Patriots team closing in on its first girls lacrosse championship

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

Freehold Township’s girls lacrosse team will be playing the biggest match in school history tomorrow afternoon.

An opportunity to win the program’s first championship will be at stake when Ocean Township makes a call.

Nikki Hastings’ Patriots began this week with a perfect 8-0 record and were one win away from a championship.

The Patriots put themselves in this commanding position by beating their nemesis and Shore Conference A North Division power Ocean Township, 7-5, on April 20 in Ocean. Everything the Patriots had been working toward this year came to fruition with that win, and the team has been playing on a high level since.

“The Ocean game has helped [the team’s confidence] tremendously,” said Hastings. “We were down 2-0.”

Some changes made on the fly by Hastings in that Ocean victory seem to have made the team even stronger. After the Pats fell behind 2-0, Hastings moved Maddie Comfort, Laura Delguercio and Alex Marino from positions up front at home to midfield. The team needed to generate offense from midfield. The trio was well fitted to be playmakers and finishers. Comfort would score the game-winning and insurance goals in the 7-5 victory that signaled a change atop the division. They were Comfort’s second and third goals of the match.

Kate Weinberger contributed three assists and Jennah Conti, Marissa Devine, Delguercio and Jenna Impastato scored the other goals.

When the Spartans were applying the pressure late, looking to get the tying goal, Erin Buchanan stood tall in the cage once again. She had 19 saves on the day.

Buchanan has been one of the big stories for the Patriots. Goalie was a position the team needed help at with the graduation of Amy Winik. Buchanan, who missed last season with a knee injury, worked hard on her goalie talents in the offseason and came into the campaign ready to play and contribute.

“She has played great,” Hastings remarked.

With 51 saves, she is among the top goalies in the score in that category.

A quick glance at the leading scorers in the Shore tells you all you need to know about the Patriots. They are playing great at that end. Comfort (22 goals, 13 assists), Marino (13-5), Conti (13-5), Devine (11-8) and Weinberger (4-22) rank among the Shore’s top scorers. Impastato (8-3), Adj Tepedino (5-4) and Laura Delguercio (4-4) have chipped in as well.

“I look back at when I first started and we had one girl on the whole list,” said Hastings. “Now we have three girls in the top (10). They all deserve it. The girls do work hard.”

Marino has been the one big addition to the offense. The freshman has had an impact on the team from the get-go.

The high-scoring is a reflection of just how far the program has progressed. The Patriots are able to keep the ball in the opposition’s end of the field for long periods of time. Against Ocean, their ball control allowed them to run out the clock.

“We’re putting a lot of pressure on the other teams,” said Hastings. ‘When we have the ball, we’re keeping it and not making mistakes and throwing it away.”

Being undefeated and in a position to win a championship is all so very new to the Patriots, who have to guard against letdown. This is where the leadership and the determination of seniors like Conti, Devine, Weinberger and Alyssa Delguercio comes in.

With the title so close, Hastings believes that senior leadership is keeping the girls focused.

“The seniors worked at it so long,” she said. “They want to be the first team to win a title.”

Freehold Township was at home for Marlboro yesterday, and with a win, the Patriots will have clinched no worse than a tie for the championship. If they slipped up, they will go into tomorrow’s game tied with Ocean and it will be winner take all. Otherwise, they will be playing for the outright division title and a high seed for the upcoming Shore Conference Tournament.