Colts Neck caps historic 2021 season with Group III state softball title


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Making history and earning the glory that comes with winning a state championship stood three outs away for the Colts Neck High School softball team heading into the bottom of the seventh inning of the NJSIAA Group III state tournament championship game on June 18.

The Cougars led Cranford High School, 2-0, in pursuit of the first state championship in program history.

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As the Cougars prepared to step onto Mike Sheppard Sr. Field on the campus of Seton Hall University in South Orange for the bottom of the seventh, they saw Coach Anthony Iachello urging them to do their best in the big moment they were about to experience.

“All your guts for all your glory,” Iachello kept telling his players.

In the end, all the hard work the Cougars put in this spring came down to three outs. Moments later, the players walked off the field as champions with a 2-0 victory.

“I am extremely excited they got what they wanted,” Iachello said of his players. “This is what they want. This is what they battled so hard to get.”

In the bottom of the seventh, the ball was in the hands of senior Ava Metzger. In the top of the seventh, Metzger had smacked a two-out double to right field that scored a run and pushed the lead to 2-0.

Metzger’s drive to put the softball program on the map and make history helped power her through the bottom of the seventh. She worked around a one-out walk and struck out the final two Cranford batters to secure the Cougars’ first state Group title.

“When you hear Colts Neck now, you think of the softball team,” Metzger said. “Our name is on the map now. There is such a bright future ahead for this program.”

Metzger went the distance in the Group III final, allowing two hits and striking out eight Cranford hitters.

“I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better game,” she said. “I didn’t give up any runs and only gave up two hits and had eight strikeouts.”

Prior to the game, Metzger learned she has been named the New Jersey High School Softball Gatorade Player of the Year. She said receiving that honor on the same day Colts Neck won a state title was “amazing.”

She said she believed the recognition reflected all of the hard work she put in during the past four years to become an outstanding player. It also felt great for Metzger to share the moment with fellow seniors Melissa Deissler, Emily Cannizzaro and Annie Gabriel.

“It feels so surreal that the four of us can end our careers together as state champions,” Metzger said. “It feels amazing.”

Deissler brought home Colts Neck’s first run when she walked with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. She ended the season with 30 RBIs, 34 hits and 20 runs scored.


“It’s honestly unimaginable being here right now,” Deissler said after the Cougars won the Group III title. “Words cannot describe how happy we are right now. This is the highlight of my high school career and something I will never forget.”

Sophomore Cassidy Relay was 4-4 with three singles and she scored both runs in the championship game.

“I knew I had to step up and score runs to help us win,” Relay said. “I always knew this team had potential from the beginning of the year to win. We do what we need to do and we get it done.”

The victory over Cranford in the Group III final gave Colts Neck a ticket to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

On June 19 in the quarterfinals of the Tournament of Champions, the Cougars’ season ended with a 10-6 loss to Livingston High School.

Metzger finished the 2021 season with 320 strikeouts in 167 innings pitched. She ended her three-year varsity career with 546 strikeouts, which is the most in the history of the program. She led the Cougars with 39 RBIs and 49 hits this spring.

The 2021 Cougars (28-2) accomplished a trifecta of firsts in program history by winning the Monmouth County Tournament championship, the Central Jersey Group III state sectional tournament title and the Group III state tournament crown.

Being part of history made 2021 the most “fun” season Iachello has ever coached and he was thrilled to go through the campaign with the players he led this season.

“These girls are the most fun to be around. They love being around each other and playing softball together. That’s the reason for our success,” he said.

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