MANALAPAN – Repeating as a champion of any kind is a challenge too tall for many, and in order for the Manalapan boys soccer team to repeat as Shore Conference Class A North and Shore Conference Tournament champions, it must go through Christian Brothers Academy – which also happens to be the last team to win consecutive SCT titles.

Saturday against that very CBA team, Manalapan – No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10 – made an early-season statement by beating the No. 3 Colts, 3-0, to win its third straight game of the season.

Manalapan celebrates Adam Weisberger's goal that put the Braves ahead by two goals en route to a 3-0 win over CBA. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Senior forward Ryan Hammer scored two goals for Manalapan to increase his total to seven during the young season. Hammer’s goals bookended Manalapan’s scoring, with senior midfielder Adam Weisberger converting the second Braves goal.

“Yesterday, we played Marlboro and our minds were pretty much just geared toward playing CBA today,” Hammer said. “Even if one of the sides is weaker than the year before, it’s a rivalry game. You always find out where you stand against CBA, so we felt like this was a game we had to win.”

Hammer opened the scoring in the 32nd minute after a quick series of passes broke down the CBA defense. Sophomore Joe Ahn dribbled through the midfield and sent a pass forward to fellow sophomore Rocky Garretson. Garretson sent a diagonal pass toward Hammer before junior Pio Schiano-Lamoriello redirected it toward the right side of the 18-yard box for Hammer, who ran onto the ball and chipped it over goalkeeper David Krall for the first goal of the game.

The Braves nursed the one-goal lead for the first 35 minutes of the second half until a hand ball against the Colts resulted in a direct kick from outside the top of the 18-yard box 20 yards away. Manalapan bunched three players around the ball and Weisberger bent a left-footed shot around the CBA wall and inside the left post for Manalapan’s second goal.

Hammer capped the scoring with a spectacular shot out of a direct kick from 30 yards out on the left side of the field. Weisberger tapped the ball out of the set play and Hammer struck a shot that tucked into the top right corner of the goal in the 78th minute.

Hammer now has now scored 15 goals in Manalapan’s last 17 games dating back to last year after scoring two over the team’s first nine games of the 2013 season.

Ryan Hammer (9) and teammates jog back to their positions following Hammer's first goal Saturday vs. CBA. (Photo by Matt Manley)

“The guys up front – me, Adam and Robbie (Pratka) – and the rest of the seniors from last year, we started clicking last year and it showed all preseason and so far in the regular season,” Hammer said.

Manalapan owned a 12-3 advantage in shots Saturday and none of the three shots tested the limits of either of the Braves’ two goalkeepers. Senior Justin Terr played the first half while senior Mike Cavanaugh took the second half as the two combined for the second Manalapan shutout in three games.

Krall, on the other hand, made two key saves, which both kept the game scoreless at the time. He finished with four saves in all.

Manalapan nearly grabbed the lead in the ninth minute, when junior Mitch Volis hit a left-footed volley square off the crossbar. Volis was active along the right side of the field throughout the game for the Braves.

The Braves and Colts played mostly even in the midfield, although most of the game was played on either end of the field. In addition to finishing three chances on CBA’s end, Manalapan bottled up CBA’s attack near its own goal, allowing the Colts one early chance by senior Russell Romano off a corner kick and then a number of runs that ended without a shot.

Center backs Mike McNicholas and Jordan Vance anchored the back, while juniors Miles Schindler and Dylan Williams protected the flanks for the defense.

“We came out with a lot of intensity today,” Hammer said. “We were lacking intensity in our last game against Marlboro, and we wanted to play with a lot more energy today: change things up, put some pressure on them and it worked for us.”

Manalapan stumbled against the likes of Colts Neck, Howell and Freehold Township during last year’s division schedule, but Saturday’s result continues a two-year run of dominance against the Colts. The Braves beat CBA 1-0 in both meetings last year, including once in overtime at CBA, and now have a 3-0 win over a Colts team that has a majority of its starting lineup back from a year ago.

“It’s always a great game because it’s a rivalry game,” Hammer said. “I don’t know when it started, but there’s something about playing (CBA) that gets us pumped.”

 

Box Score

Manalapan 3, CBA 0

1

2

F

CBA (2-1-0, 2-1-0)

0

0

0

Manalapan (3-0-0, 2-0-0)

1

2

3

Goals (Assists): (M) Hammer (Schiano-Lamoriello) 32’, Weisberger (DK) 75’, Hammer (Weisberger) 78’
Shots: Manalapan, 12-3
Saves: (CBA) Krall 4; (M) Terr 1, Cavanaugh 1