By Matthew Rocco
Although its postseason run was cut short, Shore Regional High School’s field hockey team is looking back on the 2016 season with pride.
The Blue Devils, having dropped the Shore Conference Tournament championship to Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School in a 1-0 nail-biter, entered the state playoffs with a chance to erase the memory of a tough loss. They were the top seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group I bracket and had the distinction of winning the last three Group I championships.
A shutout over South Hunterdon High School and a 2-1 victory against Arthur L. Johnson High School set up a showdown with second-seeded Madison High School for the sectional title. That’s where Shore Regional’s season came to an abrupt conclusion.
The Blue Devils continued to play outstanding defense, but it wasn’t enough to stop a hard-charging Madison squad that outscored its previous two opponents by a combined 17-0. Madison handed the Blue Devils another heartbreaking 1-0 loss in a postseason final. And just like the Shore Conference Tournament final, it was an early goal that sent Shore Regional packing.
Madison’s Catherine Crowley scored in the first half off an assist from Elizabeth Romano for the lone blemish on an otherwise great day by Shore Regional goalie Molly Santi. The Towson University-bound senior made 15 saves.
On the other side of the field, the Blue Devils couldn’t break Madison’s Nicole Ducey, who tallied 13 saves in the shutout.
“We had opportunities, but we didn’t finish,” head coach Kelly Koenig said. “It’s something we’ll learn from as a team. When presented with those opportunities, we have to finish.”
By falling short in the conference and state sectional finals, the Blue Devils ended the season without any postseason hardware, which is a rarity for the program. But Shore Regional won’t let it detract from what the team accomplished on its way to a 20-3-1 record.
“It’s tough that they didn’t achieve what they wanted to, but I’m really proud of the team and how they continued the tradition of our program. It isn’t just about winning. It’s about working hard,” Koenig said.
The Blue Devils saw impressive individual performances this season. Santi recorded 92 saves in total, while Lily Santi led the team with 26 goals. Abby Kopec scored 24 times, and Maggie Lamb had 15 goals and 15 assists on the year.
Shore Regional made good on its promise of improving its passing game, and the defense always managed to keep the Blue Devils within striking distance. Next year, Shore Regional will need to consistently finish the job in close games, Koenig said.
The Blue Devils have another talented group of seniors ready to take charge in 2017.
“It really comes from our senior class. They’re the ones who uphold our tradition,” Koenig said. “We had some girls that didn’t get a chance to start until their senior year this season. Molly didn’t start for three years. It sets an example that if you dedicate yourself and you’re selfless, you’ll get your opportunity.”
Elsewhere in field hockey, Shore Conference Tournament champion Rumson-Fair Haven is going for another major title this week. The Bulldogs clinched the Central Jersey, Group II crown with a 5-1 win over Wall High School, and they were scheduled to face West Deptford High School in the Group II semifinals Nov. 9. The final is scheduled for Nov. 12 in Bordentown.