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After coming so close in each of the last two postseasons, the Manalapan girls soccer team finally earned the win it has searched for for the better part of two years.

The Braves -- ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Shore 16 rankings -- defeated No. 1 Freehold Township, 1-0, in overtime Thursday to win the Shore Conference Class A North championship while also snapping Freehold Township's 46-game unbeaten streak vs. Shore Conference competition.

Freehold Township's last conference loss came against Middletown South on Oct. 27, 2020.

Early in overtime, sophomore Lyla Ottenheimer took a pass from junior Savannah DiSabato and touched the ball back inside before she blasted a shot from 20 yards out that went over Freehold Township goalkeeper Ashley Moore and into the net for the golden goal.

“We were so ready for this,” Ottenheimer said. “We have been preparing and we have been preaching family and play as a team and be a team off the field. Coach (Rogers) inspired us and gave us the motivation to win the game in overtime.”

Manalapan's Savannah DiSabato collects the ball in front of Freehold Township's Gaby Parker and Manalapan goalkeeper Leila Shaw. (Photo: Nick Lowe)
Manalapan's Savannah DiSabato collects the ball in front of Freehold Township's Gaby Parker and Manalapan goalkeeper Leila Shaw. (Photo: Nick Lowe)

Two years ago, these two teams met in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, where Manalapan was leading 1-0 in the second half, but Freehold Township fought back to win, 2-1, and before going on to win the SCT. 

Last season, Manalapan once again had Freehold Township on the ropes, this time in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 Finals. Manalapan led, 1-0, with under seven minutes left, when the Patriots tied it and eventually won the game, 2-1, in overtime. 

During Thursday's second half, both teams applied pressure on the opposing goalkeepers and the goalkeepers matched each other save-for-save. Both goalies, Moore for Freehold Township and Leila Shaw for Manalapan, had to make their hardest saves midway through the second half.

“She has the trust of her teammates and coaches because she has earned it with the saves like she made today.” Freehold Township coach Dave Patterson said of Moore. “She does not often get the credit she deserves, but she is a great keeper.”

Shaw stepped into the spotlight last year when she showed how talented she was against Freehold Township in the CJG4 final. She was named starter last season because Emma Guidotti was out with an injury. This season, Shaw and Guidotti were rotating games until Guidotti suffered another injury.

“The experience she gained last year has been great for her this year,” Rogers said. “The experience she gained in the sectional final has been massive and when Emma went down the team did not skip a beat with Leila in net.”

The Patriots were 45-0-1 during their 46-game unbeaten streak and outside of the 1-1 draw vs. Red Bank Catholic early in 2021, Manalapan's two tournament challenges were the closest any Shore team has come to beating Freehold Township.

“Even though I haven’t been able to play these past two seasons due to an injury, it was amazing to watch my team,” Guidotti said. “We finally got the opportunity to prove ourselves and make a name for ourselves. We deserved this win after years of battling with Township and this win means everything to me.”

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