Patriots defeat Ridgewood, 1-0, to win Group IV state soccer championship

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Redemption from a loss in the 2021 NJSIAA Group IV state tournament championship game was the ultimate desire of the members of the Freehold Township High School girls soccer team during the 2022 season.

That desire fueled the Patriots to a return appearance in the Group IV championship match on Nov. 13 at Kean University, Union Township, against Ridgewood High School.

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In 2021, the Patriots conceded a goal to Westfield High School in the final seconds of the Group IV title match to lose 1-0.

This season, the Patriots walked off the field at Alumni Stadium with a 1-0 victory and the feeling they had been searching for all season – redemption!

Ainsley Moy scored in the sixth minute of the match and a stellar effort by the defense kept Ridgewood off the scoreboard for the next 74 minutes as the Patriots claimed the Group IV trophy.

The Patriots earned their spot in the Group IV state championship match with a 3-0 victory over Eastern Regional High School of southern New Jersey several days earlier.

“It feels amazing,” senior midfielder Kayla Wong said after the Patriots beat Ridgewood. “This is what we had our eyes and our hearts set out for ever since the summer. This feeling was exactly what we were chasing the entire season and I’m just so happy we can enjoy it.”

In the sixth minute against Ridgewood, Moy converted a pass into the area from Danielle Howard to give the Patriots an early lead.

“We knew it was important to get an early goal and get some momentum. Danielle crossed a great ball and I was able to finish it off,” Moy said.

Moy, who has committed to play at Texas Christian University, finished her junior campaign with 13 goals and 13 assists.

Junior Hailey Santiago led the Patriots with 23 goals this season.

For 80 minutes, Freehold Township’s defenders were rock solid in all facets of the game as Ridgewood lost for the first time in 2022. The Maroons were averaging just under four goals per game. With the win, the Patriots earned their 17th shutout of the season.

“Our defense comes out every game wanting to keep it clean and have zero goals against,” senior center back Gabby Koluch said. “We came out and did that. Our communication (on defense) was the key. It was our way to win.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Moore made four saves in the Group IV championship match.

Moore’s biggest save came in the 65th minute on a Ridgewood free kick. She got both hands on Kat Slott’s rising line drive from distance and tapped the ball off the crossbar and back into the field of play, where her teammates cleared it out of the area.

“I don’t get a lot of shots, but when I do, I just try to be prepared for it. The defense just did amazing. Every save counts,” Moore said.

During the final seconds of the 2021 Group IV title game, Moore fell backward and caught the ball over the goal line and that gave Westfield the only goal of the match.

She said it was a “big relief” to come back in 2022 and play well to help the team win the state championship.

“It’s just a fantastic feeling” to win a state championship,” Moore said. “Last year was completely heartbreaking and it took a while to get back from that. Our whole motto this season was getting back to the (final). Being able to win (the state championship) is just fantastic.”

The 2022 Group IV crown is Freehold Township’s first outright state championship.

The Patriots were Group IV co-champions in 2015 and 2017 because each match ended in a 0-0 draw and penalty kicks were not taken.

“We wanted to celebrate on this field. We wanted to be the sole winners” of the state championship, Coach Dave Patterson said. “It feels so great right now.”

In 2022, the Patriots won the Shore Conference A North Division, the Shore Conference Tournament, the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional championship and the Group IV state title.

All of those moments were a joy for Patterson to watch. He said he was full of “many emotions” after the Patriots defeated Ridgewood. The coach went from watching his players suffer a heartbreaking defeat in 2021 to seeing them rebound this year to become state champions.

“I’m so happy for the girls and to see all their hard work and dedication for each other all season come through (today) to get this special win. To not just get back (to the state final), but to win it, just feels amazing,” Patterson said.

Freehold Township finished the 2022 season with a 20-1 record. The team’s only loss came against Archbishop Spalding High School of Severn, Md.

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