success is due to the 10 returning starters from last year’s group (which finished with a record of 9-7-3) and the reemergence of three Academy caliber players in Justin McStay (who was a primary piece of the 2015 team that made a state finals appearance), Cyrus Darvish (who played big minutes as a freshman in 2015) and Matthew Leone (who made varsity as a sophomore), all of whom return after taking time off from high school competition in 2016.

Together the dynamic trio has combined for nine goals and 17 assists.

Despite their exceptional offensive output, no one at the Shore (let alone on Holmdel) is finding the back of the net at a rate greater than sophomore forward Anthony Arena, who leads the Hornets with 13 goals and trails only Monmouth Regional’s Joel Burgos in conference goal scoring (Burgos has 17 in eight games, though Arena’s 2.17 goals per-game average edges the Falcons senior).

Michael Neff has scored three goals for the Hornets, while Joe Arena has delivered two of his own and Eric Hinds has one.

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