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For the first time in 5 years the Shore Conference is truly up for grabs. I believe 4 of the Top 5 teams can win it all. While Ocean Twp starts at #3, I do not believe there have the depth or overall talent to win it all. But they can certainly play the spoiler role. Trinity and Manasquan are real threats to SJV and RBC. But both had under achieving falls and the scrimmage season has not been what many expected. Further down the line, there are two mega dangerous teams. RBR AND RFH have the perfect mix of talent, experience and coaching to catch a big fish. SJV has one advantage no other team has… DAWN KARPELL, she is without a question a game changer in every big game. Joe Montano just may have his best group ever and he is the perfect coach maybe at the perfect time. Keep in mind the regular season looks nothing like the summer or fall. So throw it all out the window. Ocean County does not have a team in the Top 10 for the first time in recent memory. I believe teams 6 though 8 are inter-chargeable depending on your taste

Why are they here to start the season? There is a old saying “be the champ, you must beat the champ”. They have not lost a game in the Shore in 5 years. While this group will have four new full time starters. All are D1 players and fully battle tested. They have elite ball handlers like Aleena Dinker and size like 6’4” Taylor Sofilkanich who may be the best post player in the Shore Conference.. Their bench is solid with Brooklyn Taylor and Charlotte Bradley. While there talented babies will all have a role. That’s because Coach Karpell has always created roles for every player on her roster over the years. It’s why they all stay. They also have another thing on their side. TIME! No team has a bigger upside in the entire state. Next they have the best senior leadership in the state in Julia Karpell. Then finally their coach is the best game planner in the biggest games in the business. Their biggest question mark you ask? Who is going to be their scoring workhorse game in and game out. They have an elite big shot maker in Julie Karpell. But you have to put her in position to make the big shot. Danielle Matus and Stella Lockhart just may be built for the role. But Madison Kocis proved last year she welcomes the role. They are still the team to beat.

No team had a more successful off season. They took on all comers and delivered. They are that rare team who benefited from seniors graduating. It has opened up more minutes for their talented younger players from a year ago. No team is more talented top to bottom. They have the most complete player in the shore in Sophomore Addy Nymcheck They are the best shooting team in the Shore Katie Liggio and Christina Liggio are deadly behind the line. They are the best defensive team in the Shore with elite shot blockers in the lane. The bench is deep, D1 talented and confident. Joe Montano this off season has been masterful in getting his team ready. There are some concerns. None bigger than the one irreplaceable player on the roster, Tessa Liggio, who has been out most of the pre season. Next can Tessa Carman show consistency in her performances, if so she will have a 1st Team All Shore season. Finally where is the leadership coming from? They have no seniors.

This will come as a shock to most. They start in this spot for many reasons. First they are the most experienced team in the Shore. They are battle tested and senior proven. Maybe the only team in the Shore that can make that statement. “Freshman want to play
Sophomores want to start, Juniors want to score, Senior’s want to win” and Ocean has seniors. Making them hard to beat when the chips are down. Eli Clarke, Gamela Betton and Jineen Ayyash have seen and done it all. Jr, Kayden Clark is knocking on the door to superstardom. The “FOUR HORSEWOMAN” are as good of starting four in the entire state. More importantly they have an extended their rotation to a legit 7. They played without Eli Clark vs St. Rose in a scrimmage and led most of the game, an excellent sign. Their Coach is the best offensive mind in the Shore. The concerns are real. If any of the 4 Horsewomen get hurt, get into foul trouble or miss time for any reason. They become ordinary. They start at #3 more because the teams below them have simply not lived up to expectations this summer, fall and in scrimmages.

