STAFFORD TOWNSHIP – With just six seconds left in a tie game and the ball outside the attack area, there weren’t too many options for Freehold Township. It was the perfect time for head coach Ryan Eichner to reach into his bag of tricks.

Eichner drew up an unconventional play during a timeout and, wouldn’t you know, it worked.

Senior midfielder Matt Kondrup took the ball off the restart, sprinted to the goal and fired a shot that found the back of the net just before the buzzer sounded to give the Patriots, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, a thrilling 6-5 walk-off win over No. 4 Southern in a Shore Conference nondivisional game to kick off the season.

“We drew up a play I’ve never seen before,” Kondrup said. “It was basically – kind of like a basketball stack – we just had guys cut through and clear up a lane to get the shot open. We had four guys stacked up in front of me and they all cleared through. The idea was just to go straight to the goal and if I got lucked up look for (Brendan) Doel on the backside crease. Luckily the shot was there and it went in.”

“With six seconds left and where the ball was, that was backyard lacrosse right there,” Eichner said. “I drew it up on the board; we’ve never practiced it before, never run it in a game before. It’s something I had in my head but had never done. With six seconds left, you have nothing to lose.”

Kondrup finished with a hat trick to lead the way for Freehold Township while Doel, a junior attackman, tallied a goal and three assists. Junior attackmen Matt Madonna and Jake Liebross scored their first varsity goals. The Patriots’ defense was strong as well with senior goalie Aidan Purcell making eight saves behind the defensive trio of Evan Nastarowicz, Joel Marogoto and Connor Petrula.

Southern was led by senior attackman Aniello Russo, who scored three times. Junior midfielder Aaron Hutchinson had a goal and two assists and junior Cade Johnson scored once. Senior goalie Luke Maul made eight saves and sophomore face-off specialist Drew Wasacz won 10 of 14 draws.

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Wednesday’s victory over Southern was the second in a row for Freehold Township. The teams played a nail-biter early last season with the Patriots also winning, 6-5. Kondrup had a game-tying goal late in regulation to send the game to overtime where Doel ended up scoring the game-winning goal. He did it again to start the 2019 season, but this win had meant more for those players who were on the team two years ago. In 2017, Freehold Township made the trip down to Manahawkin and got blown out of the water. That loss was still on their minds.

“The last time we came down to Southern we were the favorite and we lost 16-3,” Kondrup said. “We still had that sour taste in our mouths and we wanted to come here and get rid of that.”

Freehold Township opened the scoring when Madonna took a pass from Doel and scored at the 8:56 mark of the first quarter. The score stayed that way until early in the second quarter when Kondrup took a pass from Doel and blasted a shot up and over Maul to extend the Patriots lead to 2-0. Southern was able to finally get on the board in the final 90 seconds of the half when Johnson scooped up a dropped clearing pass, hustled to the net and beat Purcell with 1:11 on the clock.

The Patriots entered the season knowing their strength is on defense. They were superb in the first half, and even though Southern went on a run in the second half, they still ended up allowing just five goals to a team with several offensive weapons.

“We’re a very conditioned team and a very fundamental team, so when we’re out there playing defense we can let them pass it around and then we’re ready for the shot,” Purcell said. “Our whole defense is based on outside shots and I’m confident I can make those saves.”

“What’s really nice about our defense is we have some good, athletic lacrosse players but they’re also very smart lacrosse players,” Eichner said. “Evan, Joel, Connor; not only are they good athletes but they understand the concepts we’re doing. Evan is really a coach on the field and backing them up when things do break down, Aidan is the ultimate stopper. Southern has some good shooters and Aidan made some big saves that made the difference.

The teams traded goals in the third quarter as Freehold Township increased its edge to two goals to lead 5-3 heading to the fourth quarter. Liebross scored with 6:07 before Southern answered 33 seconds later on a goal by Russo set up by Hutchinson. Liebross then dished to Doel for a goal at 3:25, but Southern responded yet again with a Hutchinson to Russo connection. Kondrup’s second goal of the game was set up by Doel with 2:03 left in the quarter.

Southern rallied to tie the game with two goals in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Hutchinson scored off a pass from midfielder Ajani Steverson at 9:29 and Russo netted the equalizer at 8:03.

The final two minutes were hectic with each team having possessions. Freehold Township was able to get a shot off with a flag down, and once the clock stopped the Patriots had a 30-second man advantage with 1:18 left. Southern was able to kill the penalty, re-gain possession and call timeout with 32 seconds left. The Rams were looking for the final shot, but an errant pass sailed out of bounds and gave Freehold Township a chance with six seconds on the clock.

As it turned out, that was all they needed.

“These are situations Freehold Township loves,” Purcell said. “We’re very good in these types of situations and overtimes and it showed.”

 

Box Score

No. 6 Freehold Township 6, Southern 5

  1 2 3 4 Final
Freehold Township (1-0) 1 1 3 1 6
Southern (0-1) 0 1 2 2 5 


Goals – FT:
Matt Kondrup 3, Brendan Doel, Matt Madonna, Jake Liebross; S: Aniello Russo 3, Aaron Hutchinson, Cade Johnson.

ASSISTS – FT: Brendan Doel 3, Jake Liebross; S: Aaron Hutchinson 2, Ajani Steverson.

SAVES – FT: Aidan Purcell, 8; S: Luke Maul, 8

SHOTS: Freehold Township, 22-21.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

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