BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer On the heels of a 10-7 campaign last fall, the youthful Holmdel High School girls soccer team is poised to contend for the Shore Conference’s Class A Central title this fall. PHOTOS BY ANDREW MILLER staff Left, Holmdel High School’s Isabelle Li (l) takes a shot on goal as St. John Vianney’s Nicole Baretta defends during Holmdel’s 3-1 victory at home. Right, SJV’s Nicole Margaritanda (center) wins a header over teammate Jackie Freeman (r) and Holmdel High School’s Angela Pento during Holmdel’s 3-1 victory at Holmdel High School. Though still early, the Hornets took a big step in that direction Friday with a solid 3-1 victory over division rival St. John Vianney. Marybeth Lesbirel scored her third and fourth goals of the season and Kayla Nelson added another goal to propel the Holmdel attack. The first tally came off a long pass from sweeper Danielle Esposito to Lesbirel, who made her way past an SJV defender before scoring. Esposito and Angela Pento, a sophomore forward, combined to set up Lesbirel’s second goal. “We generally moved the ball up the field well against SJV,” Hornets coach Jennifer Conroy said. “The real difference was in the second half when the girls took control of the game. Our girls wanted the game and it showed because they won the bulk of the battles for the 50-50 balls.” The win improved Holmdel’s overall record to 3-0 (2-0 in conference), with the other successes coming against Manasquan, 3-2 in a game that saw Holmdel down 2-0; and Red Bank Regional, 3-0. Conroy’s team can solidify its position this week as it has home games against Raritan, scheduled for Monday, and tomorrow against Red Bank Catholic. The Hornets showed much promise a year ago, downing Middletown South in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III tourney before bowing to Morristown in the second round. Holmdel also reached the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament, where they lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Freehold Borough, after downing Toms River North in the opening round. Conroy’s team boasts a strong balance between experienced seniors and talented underclassmen. Lesbirel, who scored 11 times a year ago, sets the tone up front, with Esposito and Kim Fiorentino in the middle. Katie O’Neill and Jackie Oren are on the backline. Another key is the presence of junior Isabelle Li in the middle. A three-year starter, Li is calm and quick with the ball and is rarely caught out of position. “Those girls all work well together and they’re unselfish so they set a good example for the younger girls,” Conroy explained. “You can’t underestimate the importance of having good senior leadership.” In addition, the Hornets have a cadre of sophomores, including Pento who has two goals and three assists after posting nine markers as a freshman. Stephanie DeSousa and Rebecca Galaraza shuttle between fore and midfield, and Nelson is a midfielder. Lindsay Ippolito and twins Alexa and Jamie Martinez are all solid defenders. Holmdel is solid in goal with freshman Sara Killough, who made eight saves to help secure the triumph against SJV, and sophomore Liz Keenan. In reserve are seniors Jessica Alvino, Christina Cianci, Alexis Vergas, Gloria Wu and Gianna Zito, along with junior Paula Lobaccaro and sophomore Gulia Picascia. “We wanted to get off to a good start; now we just have to keep the momentum going and not get ahead of ourselves because we’re in a tough conference,” Conroy said.