That changed last fall, when the clubs played for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship. Freehold captured its third sectional crown in four years, while denying the Patriots a third straight Central Jersey title.
With Freehold moving up to the Shore Conference A North Division in 2014, the regular season meetings between the clubs will be meaningful because they will go a long way toward deciding which team is the division champion.
Freehold Township has dominated A North, winning the last four years, while the Colonials have all but owned B North. Now the two are playing for the same title.
Freehold lost a lot to graduation, but what will be missed the most is their four senior cocaptains: Haley Meade, Lauren Bock, Alexis Arancio and Katie Luchino, who were pivotal to Freehold’s success during their four years.
“Our incoming upperclassmen are mature and ready to take on the responsibility of leading the team,” coach Kelly Craig said.
Seniors Liz Raftopoulos (defense), Emily Long (defense/midfield) and keeper Alyson LeBlanc, and juniors Clare Luttrell (midfield/ forward), Julie Keelan (forward), Kate Pianko (defense) and Jess Pianko (forward) will be providing the leadership this fall. Jess Pianko, who scored 18 goals and had 11 assists last fall, is the top returning scorer.
Sophomores Alex Bock (midfield) and Tori Tiefenthaler (forward) also return as starters.
Freehold had a number of freshmen contribute last year, and they are back to make a bigger contribution. In addition to Bock and Tiefenthaler, Gabriella Arancio (forward) and Jillian Ruggiero (defense) will be mainstays this year.
Despite the losses to graduation, the Colonials are returning a lot of experience. That includes the presence of seniors Emily Kaplan (defense), Erin McBurnie (goalie) and Lupe Perez; junior Faith Orsetti (goalie); and sophomores Danielle Brodsky, Lindsay Koller and Alisa Lytvyn.
The Colonials again have a number of freshmen who could contribute this year. They are Julianna Calogero, Alyssa Correia, Nicole Fossani, Crystal Harris, Nicole Ray, Isabella Reynoso and Katie Ricker.
Freehold will again be built around its defense and strong midfield play. Up front, it will look to get contributions across the board.
Never a team to rest on its laurels, Craig said the Colonials work on being better than they were the year before.
“We are working toward being faster and more accurate than last year,” the coach said.
Craig added that the Colonials always expect to be in the title hunt.
The Patriots are seeking their fifth straight A North title in 2014.
Coach Kim Gardner, who led the Patriots to a fourth straight division title and the Central Jersey Group IV finals in her first year, said that Freehold Township’s expectations remain the same. The Patriots expect to be competitive in the division and throughout the Shore.
“We always strive to compete with the top teams in the Shore Conference,” she said.
For the Patriots to take aim at a fifth straight A North title and achieve their goals, Gardner said they have to “continue to develop a positive work ethic and develop our skills” to keep getting better.
Freehold Township’s strength starts in the backfield on defense, where four-year starter Makayla Pak, one of the best defenders in the conference, is in charge. Joining her in the backfield is another returning starter, Marie Pietracatella, who is a solid defender.
Newcomers Kellie Hennessey, Mia Lombardi and Renata Baute bolster the defense.
Veteran Megan Callahan will be in goal.
The Patriots will look to Sara O’Malley and Sam Vega to control midfield play. Newcomers Sandy Conover and Raegen Dunn will help out here.
On the attack, the Patriots have returnees Jess Pietracaella, Stefanie Blair, Shannon Cestero, Klaudia Sliwa and Kayla Geller. The Patriots hope to present a balanced attack with contributions from everyone up front.
The key newcomers for Freehold Township are Jessica Applegate (attack) and Kali Williams (utility). They are freshmen.
Completing the Patriots’ roster are senior Shannon Cestero and juniors Darlene Benjamin and Rosie McQuarrie.
At Howell High School, head coach Elissa Connell hopes that experience will make the Rebels competitive in A North and give the team a shot at the postseason.
“I have a lot of returnees this season,” the coach said. “A few of my key returnees are senior captain Tricia Gresco; junior goalkeeper Julia McAleavey; junior midfielders Katie Capestro, Brittany Lucey, Marisa Mongioi; and, lastly, junior defender Julia Earley.
Junior attacker Alex Megles is new to the team this season, and Connell hopes she can provide some offensive punch.
“The key to our success is to continue to communicate on the field, play together and execute when we have scoring opportunities,” she said.
Completing the Rebels’ roster are Dom Ambroza, Diana Bajramovic, Stephanie Bock, Nikki Cantor, Bridget Coulahan, Casey Coulahan, Emily Couture, Marisa Crifasi, Mackenzie Dix, Brittany Flakker, Emily Gil, Allie Mocarro, Kristyn Batta, Kayla Tortorelli, Megan Martino and Liz Capestro.