By Jeff Appelblatt
Freehold Township High School’s girls’ lacrosse team had one last task at hand when it cruised into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey, Group IV championship game at the end of May.
The Patriots wanted to finish off their historic year with one more victory.
“The girls are mentally ready,” head coach Patra Acquaviva said before the game. “We are very excited to be in the finals.”
But it was clear Freehold Township wasn’t the only team excited or prepared for the game. The Red Devils from Rancocas Valley Regional High School were also ready, and they had other plans when they went to the big match at Ocean Township High School.
Behind five goals apiece from Ashley Orendac and Mekenzie Montgomery, Rancocas Valley handled the top-seeded Patriots, 14-3.
Freehold Township’s first trip to the Group IV finals turned into watching the Red Devils win their first Group IV title.
It certainly wasn’t what Freehold Township (20-3) hoped to see, but Acquaviva was eager to have her girls keep their heads up.
“We are proud of the successful season [we had],” Freehold Township’s coach said after the loss. “Rancocas Valley was a very strong team.”
Seniors Emily Zuccarelli and Nicole Sasso each scored a goal in the last game for the Patriots, but neither plans on it being the last time on a field. Zuccarelli will be attending Georgian Court University in the fall and will look to continue her lacrosse career. Sasso, meanwhile, is headed to Marist College and will play soccer.
Teammate Raegen Dunn also plans on playing lacrosse at the University of Scranton.
Kirsten Murphy, who netted one of the three Freehold Township goals against Rancocas Valley, has a few years left to wear the Patriots’ light blue. She’s only a sophomore. And the top scorers this season for the Patriots — Michelle Pascrell and Cai Martin — are juniors.
The team’s main goaltender, Lindsay Smith, has a year left too.
The Patriots will look to make another deep run in the state sectional next season. For now, though, the team can only look back on the 2017 season, which is worth remembering.
The Patriots won their first 11 games, lost one and then won six more before losing in the Shore Conference Tournament. They then won three more games, including Central Jersey, Group IV tournament victories over Howell High School and Marlboro High School, before falling to Rancocas Valley.
“My girls gave it their all the entire season, including that last game,” Freehold Township’s coach said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”