BAYVILLE - For the first-time in seven years, the Marlboro boys soccer team is headed back to the Shore Conference Tournament final.

Steven Karp scored on a follow in the 38th minute and P.J. Ringel added a goal in the 72nd to help lead the Mustangs past the Patriots, 2-0, and into the SCT final for the first time since winning the tournament in 2009.

"It's an incredible feeling to be going to the final," senior defensive center midfielder Josh Grun said. "Coach reiterated to us before the postseason started that we haven't done anything yet. It's one thing to be talked about like we're one of the best teams in Marlboro history but it's another to actually have that banner in the gym. It's phenomenal to have to opportunity to play for that on Saturday."

After a long, possession-heavy feeling out period, the Mustangs made their move late in the first half. Karp knocked in a shot from point-blank range on the left post after Brett Easton poked the ball across the mouth of the goal 2:09 before halftime.

"We wanted to get their forwards a little tired so it would open up the game for our defenders," Karp said. "Once they got tired and once we got the game into their end more, it took a lot of pressure off our defense, and it paid off with the goal."

Marlboro spent a significant portion of the first 25 minutes possessing the ball in its own third of the field and inviting the Patriots forwards to chase the ball. The Mustangs mixed in a handful of pushes into the Freehold Township third of the field, with Karp and Ringel both attempting dangerous shots and junior Zach Scarpa ripping a shot on goal that Freehold Township keeper Josh Nastarowicz saved.

"We don't like to play stereotypical high school soccer where you just boot the ball up and try to score," Grun said. "We like to possess and build up and in the first 20 minutes, I'd say we did that pretty well. (Freehold Township) started pressing us, so it got harder to do that, but it also opened up some opportunities to start moving the ball forward."

Prior to extending the Marlboro lead to 2-0 in the second half, Ringel nearly hammered home an insurance goal on a breakaway, but Patriots goalkeeper Josh Nastarowicz saved an elevated shot ticketed to the left corner of the frame.

Karp played in the ensuing corner kick and Ringel headed the ball near the net. After it touched the ground a scrum ensued and it ended with the last defender on the line kicked the ball off Ringel and in.

Freehold Township had its best chance to equalize in the 57th minute. Kyle Trainor played a diagonal ball through the box and Sean O'Donnell hit a shot that Marlboro keeper James Weinberg saved. The ball, however, skipped toward the net and before it could reach the line, Justin Goldstein covered the occupied net and cleared the ball away.

"We played more conservative in the second half and I think inviting them to attack a little bit more opened up the other end of the field for P.J. to attack," Grun said. "James made a big save and we pulled a ball off the endline, and from there, P.J. was able to break free a few times and get us some chances."

Marlboro will take on No. 1 CBA in Saturday's championship game at Central Regional. CBA and Marlboro split the regular season series, handing each other their only losses of the season.

Marlboro won the second meeting between the teams on Oct. 19, which ended CBA's 15-game winning streak to open the season. In that game, Ringel scored two goals in the first half and Grun added a header in the second.

That Mustangs win is part of an unbeaten stretch that is now 17 after Thursday's win. Since losing to CBA, 1-0, in overtime on Sept. 13, Marlboro is 16-0-1, with its only draw coming in a 2-2 deadlock with Freehold Township in Marlboro.

While its likely the Freehold Township-Marlboro series will end with Marlboro winning the showdown 2-0-1, it is possible the two Class A North rivals could meet once more if both reach the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship game. The two teams are on opposite sides of the bracket, with Freehold Township drawing the No. 8 seed and Marlboro No. 3.


Box Score

Marlboro 2, Freehold Township 0

1 2 F
Freehold Twp. (11-6-1) 0 0 0
Marlboro (17-1-1) 1 1 2

Goals (Assists): (M) Steven Karp (Brett Easton) 38', P.J. Ringel 72'
Shots: Marlboro, 14-9
Saves: (FT) Josh Nastarowicz 8; (M) James Weinberg 5

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