MANALAPAN - Playing against a Howell team Friday that it beat by one goal twice during the regular season, the Manalapan girls soccer team watched just about everything go the wrong way for the first 30 minutes against its Shore Conference Class A North rival.

The climax of their poor fortunes was a goal by senior captain and University of Louisville recruit Arianna Ferraro that was disallowed because she did not wait for the whistle. Instead of that being the microcosm of a frustrating game, however, Ferraro made certain it was a turning point.

Ferraro shook off the disallowed direct kick goal to convert on the free kick anyway, the first of five unanswered goals for the fourth-seeded Braves that buried No. 13 Howell, 5-1. Manalapan will host No. 5 and defending SCT champion Wall in Monday's quarterfinal round.

Mya Donnelly (10) scored a goal and assisted the go-ahead goal in Manalapan's win over Kelly Garretson (13) and Howell. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We were definitely feeling anxious early in the game," Ferraro said. "I think just because it's the playoffs now, we were especially on our toes, but we got together and talked to each other, coach (Rick Garretson) told us to calm down and we eventually got it together."

After burying a shot that tucked just underneath the crossbar that the official waved off because the kick required a whistle to restart that he had not yet blown, Ferraro adjusted her shot from 22 yards out by shooting the ball around the right side of the wall. The strike went off Howell goalkeeper Rachel Kern and into the right corner of the goal for the equalizer in the 31st minute.

"I honestly thought the second one was going to get stopped because they knew what I was doing, so I just took the same approach," Ferraro said. "I just got lucky on the second one."

Manalapan took the lead in the 48th minute on a goal by junior Olivia Connors, who one-timed a cross from right to left by junior Mya Donnelly and into the left corner of the goal.

Ferraro drew a foul several yards outside the 18-yard box on the right side to set up a free kick that led to the third goal. Ferraro played the ball toward the back post and with senior defender Brianna Waring leaping for the ball and blocking the view of the players on behind her, the ball hit a Howell defender and rolled into the goal in the 54th.

The Braves put the game on ice with insurance tallies in the 62nd and 71st, with Ferraro notching her second goal of the game to make it 4-1. Sophomore Ariella Kaplan played the ball through to Ferraro, who took two touches and finished inside the near right post for her second goal of the game and 17th of the season.

Donnelly capped the scoring in the 70th with a back-heel finish out of the air on a cross from senior Erin Rotondo. Rotondo's corner kick was sent back to her by a Howell defender and Rotondo fired the ball back into the box toward the near post, where Donnelly made a leaping play for the ball and punched it in.

Howell jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second minute on a 35-yard direct kick by senior sweeper and Penn State recruit Rebecca Hamilton from the left side of the field. Hamilton unleashed a blast that carried over the head of Manalapan goalkeeper Ariel Kamen and into the far right corner of the net.

The Rebels would ride the wave of momentum from the early goal to control the play until the Braves made their move late in the first half.

"Our defense really came together in the second half a lot more than it did in the first half and our midfield was huge," Ferraro said. "We were playing short in the midfield and the two girls who played 80 minutes - Liv (Connors) and Mya - were amazing. They played great."

Manalapan's 2014 season ended at the hands of Howell in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinals and its next opponent, Wall, defeated the Braves, 1-0, the last time Manalapan reached the SCT quarterfinals in 2010.

"We need to keep playing physical like we did today because Wall is a really good team," Ferraro said. "They almost beat (No. 1) Colts Neck and (No. 2) Freehold Township so we just have to focus on this game coming up and we'll see what happens."


Box Score

Manalapan 5, Howell 1

1 2 F
Howell (9-6) 1 0 1
Manalapan (12-2) 1 4 5

Goals (Assists): (H) Rebecca Hamilton (DK) 2’; (M) Arianna Ferraro (DK) 31’, Olivia Connors (Mya Donnelly) 48’, own goal 54’, Arianna Ferraro (Ariella Kaplan) 62’, Mya Donnelly (Erin Rotondo) 71’
Shots: (M) Manalapan, 15-7
Saves: (H) Rachel Kern 4; (M) Ariel Kamen 3