FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – With the clock ticking down and the NJSIAA Central Group IV title on the line, Lacey Powell of the Freehold Township girls soccer team came through in a monumental way to steal the win from Hunterdon Central.
Top-seeded Freehold Township edged second-seeded Hunterdon Central, 3-2, in come-from-behind fashion on Thursday at home.
With 48 seconds remaining in the match and the score tied 2-2, the Patriots’ Nicole Whitley took what would become a game-winning corner kick. She propelled the ball to the back post where a ready and waiting Powell leapt, got her head on it and found the back of the net.
“I actually usually take corners, but Nicole (Whitley) ran to take it,” Powell said. “I knew that I had to get on the end of it. We worked so hard to get the tie back so to be able to finish it in regular time was great. It just barely hit off the top of my head, but I got something on it and it’s a really good feeling.”
Toms River South girls soccer wins wild NJSIAA game against Seneca
It has been two years since since Hunterdon Central (18-5-1) and Freehold Township met, and in the last match Powell was called on a hand ball in the box. The penalty turned into a game-winning goal for the Red Devils. A goal that Powell had to live with until Thursday afternoon.
“To see her get in there, in the box, all five-foot-nothing of her and get a head on that ball is such redemption,” Freehold Township coach David Patterson said. “For her to be able to get that off her back now in her senior year is just incredible and I’m so happy that it was her that was able to get it done.”
The opening half was defined by Hunterdon Central’s sharp passes, shutout goalkeeping and ability to move the ball barring the wet field conditions.
Junior Luciana Zullo made her presence known in the 21st minute when she scored off a long shot from the left side to put the Red Devils on the board.
Six minutes later Samantha Senatore fed Brianna Floyd a perfect cross. Floyd capitalized with a header into the left corner of the goal to give the Red Devils a healthy 2-0 lead before halftime.
Everything Hunterdon Central showcased in the first half it lacked in the second.
Girls Soccer: Holmdel wins second straight NJSIAA Central Group II title
Freehold Township (19-4-1) stepped out in the second half with intensity. Intensity turned into a clear and staggering momentum shift when Nicole Sasso headed a shot turned goal in the 41st minute to begin closing the gap.
When play resumed the ball found its way back into the Hunterdon Central end and barely left. Hunterdon Central keeper Bristol Pizzuto had a handful of enormous saves doing everything she could to close out the game.
With the ball spending so much time in the Red Devils’ territory, it was only a matter time before it made its way between the pipes.
Sasso struck again in the 74th minute with an equalizer off a long shot that bounced over Pizzuto’s head.
“We just could not get our feet underneath us,” Hunterdon Central head coach Jeannine Calhoun said. “Freehold Township scored some great goals and generated a lot of corners and those are the things that you don’t want to happen.”
Girls soccer: Shore wins fourth straight Central Group I title with victory over Metuchen
The Red Devils were distraught over the loss, but Calhoun said that they have a lot to be proud of.
“I’m so proud of this team,” she said. “Of course no one wants to hear about it today, but we battled through a ton of injuries. If you judge your season on where you started and where you finish, not games or records just the development of the team over time, the season was absolutely a success, but it just doesn’t feel like it right now.”
Staff Writer Alyssa Davis: email@example.com