BY TIM MORRIS
“The bus ride told you a lot about my kids,” said coach Heshy Moses. “They were crying. You’d have thought we’d lost.
“I told them, ‘You won four championships,’ ” he added. “They’re the best team that ever played in the school. You beat every other team’s records.”
The Colonials didn’t feel like record-breakers on Nov. 18 after playing Ramapo to a 0-0 draw on the carpeted pitch of The College of New Jersey in the NJSIAA State Group III final. The scoreless tie created a co-championship.
“They were disappointed that they didn’t win,” said Moses.
They didn’t lose, either, and the ’06 Colonials became the first team to claim a state championship while finishing the season with a sparkling 21-1-1 record. Only one other Freehold Borough team had reached the state finals and that was in 2001. They fell to Ramsey in overtime.
The team that the ’06 Colonials have been compared to was the ’97 squad that won three titles, Shore Conference Division, Shore Conference Tournament and Central Jersey. This year’s team duplicated that feat and went them one better, adding the State Group III crown to their achievements.
To the credit of both Freehold Borough and Ramapo (20-3-1), both teams played to win right up to the very end. This wasn’t a play-it-safe, play-not-to-lose tie. Both teams had their chances, limited as they were by strong defenses.
The Colonials had the best chance when a shot off the foot of Shannon Mayrose (whose overtime goal against Shawnee put the Colonials in the state final) clanked off the crossbar late in the second half. Earlier, Mayrose had tested Raider goalie Samantha Depken on a header off a perfect restart serve from Amy Flanagan.
Ramapo’s Brittney Steinbruch showed why she is headed to the University of Miami on a scholarship. The midfielder made a number of dangerous runs through midfield, but like everyone who has played Freehold Borough this fall, found finishing scoring chances close to impossible.
“I don’t ever remember anyone in the Shore having 20 shutouts in a season,” said Moses.
Sweeper Alexandra Eagle is the conductor of what is as good a defense as any in the state.
“We communicate all the time,” said Eagle. “It starts with our forwards coming back to help and then our midfielders playing back.
“I make sure I talk to everyone,” she added. “Every time we play a high-scoring forward or center midfielder, we have Amy [Flanagan] and Shannon [Mayrose] marking her.”
The team’s security blanket is goalie Ashley Lewis. As Eagle pointed out, the team has complete confidence and trust in their goalie. And, for good reason: she’ll make the save.
The one time that Steinbruch broke through the Colonials’ defensive fortress, Lewis was there to stonewall her. In overtime, she left the net to smother a shot by JoJo Pisani. Both Eagle and Moses pointed to the off-the-field bond between the players as being very important.
“We’re all friends,” said Eagle. “We’ve all connected somehow.”
Their friendship, Moses noted, made them put the team above all else. Everyone had one another’s back covered.
With a perfect overtime record in 2006, the Colonials were as stunned by the fact that they didn’t win it in the extra session as anything else.
“We didn’t know how to react,” said Eagle. “We wanted to win.”
In time, she said, it has sunk in that the Colonials are state champions and that they exceeded expectations.
“To be honest, I didn’t think we’d go this far,” she said. “We lost early in the SCT and the states last year, and we wanted to go further this year. Four championships, you can’t ask for anything more.”
The difference between last year, when the Colonials went through the regular season unbeaten, and 2006?
“We just wanted it more this year,” Eagle said.
For Moses, who coached his last game, the championship was bittersweet. There was the historic run to the school’s first state championship, but also the knowledge that it was his final time around with the team and school he is so synonymous with.
“This season was a gift to me,” he said. “They played like champions. They did everything they could possibly do. I’m so proud of them.
“They played up to their potential better than any team I’ve coached,” he added.
High praise indeed, worthy of a state champion.