The boys’ soccer season has been good to Howell High School, but it has also been unkind to Marlboro High School.
While both teams have gone through different experiences over the first month of the season, they continue to remain optimistic improvement will come as the campaign moves forward.
The teams met on the field on Oct. 4 in Howell, where the host Rebels rolled to a 4-0 victory.
The victory was the seventh straight for Howell, which stood at 7-2-1 after the shutout against Marlboro.
Howell coach Rich Yuro saw his team click on what it was focused on.
“We needed to be aggressive,” Yuro said. “That was our goal coming into the game. We’ve had this habit of sitting back and just letting things happen in too many games. So we’re just trying to get that style going. Once they see it works, it kind of gets contagious. One guy leads to the next, and we keep trying to push forward.”
Meanwhile, coach Will Gould of Marlboro is not pleased with the season his team is having to date, as the Mustangs dropped to 0-10-2 following the defeat to the Rebels. However, he knows his young squad will benefit from the learning curve.
“The whole season hasn’t been the outcome that we wanted,” Gould said. “We started seven underclassmen. So I think for the majority of those guys who are coming back for next year, they did a good job. There were a lot of bright spots and takeaways to come from those young guys who are getting the experience that a lot of guys didn’t get last year because we were so senior happy. So this year, these guys are getting the experience now, and that will benefit us next year.”
Last year, Marlboro thrived during a 20-2-2 season. The Mustangs made it to the Shore Conference Tournament finals, registering shutout victories in their three tournament games before falling to Christian Brothers Academy (CBA), 2-0, in the championship matchup. Marlboro also advanced to the finals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament, where it fell to Hunterdon Central Regional High School in penalty kicks.
Gould believes an upgrade on offense this season would be a boost.
“I would like to score some more goals,” Gould said. “We struggled all year. We scored five goals in 11 games, and four of them were on set pieces, so we would love to get some more quality chances. Even though we’re now 0-10-2, seven of the 10 losses have been one- or two-goal games. So we’re playing and competing. If we can start to score, we’re looking at a much different outcome.”
Gould is focused on using the remainder of this season as preparation for the 2018 campaign.
“Our season is pretty much done,” Gould said. “We haven’t won a game yet. So now it’s about teaching and preparing the young guys for next year, getting them experience and seeing which guys play well together with some of the returning guys. [We] just [want to] get them ready for next year so we don’t run into some of the same issues, like lack of experience and nerves and chemistry and all that stuff.”
Marlboro’s senior goalie, Elijah Krain, who had five saves in the game, agreed with that sentiment.
“The freshmen and the sophomores that will take charge of the team next year are learning a lot,” Krain said. “So even though for the seniors, the season hasn’t been that successful, for the future, we’re just trying to get these guys ready to compete on varsity level next year.”
Krain remains confident the Mustangs will find the win column this season.
“Obviously, we want to win all the games,” Krain said. “The way the season has been going, that’s not that likely. However, we want to win a game or two before the season ends. We think we can beat some of the teams on the schedule.”
For Howell, Yuro is not completely satisfied with the Rebels’ season thus far despite their success.
“[We need to work on] more combination passes and getting connections on passes,” Yuro said. “We still make too many mistakes and let too many balls get away. If we’re going to work hard to get them back, you kind of get away with that. [But sometimes you’re not], and that’s where we were. We were working hard enough to win the 50/50’s, and we weren’t clean enough to not cause the 50/50’s. We’re also still a little suspect on defense.”
While there is work to be done, Yuro is still pleased with the overall play of his team.
“We just keep working hard and plugging away and make good things happen,” the coach said. “That’s what we keep saying. Everyone is playing the same type of soccer. The first team that lets up and makes the first mistake usually has to work harder to get the goals back. We just keep pressing. It’s been working so far.”
Junior forward Dylan Dougher of Howell was impressed with the Rebels performed against Marlboro.
“I think we approached this game as a ‘take-care-a-business’ game on our home field,” Dougher said. “We’ve been riding hot lately, and we just really wanted to get a win here today, and that was all that we were focused on today. We tried to win the loose balls and kind of dictate the game from that back. We did a good job of that today.”
In the victory against Marlboro, Dougher led the Rebels when he connected on three goals. Also contributing to Howell’s attack were Nick Cavellero, who put in one goal, and Brandon Downey, who recorded two assists. Shane McBride made five saves for the clean sheet.
“We want to keep getting wins,” Dougher said, who noted the Rebels earned their seventh win in a row with the victory over Marlboro — a streak that started in Marlboro on Sept. 14 when the teams met for their first matchup of the season, which Howell won, 2-0.
Dougher and his Rebels teammates are looking forward to the Shore Conference and state tournaments that are on the horizon.
“We just qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament,” Dougher said. “That was a huge goal of ours coming into the season. We obviously want to win the public title this year. We hope to win the Shore Conference Tournament and states.”
Howell kept its winning streak alive when it hosted Neptune High School on Oct. 6 with a 3-0 shutout victory.
The Rebels were scheduled to visit CBA on Oct. 10, and they return home on Oct. 12 for a matchup against Freehold High School.
Marlboro’s pursuit of its first victory of the season fell short when it hosted Freehold on Oct. 6, losing the contest, 2-1.
The Mustangs were scheduled to hit the road for a game at Freehold Township High School on Oct. 10, and they visited Colts Neck High School on Oct. 12.