The Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School field hockey team may have fallen just short of capturing the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title, but the program celebrated a season of elite championships.
Rumson-Fair Haven’s season came to a close on Nov. 15 when the Bulldogs were defeated by the Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, 5-1, in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions at Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly.
The defeat left Rumson-Fair Haven with a final record of 21-3-1.
The Bulldogs will fondly remember the game prior to that defeat. On Nov. 11, Rumson-Fair Haven captured the Group 2 state championship with a 2-0 victory over Seneca High School at Bordentown Regional High School in Bordentown.
That result advanced Rumson-Fair Haven to the Tournament of Champions and gave the program its second state title in four years. Rumson-Fair Haven won the Group 2 championship in 2014 for the first group title in program history.
Rumson-Fair Haven coach Julie Brewington reflected positively on the season.
“I’m so proud of the season that my girls have had,” Brewington said. “They’ve had to overcome a lot of things, a lot of different circumstances. We had what felt like it should have been the world championship against West Essex, so to have that type of a game and keep coming back and back and battling, it’s a testament to them that they can keep putting in the work and doing everything they can to reach their goals.”
Rumson-Fair Haven earned revenge and a ticket to the Group 2 finals this season when it defeated West Essex High School on penalty strokes in the semifinals on Nov. 8. The two teams had fought to a 1-1 tie before the penalty strokes came into play.
West Essex had defeated Rumson-Fair Haven, 5-2, in the Group 2 state finals last season and went on to win the Tournament of Champions title.
Rumson-Fair Haven also captured the Shore Conference Tournament championship this season, defeating Southern Regional High School, 5-0, in the finals on Nov. 4.
In the Tournament of Champions semifinals matchup, Oak Knoll, which is one of the premier field hockey programs in New Jersey, had assembled a 4-0 lead at one point in the second half on the strength of two goals each by Ali McCarthy and Bridget Murphy.
Rumson-Fair Haven avoided the shutout when freshman forward Meadow Maguire connected with 13:46 remaining. Oak Knoll, which improved to 24-0-1, scored with two minutes to play to seal the victory.
The school from Summit was scheduled to play Eastern Regional High School in the Tournament of Champions finals on Nov. 17 at Kean University in Union. Eastern, which fell to West Essex in the title game last year, had won the previous four Tournament of Champions crowns.
In Rumson-Fair Haven’s loss to Oak Knoll, senior goalie Molly Nowell recorded 14 saves for the Bulldogs, while senior Lily Croddick picked up an assist.
Brewington raved about her senior class, which included players who were freshmen on the 2014 Group 2 championship team.
“Like I said to the seniors just now, what they’ve given to this program is invaluable,” Brewington said after the defeat to Oak Knoll. “I think they’re such great role models for the underclassmen to look up to. I think they’ve taken this program in the last four years and have put it on the map. That’s such a testament to what they were willing to do and what they were willing to sacrifice and their leadership. I’m so proud of this season.”
Brewington believes this team will leave a long-lasting legacy.
“This has been a really special season,” the coach said. “For me, it’s been a pleasure and an honor to be there for this senior class, seeing them grow from freshmen to seniors. It’s incredible how much they matured as players and as people. I’m really proud of the legacy that they’re leaving this team with. I just think that this is such a special team that we’ll be talking about, and I know I’ll be talking about, to my future players for a long time. I’ll be telling them, ‘This is what you want to be like. This is what you want to emulate here at Rumson.’ ”
Maguire noted the valuable experience she gained this fall.
“My sister, [senior] Makenna [Maguire], as well as [2016 graduate] Madison [Maguire] went through the same thing that I have in terms of playing in big games like this,” she said. “I think the biggest thing they taught us is to always work your hardest and to always play your best because you never know when your last game is going to be.”