If they won the SCT, who would be shocked? NOBODY! They have 3 battled tested seniors, in Katie Collins, Hope Masonious and McKenna Karlson, all who are off to D1 basketball next year. Jr, Olivia Shaughnessy is much improved and will move to the shooting guard spot to create room and playing time for the talented Jordyn Hollawell. The talent, experience and star power are all there. Their coach is a future Hall of Famer. Coach Lisa Kukoda has won everything in the past decade. But this may be her most interesting team to date for three reasons. They simply have not shown an ability to take care of the ball going back to last season, this fall and now during scrimmages. It could be the thing that prevents them from a chip. While their bench has lots of potential. It lacks experienced and most likely Manasquan will roll with a 6 and possibly 7 man rotation when the games get big. Either way the starters will be asked to play monster major minutes in meaningful games unless someone steps up. This team could be holding the trophy in the end.

In many ways this is shocking that they start at #5. That’s because they return there entire team from last year’s breakout season. They have a PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATE and the best defensive player in the Shore on their roster in Nina Emance. They also have emerging players like Lily Riggi and Grace Feeney. Their Coach Matt McCarthy can make a case as one of the best in the entire state. So why are they here? They lost their identity this fall. Basically the entire roster took different roads in their preparation leading up to the season. The fall was a major disappointment and the scrimmage season saw their overall conditioning was way behind the other top teams. The good news is their Coach is now calling the shots and will provide the leadership that has been missing. The goals have changed and the SCT and STATE CHIP are there for the taking if they can see the light. Their babies from year ago Whitney Hobson and Teagan Drennan will need to step up. The Stapleton sisters are rock solid and battle tested. The schedule is insane and it all points to a dream like season if all goes as expected.

The return of Camryn Gardner gives them a major shot in the arm on defense and offensive. But it’s Newcomer Synai Blychanton that may hold the key to RBR chances of being the biggest surprise of all. They have size in 6’3” Caroline Polloway who gets better every day it seems. They have shooters in sophomores Zoey Gulley, the vastly improved Kristen Conners and Riley Wheeler. They are experienced and of course are led by the most dangerous Coach in the Shore John Truhan. He is a master of getting his teams to play above their ability. But their are concerns and their big ones. The past two years they have not show an ability to handle any form of full court pressure. This fall and during scrimmages nothing has seemed to have changed. If Camryn Gardner is at the point. It will be a bad sign for RBR. They are dangerous to every team above them with the exception of SJV.

They have been devastated by injuries. There have a rotation of six players. New Coach Chrissy Hatfield has made all the right moves. But injuries are the one thing a coach cannot control. The good news is they return 3 players who are battled tested and proven scorers in JADA LYNCH, CASSIDY KRUESI, TANAIYAH DECKER. All three will be asked to carry virtually the entire scoring load. Returning freshman BELLE ALVARADO and BROOKE MISRRY will be asked to move into prime time roles. The concerns are depth, size and leadership. Jr, Caroline Conforti will need to play big all year and Sophomore Jada Lynch will have to be sold on playing out of position on defense at times.

This is a dangerous team. They have size up front in 6’0” do it all vastly underrated and under appreciated forward Morgan Kottka. Two talented guards who can score and leaders in D1 talent Emily Cavanaugh and Hayley Poser a future D1 lock. They have the best freshman in the Shore who in 6’2″ ASHLEY  KREIGER who has P5 offers already. They have role players like Lola MacRae willingly to play their roles to perfection. Coach Linney has a crew that can make some noise. But the concerns are real. Can Emily Cavanaugh stay focused? Where is the experience, they have ZERO SENIORS. Then the biggest concern of all, this team is not battle tested as a group yet. They may be a year away.

They have one of the best players in the Shore in Allison Cannon. They have another D1 player in 6’4” Mackenzie Teevan. Michelle Steele is solid as a rock. Then from there it gets dicey. Holmdel will have a very hard time holding down this 10th spot. While Cannon and Teevan will do the heavy lifting on offense. Steele will do the dirty work. But where is the experience and additional scoring coming from? They will have a puncher’s chance each night. But it’s the Shore Conference and it’s hard to knock anyone out with a 1-2 punch.

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