Girls Soccer – Nicole Whitley’s Two Goals Lead Freehold Twp. Past TR South
TOMS RIVER - With so much speed at the top of its formation, it can be tempting for the Freehold Township girls soccer team to get caught feeding its forwards at the expense of its gameplan, according to Patriots coach Dave Patterson.
For the first half of its game at Toms River South, Freehold Township could not set up forwards Nicole Whitley and Jada and Jasmine Colbert to convert the first goal of the game, but with a little more patience and an empashsis and moving the ball through the midfield, Colbert and Whitley finally broke free.
Whitley scored on a breakaway with Jada Colbert to open the scoring in the 56th minute and capped the win with a direct kick to the lower left of the goal in the 76th to help the Patriots beat the Indians, 2-0, for their second straight win to open the season.
"When you have player with the speed that Jasmine has or the ability that Nicole has, you want to get them the ball," Patterson said. "The problem is if you just give it to them and let them run, it ends up being a one-on-three or a two-on-four advantage for the defense and they have to wait for support.
"At halftime, we talked about moving the ball around the midfield to build up our formation, then hit them when they made their runs. (Toms River South) ended up pushing too far up on their back line and we were able to catch them on it."
Toms River South played a disciplined first half and even outplayed the Patriots for significant stretches over the first 40 minutes, but the Indians back line got caught too high on a counterattack and Colbert flew past the line and onto the ball for a breakaway. Running alongside Coleman, Whitley took a pass from left to right and walked the ball in after Toms River South goalkeeper Taylor Dean came out to try and stop Colbert.
"We expected a very tough game today," Whitley said. "They were playing in their home opener, so we expected them to be amped up and they came out even stronger than we were expecting. Toms River South is good. They definitely looked like a top ten team tonight."
Whitley's direct kick in the 76th bent toward the bottom left part of the goal and Dean's deflection was not enough to force it wide of the left post.
Senior center fullback and New Hampshire recruit Caleigh Farrell anchored the Freehold Township defense in front of first-year goalkeeper Kaela Chadzuitko, who earned her first shutout.
"We got caught up playing too much kick-and-run in the first and half and we got sucked into playing their game," Whitley said. "At halftime, we talked about staying composed, playing our game and building more possession. I thought it started with our back line: they controlled the game and it allowed us to find pockets and run off the ball. That plays more to our strength, which is speed up top and in the midfield."
In wins over Shore and Toms River South to open the season, Whitley has scored three of the four Freehold Township goals and assisted the other. The Rutgers University recruit scored the game-winner in the 47th minute Friday against the the defending Group I runner up, breaking a 1-1 tie.
Whitley's start to the season is a continuation of a tremendous 12 months for the senior. She scored 22 goals during her junior year, committed to Rutgers - alma mater of U.S. Women's Soccer hero Carli Lloyd - and played on the Players Development Academy team that won the Elite Clubs National League national championship during the summer.
"Playing in a tournament like that where you are playing with and against some of the best players in the country, you see what it takes to be successful in any given situation," Whitley said. "We had to come back in the semifinals of the tournament and it's good to have that experience so that if we are losing an important game, I'll have that experience to drawn upon and hopefully help my team."
With nine starters back from last year's team, including additional Division I recruits Nicole Sasso (Marist) and Lacey Powell (Temple), the Patriots are looking to bounce back from a bitter finish to a 15-4-1 season, which included a Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal loss to Brick Memorial and a NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV first-round loss to Manalapan.
"We just need to keep getting better," Whitley said. "Like we saw last year, you want to be playing your best when the games count the most and the most important thing is that we continue to keep working all season long to prepare ourselves to be at our best for the postseason."