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MIDDLETOWN  - As the calendar pushes deeper into fall, the leaves are not the only thing changing color: so is the collective hair of the Manalapan boys soccer team.

As per annual tradition, all of the Braves players bleached their hair blonde once the team clinched postseason berths in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV and Shore Conference Tournaments and like the Manalapan teams of the past two seasons, this Braves team is planning wearing the bleach tops well.

Manalapan - No. 6 in the most recent Shore Sports Network Top 10 - scored early and held on Wednesday to beat No. 1 CBA for the second time this season. With the win, the Braves surged back into the race for the Shore Conference Class A North championship and demonstrated that they will once again be a formidable team during the postseason.

"They (CBA) are number one in the Shore in the division, so we knew this was a big game," Manalapan senior Pio Schiano-Lamoriello said. "We feel like we can beat anybody and playing against a team like this was a chance to prove what we can do."

Schiano-Lamoriello gave Manalapan a 1-0 lead with his goal 5:03 into the match. Senior outside midfielder Ayush Mittal beat a defender up the ride side and slide a pass toward the middle of the penalty box that Schiano-Lamoriello settled and buried into the net.

"Anytime Ayush gets the ball and turns the corner, you need to be ready for the ball," Schiano-Lamoriello said.

CBA came right back and created a chance against Manalapan junior Ethan Shalom in the ninth minute, but the Braves goalkeeper made a diving save on a shot by CBA senior John Frycz ticketed for the lower left side of the goal.

After a defensive 30 minutes to close the first half, CBA again applied pressure in the second half, but could not finish a goal. Junior Tom Judge hit a shot off the right post in the 64th minute.

Manalapan also came close to tying the game in the middle of the second half, but CBA junior goalkeeper Aedan Boriotti made a diving save on a point-blank header by junior Rocky Garretson.

Manalapan is two-time defending Class A North champion after sharing the co-championship with CBA last year. The Braves still need CBA to lose or tie at least one of its three remaining games against Marlboro, Howell and Middletown South in order to have a chance to seize at least a share of the A North title. The Braves, meanwhile, will face Freehold Boro, Middletown North and Freehold Township.

In addition to winning A North in each of the last two seasons, Manalapan won the Shore Conference Tournament in 2013 and the Central Jersey Group IV championship last year. Although the Braves lost six starters, including their top three scorers, they have showed against CBA that they can still beat the Shore's best - most recently on the road and with championship ramifications.

"We are going to keep working hard," Schiano-Lamoriello said. "We have guys who have been in these games and we know what it takes, so we are just going to keep pushing every day and focusing on one game at a time."