Hornets embrace adversity to begin 2020 soccer season

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Holmdel High School boys soccer player Connor Hinds dribbles the ball up the field during the team's game against Monmouth Regional on Oct. 7 in Tinton Falls. Holmdel is 2-0 to start the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Holmdel High School boys soccer player Tomas Zolofra passes the ball to a teammate during the team's game against Monmouth Regional on Oct. 7 in Tinton Falls. Zolofra had an assist in the team's 2-1 victory over Monmouth Regional.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Holmdel High School boys soccer coach Matt Isaacson addresses the team during halftime of its game against Monmouth Regional on Oct. 7 in Tinton Falls. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Holmdel High School boys soccer player Connor Hinds dribbles the ball up the field during the team's game against Monmouth Regional on Oct. 7 in Tinton Falls. Holmdel is 2-0 to start the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Holmdel High School boys soccer player Tomas Zolofra passes the ball to a teammate during the team's game against Monmouth Regional on Oct. 7 in Tinton Falls. Zolofra had an assist in the team's 2-1 victory over Monmouth Regional.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Holmdel High School boys soccer coach Matt Isaacson addresses the team during halftime of its game against Monmouth Regional on Oct. 7 in Tinton Falls. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

HOLMDEL – During the summer months, high school student-athletes across New Jersey faced the challenge of preparing for their 2020 fall sports seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The approach of handling COVID-19 protocols was no different for the Holmdel High School boys soccer team than it was at other schools, but the Hornets had an added element to face just four days before their season opener when Coach Ron Poll resigned.

Athletic Director Matt Kukoda issued a statement on Oct. 1 after it was announced Poll had resigned and said, “I would like to thank Coach Poll for his dedication over the last two years to the school district and the program.”

Acting head coach Matt Isaacson said Poll resigned for personal reasons. Isaacson is a Matawan Regional High School graduate and joined the Holmdel coaching staff as an assistant in 2019. He is the son of Matawan boys soccer coach Tyler Isaacson.

The opportunity to coach Holmdel was something Isaacson knew he could not pass up and he said he could not leave his players hanging after all they went through during the summer just to have a season.

“It’s never easy losing a head coach,” Isaacson said. “(Poll) and I had a great relationship. I couldn’t leave these guys hanging. No matter who the head coach is, these kids are going to fight and pick up right where they left off these past three years.”

The 2020 campaign features a new-look Holmdel squad with players who are trying to stamp their own path and continue the program’s success over the past three years that included two NJSIAA Group 2 championships.

Going by their motto “Win the Moment,” the Hornets are facing adversity head on and embracing it as they take the field.

“We always say let the players play,” senior Connor Hinds said. “We are focused on doing what we have to do on the field. Every day presents a new obstacle. We are trying to persevere and see where this season takes us.”

Holmdel began the 2020 season on a 54-match win streak that dates back to 2017. The Hornets have not lost a match in regulation time during the past two years; they have lost three matches on penalty kicks.

Facing Monmouth Regional High School of Tinton Falls in their first two matches of the 2020 season, the Hornets found a way to earn a pair of one-goal victories to extend the program’s win streak to 56 matches.

In the season opener at Bob Roggy Memorial Field in Holmdel on Oct. 5, senior Felix Doebbel scored the only goal of the night on a penalty kick three minutes into the contest to lead the Hornets to a 1-0 victory over the Falcons.

Doebbel scored again on a penalty kick when the Hornets and Falcons played in Tinton Falls on Oct. 7. The senior drilled a shot past Monmouth Regional goalkeeper Dominick Santaniello with 18 minutes to play that led to a 2-1 win.

Senior Noah Mendez scored Holmdel’s first goal in the 26th minute off a cross from Tomas Zolofra.

Junior goalkeeper Tommy Chyzowych made all four of his saves in the second half, including a stop in the final seconds to help Holmdel hold on for the victory.

Joining Hinds as the only two players remaining from the 2018 Group 2 champions, Chyzowych said he is determined to keep the program’s success going and believes this year’s team is capable of accomplishing big things.

“Since I was a freshman, it was something special to be on this team and represent Holmdel and I want to keep this legacy going,” he said. “We want to win every moment of every day.”

Following the upheaval at the start of the season, seeing his team win its first two matches was important to Isaacson, who said he believes the Hornets are on the right track to have a successful campaign.

Considering the fact that several months ago it was not certain there would be a season, Isaacson said the players have handled everything well and have not let anything that occurred off the field affect them.

“These kids have been incredible,” he said. “They have kept focused and have not let anything get to them. It’s great seeing them back on the field playing. They deserve it. Hopefully they will get the chance to play a full season.”