Patriots sink Mariners, 3-1, to win 2021 Shore Conference Tournament

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The Freehold Township High School girls soccer team celebrates winning its first Shore Conference Tournament championship in 10 years with a 3-1 victory over Toms River North on Oct. 28 in Barnegat.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Freehold Township High School girls soccer team defeated Toms River North 3-1 in the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 28 in Barnegat.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Hailey Santiago fends off Toms River North's Ava Ellis outside the box during the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Freehold Township won 3-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Cassidy Corcione tracks down the loose ball during the Shore Conference Tournament championship game against Toms River North on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Corcione scored a goal in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Ainsley Moy dribbles the ball up the field into the Toms River North zone during the Shore Conference Tournament championship game on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Freehold Township is 17-0-1 on the season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Kayla Wong dribbles the ball past Toms River North's Ava Ellis during the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Freehold Township won 3-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Freehold Township High School girls soccer team celebrates winning its first Shore Conference Tournament championship in 10 years with a 3-1 victory over Toms River North on Oct. 28 in Barnegat.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Freehold Township High School girls soccer team defeated Toms River North 3-1 in the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 28 in Barnegat.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Hailey Santiago fends off Toms River North's Ava Ellis outside the box during the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Freehold Township won 3-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Cassidy Corcione tracks down the loose ball during the Shore Conference Tournament championship game against Toms River North on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Corcione scored a goal in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Ainsley Moy dribbles the ball up the field into the Toms River North zone during the Shore Conference Tournament championship game on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Freehold Township is 17-0-1 on the season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls soccer player Kayla Wong dribbles the ball past Toms River North's Ava Ellis during the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Oct. 28 in Barnegat. Freehold Township won 3-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

A jacket from the Freehold Township High School girls soccer team’s 2011 Shore Conference Tournament championship was in style when the Patriots met Toms River North High School in the 2021 Shore Conference Tournament championship match on Oct. 28 at Barnegat High School in Ocean County.

Coach Dave Patterson hoped that wearing his 2011 championship jacket would bring good luck to the Patriots, who were seeking their first Shore Conference Tournament title since that season. Freehold Township lost the championship match in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The power of the jacket paid off as Patterson watched the Patriots (17-0-1) defeat the Mariners, 3-1, to claim the tournament title.

“Sometimes you have really good teams, but they don’t necessarily have their best day on the biggest days, but our girls definitely did today,” Patterson said.

“We have had some very talented teams before, but the depth we have all over the field this year is something we have never seen before. Backs, midfielders and forwards. Everyone contributed out there,” he said.

Freehold Township jumped out to a 1-0 lead before the fans could get settled when freshman Gaby Parker scored her 13th goal of the season 47 seconds into the match.

Freehold Township kicked off to start the contest and seconds later the ball caromed off a Mariners defender. Sophomore Hailey Santiago booted the ball toward the Toms River North net where the goalie got a hand on it, but could not corral the shot, and Parker booted home the rebound to put the Patriots ahead in under a minute.

“We knew that if we were going to have a shot out here, we were going to have to be the aggressor,” Patterson said of the team’s fast start. “We surprised ourselves a little bit with the first goal we got, but it gave us the confidence we needed to play at the level I know we are capable of.”

The Patriots put six shots on net in the first 20 minutes, but only had Parker’s goal to show for their efforts in the Mariners’ end of the field.

The Mariners equalized in the 27th minute of the 40-minute half when Faith Wavershak converted a free kick to tie the score at 1-1.

The Patriots had seen their lead vanish, but they made sure that would not happen again.

Freehold Township answered in the 32nd minute. Parker was fouled just outside the 18-yard box, giving Freehold Township a direct kick. Junior Gabby Koluch stepped up and drove the ball home for her sixth goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.

“I knew I wanted to take it right away,” Koluch said of the direct kick. “I saw an opening and it went in. It was an amazing feeling.”

In the 56th minute, Santiago was fouled inside the Mariners’ 18-yard box and the Patriots were awarded a penalty kick. Sophomore Cassidy Corcione converted the penalty kick for her 18th goal of the season and a 3-1 lead.

“We have been practicing penalty kicks for a while and I have been practicing them on my own, so I felt confident with the one I had here,” Corcione said.

Corcione, who is tied with Kayla Wong with a team-high 12 assists, was “speechless” after the win.

She said she believed from the start of the season that Freehold Township was a state championship caliber team and said she could not be more proud of what she and her teammates have been able to accomplish so far: winning the Shore Conference A North Division title and the Shore Conference Tournament championship.

“It’s really exciting,” said Corcione. “My teammates have worked so hard all season for the team. This is the first Shore Conference title we have won in 10 years. We have been looking forward to winning A North, the Shore Conference Tournament and states, so that’s what we have to focus on next.”

Freehold Township has scored 81 goals in 18 matches.

As the Patriots dialed up their 14th game of three or more goals scored, Koluch, senior defender Kelsey Gilroy and freshman goalkeeper Ashley Moore anchored the defense to shut down Toms River North in the second half.

Moore made five saves in the second half and six in the match.

“Every save is important and I’m just happy we were able to get this championship,” Moore said. “This was one of the biggest games of my life. I wanted to win this for the seniors and our team.”

Freehold Township will now play in the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament. The Patriots are the No. 1 seed and will host West Windsor-Plainsboro South in the first round on Nov. 2.

Patterson hopes his team’s undefeated ride will continue in the state sectional tournament.

Before that competition starts, however, Patterson is looking forward to ordering a 2021 Shore Conference Tournament championship jacket and celebrating a conference title with his players, who he believes are “extremely special” with what they have been able to accomplish thus far.

“We are just very happy to be where we are right now and hope to continue it going into the states,” Patterson said.