Goal of winning state titles ends in final matches for Freehold Township soccer squads

Freehold Township High School boys soccer player Josh Hocheiser dribbles the ball up the sideline during the NJSIAA Group IV championship game on Nov. 20 at Kean University. Freehold Township lost to Kearny by the score of 6-2.

The 2021 soccer season was a stellar campaign for the Freehold Township High School boys and girls teams.

Each team won an NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament title and each team won a Group IV state tournament semifinal match to reach their respective Group IV championship match.

Unfortunately, the end result in each Group IV final did not go the Patriots’ way.

In the Group IV boys final, the Patriots lost to Kearny High School of Hudson County, 6-2, on Nov. 20 at Kean University, Union.

In the Group IV girls final, the Patriots lost to Westfield High School of Union County, 1-0, on Nov. 21 at Kean University. The Blue Devils scored the only goal of the match with less than :10 left in 80 minutes of regulation play.

In the aftermath of the loss to Westfield, Coach Dave Patterson said, “I’m super proud of the girls. This hurts right now. There are no words that are going to make them feel better at this point, but all they need to know is that all of their coaches are proud of them. It’s unfortunate it didn’t go our way, but I’m super proud of the girls.”

Freehold Township ended the 2021 campaign with a record of 22-1-1.

After winning the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional titles, the boys and the girls each defeated Toms River North High School in the Group IV state tournament semifinals.

The boys hosted the Mariners on Nov. 16 in Freehold Township. Regulation time (80 minutes) ended in a 0-0 tie and two 10-minute overtime periods failed to produce a goal. That result sent the state semifinal match to penalty kicks to decide a winner.

It took eight rounds, but the final result saw the Patriots advance to their first state tournament championship match in 39 years as senior Josh Hocheiser scored the deciding penalty kick. Freehold Township outscored Toms River North, 7-6, on penalty kicks.

“We talked all year that it was us against the world,” Coach Josh Mehl said. “One of the special things about Freehold Township is that every player who steps in each year expects to win. It has become that way over the last 18 years. I knew we were really talented and that if we started to piece the puzzle together we could have this success.”

The girls played their Group IV state tournament semifinal match against Toms River North on Nov. 17 in Toms River and the Patriots came from behind to advance to the Group IV final.

The Mariners scored in the 17th minute to take a 1-0 lead, but it did not take long for the Patriots to respond. Ainsley Moy tied the match 1-1 when she scored her 18th goal of the season in the 23rd minute.

Freehold Township took a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the first half when freshman Gaby Parker found the back of the net. Parker’s 15th goal of the season held up through the second half as the Patriots advanced to their first state tournament final since 2017.

The Group IV boys final was played on Nov. 20 at Kean University. After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, the Patriots cut Kearny’s lead to 2-1 in the 53rd minute as Logan Mullaney put Freehold Township on the board.

The Kardinals answered with a goal in the 59th minute to push the lead to 3-1, before Hocheiser scored in the 63rd minute to make the score 3-2. But the Patriots would not get any closer as Kearny scored three unanswered goals in the final 17 minutes of the match to cap a 6-2 win.

After the loss, Mehl said his players were disappointed by the final score, but the sixth year coach made sure to let them know how proud he was of what they had accomplished in 2021 – winning a state sectional tournament title and ending a 39-year drought of reaching a state tournament final.

“I wouldn’t let them hang their heads because they have no reason to,” Mehl said. “I know losing is tough and they wanted to win a state championship, but I think in a couple of days after they have time to (think about) what they accomplished this season, they will have a lifetime of memories.”

Senior Herman Colbert finished an outstanding campaign with a team-high 16 goals and 14 assists. The Patriots ended the 2021 season with a record of 17-4-2.

The Group IV girls final was played on Nov. 21 at Kean University and the match between Freehold Township and Westfield produced a heartbreaking loss for the Patriots.

The teams battled for 79 minutes in a physical contest that was scoreless heading into the final minute. A turnover by Freehold Township allowed Westfield to push the ball into the attacking end as the clock moved under :30.

After receiving a pass from Chiara Cosenza outside the 18-yard box, Alyssa Martinez faked out a Freehold Township defender and sent a shot toward the net.

Goalkeeper Ashley Moore got a hand on the shot that was over her head and fell backward to catch the ball. Moore caught the ball, but her fall took the ball over the goal line and provided the winning goal for the Blue Devils with :08 to play.

Losing a state championship match in that fashion was tough for Patterson and his players.

“This is something we are going to remember for a long time and it’s going to fuel us to do better and be better,” the coach said. “We have a lot of younger players coming back. We have to make sure that every time we go out there that we play the full 80 or 100 minutes, so we don’t put ourselves in this position again.”

With leading scorer Cassidy Corcione (23 goals) and several other starters expected to return in 2022, including Moy, Parker, Kayla Wong and Gabby Koluch, the Patriots will look to use the loss to the Blue Devils as motivation to return to a state final.