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The Middletown South boys soccer team entered the 2022 with renewed optimism after its young team won three games in all of 2021. In order to improved upon their win total this fall, the mission was clear: do more damage in the Shore Conference Class A North division.

That, however, is easier said than done. Class A North placed three teams in the 2021 Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, had three of its teams reach the sectional final round of the NJSIAA Tournament, and its sixth-place team made it to the sectional semifinal round before losing to another A North team. With that list of accomplishments, it is no wonder the Eagles went 0-6-1 in divisional play a year ago.

As if the goal as a whole wasn't hard enough, in order to get off on the right foot in 2022, Middletown South would have to earn a result against Freehold Township -- the 2021 runner-up for the overall Group IV championship and the best public school program at the Shore over the last decade-and-a-half.

At least for the first game of the season, it was mission: accomplished for Middletown South.

Photo: Steve Meyer
Photo: Steve Meyer
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Middletown South shocked the Shore with its opening-day, 2-1, win over Freehold Township on Sept. 8, jumping out to a 2-0 lead and holding on to beat the No. 3 team in the Shore Sports Network preseason rankings. After their game-one stunner and another 1-0 win over Class A South contender Brick Memorial to start the season, Middletown South is the first Surf Taco Boys Soccer Team of the Week in 2022.

The star of Middletown South's opening-day victory was junior Alex Soto, who delivered both Eagles goals, with both coming in the first half. On the other end of the field, seniors Marcelo Soto and Luke Mielnikiewicz led the defensive effort in front of goalkeeper Zach Archibald, who let just one goal slip through in 80 minutes against a Patriots team that has since scored 12 goals in three subsequent matches.

Two days later, it was senior Shawn McCann who delivered the difference-making goal in a 1-0 win over Brick Memorial while Archibald and the defense again came through -- this time with a clean sheet. Brick Memorial's other two results were 2-2 draws against Toms River East and Toms River North -- the top two teams in the Class A South standings in 2021.

This week has not gone as swimmingly for Middletown South, which has since dropped its first loss to Rumson-Fair Haven, 2-0, and another to Christian Brothers Academy, 5-0. Still, a 2-2 start to the season is a big early-season accomplishment for a Middletown South team that went 3-9 in 2021, especially considering the level of competition. Freehold Township, Rumson and CBA represent the three top teams in the SSN Preseason rankings and all three are coming off winning NJSIAA sectional championships in 2022.

It is fair to say the schedule lets up some for the remainder of September, although in Class A North, that is all relative. Middletown South will take on Southern Saturday in another A North-A South crossover game, then play Marlboro, Manalapan and Middletown North before the calendar flips to October. Marlboro has already defeated CBA and Middletown North defeated Marlboro on Wednesday, so it is also possible this slate of games won't provide much of a breather.

Ultimately, though, Middletown South has already shown it can compete with and defeat some of the Shore's best and during the opening weekend of the season, no team in the conference opened more eyes than the Eagles.

 

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