Girls Soccer – Freehold Twp. Heads Into SCT Final Undefeated
OAKHURST - The Freehold Township girls soccer team walked into the Shore Conference Tournament final each of the past two seasons hoping to knock off a team led by one of the best players the Shore Conference has ever seen.
This year, the Patriots are the team walking into the championship games as the favorite and an undefeated one at that.
After putting away a high-energy Jackson Memorial squad, 2-0, Wednesday night at Ocean Township High School, the Patriots - the top seed in this year's SCT - will head into Thursday night's championship game against No. 2 Wall looking to become the first team in eight years to win an SCT title with an undefeated, untied record.
"I think it's made us better," senior Paige Farrell said of the undefeated record. "It makes us work harder in practice and then in the games, because we don't want today to be the day we lose. It gives us more to work for because we don't want our record to get messed up."
Red Bank Catholic was the last team to win the SCT as an undefeated team and took its record all the way to the NJSIAA Non-Public A final, where the Caseys' pursuit of a perfect season ended in a loss to a powerhouse Immaculate Heart Academy side.
Freehold Township's NJSIAA Tournament runs through a challenging Group IV bracket, but before that test, the Patriots will have to beat a one-loss Wall team for a second time this season. Freehold Township beat the Crimson Knights, 3-1, on Sept. 16 after falling behind 1-0 within the first 10 minutes.
"I feel like we have more confidence than we've had in any other year," senior Jada Colbert said. "I feel like we want it a little bit more and we're not letting the records or what the other teams did last year come into play."
As for Wednesday, the Patriots overcame a quiet first half on offense to score twice in the final 40 minutes. While they took five harmless shots on goal in the first half, they also held Jackson Memorial without a shot until early in the second half.
"They have an intense work rate," Farrell said of Jackson Memorial. "It's crazy. That's the most pressure we've seen all year, but we knew in the second half, we had to step it up. We had to match them and start to outwork them, because they were winning too many fifty-fifty balls in the first half. I think we did that and our two goals proved that we could match them with our work rate."
Freehold Township finally found a crack in Jackson's formation in the 47th minute, when senior Jasmine Colbert won position in the box while challenging for a cross sent in by her twin sister, Jada. Jasmine Colbert drew the foul near the six-yard mark to give the Patriots a penalty kick 6:27 into the second half.
Farrell stepped to the penalty spot and knocked in a shot to the right side of the goal for what turned out to be the only goal her team would need.
With her team clinging to a one-goal lead, Jada Colbert delivered some insurance in the form of her 18th goal of the season. She played a combination with Jasmine and one-timed a chip over Jackson Memorial keeper Kylee Sullivan that hit the upper far side netting with 4:19 left in the game.
"We started out slow and the way we found our opportunities was to go out wide," Jada Colbert said. "They were too closed into the middle of the field so we just tried to get the ball to the outside and that eventually worked. They (Jackson Memorial) are a high-pressure team and you have to give them a lot of credit."
On the other end of the field, Freehold Township goalkeeper Alessia La Rosa only needed to make two saves, but she thwarted a number of Jackson opportunities by winning balls in the air and did come up with a key save on a corner kick just prior to Colbert's goal.
Freehold Township's only SCT title came in 2011, which was the first year the Patriots ever reached the championship game. They made it back to the final in each of the past two seasons, where they fell to Colts Neck both times. Freehold Township was actually the higher seed in last year's final, but Colts Neck played most of the regular season without standout Frankie Tagliaferri. In the final, Tagliaferri scored two goals to help sink the Patriots after scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win in the prior year.
"The last two years have sat with us," Jada Colbert said. "Losing those two times in the finals sat with us going into this year and it's motivated us because we really didn't like the feeling losing those two games. It's motivated the upperclassmen and the underclassmen have also gotten the message: this is our year. We have to finish."
Wall has a scorer who has put up numbers similar to those Tagliaferri posted at Colts Neck, but she will not be on the field on Thursday. Amy Paternoster, a senior forward with 29 goals and 20 assists on the season who is headed to Princeton next year, will not play due to a sprained right foot she suffered in a round-of-16 win over Point Pleasant Beach.
Despite her absence, Wall scored six goals against Colts Neck in the quarterfinals and got by Toms River North in the semifinals on Wednesday night.
"We're definitely not going to say that we beat them already so we should just show up and do it again," Farrell said. "They were one of our toughest games of the season, so we're going to remember that and remind ourselves that we need to step it up."
Freehold Twp. 2, Jackson Memorial 0
|Jackson Mem. (15-4)||0||0||0|
|Freehold Twp. (18-0)||0||2||2|
Goals (Assists): (FT) Paige Farrell (PK) 47', Jada Colbert (Jasmine Colbert) 76'
Shots: Freehold Twp., 10-4
Saves: (JM) Kylee Sullivan 6; (FT) Alessia La Rosa 2