East Brunswick defeats Metuchen, 4-0, to win fifth consecutive GMC soccer crown

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The East Brunswick High School girls soccer team celebrates winning its fifth Greater Middlesex Conference championship in six years with a 4-0 victory over Metuchen on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer players Riya Kunderan and Mikayla Mandleur celebrate defeating Metuchen in the Greater Middlesex Conference final on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer players #6 Mackenzie Simpson and Julia Bognar celebrate defeating Metuchen in the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer player Kayla Reed controls the ball in the Metuchen zone during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. Reed had a goal and an assist in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer player Mikayla Mandleur dribbles the ball up the field during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. Mandleur scored a goal to help East Brunswick defeat Metuchen 4-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen's Austen Rodey and East Brunswick's Riley Smalley battle for the loose ball during the Greater Middlesex Conference girls soccer final on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. East Brunswick defeated Metuchen 4-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen High School girls soccer player Michaela Gwozdz delivers a pass to a teammate during the Greater Middlesex Conference final on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. East Brunswick defeated Metuchen by a score of 4-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen High School girls soccer player Nicole Trolaro steals the ball from East Brunswick's Mikayla Mandleur during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. Metuchen is 18-1-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen High School girls soccer player Merin Boucher controls the ball at midfield against East Brunswick during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The East Brunswick High School girls soccer team celebrates winning its fifth Greater Middlesex Conference championship in six years with a 4-0 victory over Metuchen on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer players Riya Kunderan and Mikayla Mandleur celebrate defeating Metuchen in the Greater Middlesex Conference final on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer players #6 Mackenzie Simpson and Julia Bognar celebrate defeating Metuchen in the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer player Kayla Reed controls the ball in the Metuchen zone during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. Reed had a goal and an assist in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls soccer player Mikayla Mandleur dribbles the ball up the field during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. Mandleur scored a goal to help East Brunswick defeat Metuchen 4-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen's Austen Rodey and East Brunswick's Riley Smalley battle for the loose ball during the Greater Middlesex Conference girls soccer final on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. East Brunswick defeated Metuchen 4-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen High School girls soccer player Michaela Gwozdz delivers a pass to a teammate during the Greater Middlesex Conference final on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. East Brunswick defeated Metuchen by a score of 4-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen High School girls soccer player Nicole Trolaro steals the ball from East Brunswick's Mikayla Mandleur during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge. Metuchen is 18-1-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Metuchen High School girls soccer player Merin Boucher controls the ball at midfield against East Brunswick during the Greater Middlesex Conference championship game on Oct. 27 in Woodbridge.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Once again, the East Brunswick High School girls soccer team reigned supreme in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament championship match. The 2021 final was played on Oct. 27 at Woodbridge High School.

East Brunswick (14-2) won its fifth consecutive conference tournament crown with a 4-0 victory over previously undefeated Metuchen (18-1-1).

Coach Kevin Brady knew how exciting and meaningful it was for his players to win the tournament title again after not having a chance to defend their 2019 title in 2020. The tournament was not held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Having the GMC Tournament and a full season of soccer taken away last year “galvanized” the team in Brady’s eyes. He said that right from the start of the season, the players were ready to fight hard to reach the GMC Tournament championship game again.

“We played a very high level of soccer tonight,” Brady said after the victory over Metuchen. “Our opponent really pushed us to our limits. They played really fast and defended really well. We just scored some really beautiful goals. That high level of finishing really was the difference in the game.”

East Brunswick took the lead in the 13th minute as senior Kayla Reed fed a perfect pass to Sydney Taha, who headed the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead. Taha has scored 10 goals in 2021.

“I think it really allowed us to play our game the rest of the way,” Reed said of Taha’s goal. “It really helped us mentally.”

East Brunswick had several chances to extend its lead, but Metuchen goalkeeper Chloe Soden kept her team in the game and the score remained 1-0 at halftime. The sophomore made seven saves in the first half and 10 saves in the match.

The Bears continued their relentless pursuit of a second goal at the start of the second half and in the 54th minute, sophomore Mikayla Mandleur found the back of the net to extend the lead to 2-0.

“I just saw an opening and went on the attack,” Mandleur said. “It feels awesome. We didn’t get a chance to compete in the (GMC Tournament) last year because of COVID and we came out ready to go.”

Senior Riya Kunderan struck for her ninth goal of the season in the 60th minute and gave the Bears a 3-0 lead. Reed capped the scoring with a goal in the 76th minute for the 4-0 final.

A goal and an assist in the victory over Metuchen gave Reed a team-high 19 goals and 12 assists.

As a sophomore in 2019, Reed helped East Brunswick defeat Old Bridge in the GMC Tournament final by scoring the only goal of the match in the Bears’ 1-0 victory over the Knights.

The feeling of making big plays to help her team win a conference tournament championship did not get old for Reed, who said she was “grateful” to be a part of another championship team at East Brunswick.

“To be a part of those huge moments is always truly amazing to say you were a part of,” Reed said. “It’s always amazing to get the win. It’s something you never forget. This is such a great accomplishment.”

East Brunswick goalkeepers Claudia Volino and Julia Bognar each played a half and each made two saves. The Bears record their 13th shutout of the season and have only allowed six goals in 16 matches.

Offensively, East Brunswick has scored 56 goals in 16 matches.

The team’s GMC Tournament crowns in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021 each have special meaning for Brady. Different players and different circumstances have all delivered “special” moments the coach enjoys being able to watch the student-athletes experience.

“It’s special for me because I get to see how special it is for them. I get to see in their eyes how much a night like this means to them,” he said.

East Brunswick has received the No. 3 seed in the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament and will host No. 14 seed Hightstown in the first round on Nov. 2.

Metuchen has received the No. 1 seed in the Central Jersey Group II state sectional tournament and will host No. 16 seed Carteret in the first round on Nov. 2.