Rumson-Fair Haven field hockey finishing strong in close games

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Rumson-Fair Haven High School still has an elite field hockey team.

The Bulldogs have won four straight Shore Conference titles and are the defending NJSIAA Group 2 tournament champion.

In 2018, Rumson-Fair Haven is off to a 5-1 start overall. At 4-0 in Shore Conference A Central Division play, Rumson sits in first-place, a half game ahead of Shore Regional High School.

Rumson-Fair Haven defeated Shore Regional, 3-0, on Sept. 8.

Everything seems normal, and great, for the Bulldogs. But they are, as coach Julie Brewington described it, “struggling just a little bit.”

In its last two games, Rumson-Fair Haven started slow and finished strong.

On Sept. 21, Red Bank Catholic High School led Rumson-Fair Haven, 1-0, for most of the first half. The Bulldogs rallied to win, 4-1.

On Sept. 22, Rumson-Fair Haven took an early 1-0 lead but could not pull away, allowing Bridgewater-Raritan High School to tie the game with 7:45 to go.

Rumson-Fair Haven did, ultimately, win in overtime, 2-1, against Bridgewater-Raritan, which was the Group 4 state tournament runner-up in 2017.

“We’ve been struggling overall just finding that intensity we need on the field,” Brewington said. “But I think it’s been a good test for us. It’s been a little bit of a wake-up call. Like, ‘You guys have to step up and compete in this game.’”

In the Red Bank Catholic victory, Rumson-Fair Haven dominated the second half, outshooting the Caseys 9-1 and outscoring them, 3-0. Brewington starts five seniors and two juniors, but in this game it took a freshman, Grace Anne McCooey, to jolt the Bulldogs back to life.

McCooey came off the bench in the second half and scored two goals. She crashed the left post and scored off a pass and on a rebound. Her performance revealed just how deep the Bulldogs are.

“We were struggling in the circle with that sense of urgency, like getting the ball in the goal. We would get the ball in the circle and lose possession,” Brewington said. “It took Grace coming off the bench with that urgency and intensity. We all fed off that.”

“When you see someone else running really hard to the ball, it hypes everyone up,” said senior captain Bridy Molyneaux. “Grace Anne really got the momentum going.”

“I’m the only freshman on the team so I have to prove myself more,” McCooey said, smiling wide after her big game. “I was really aggressive and I sprinted a lot and really went for the ball. Also, positioning-wise, I was always on the post, which helped because I could just tap it in.”

The Bulldogs followed McCooey’s example versus Bridgewater-Raritan the next day, dominating after halftime by accumulating 10 corners and 11 shots. In overtime, Molyneaux broke through with the winning goal.

Rumson-Fair Haven’s defense kept the Bulldogs in position to win both games. Red Bank Catholic was never able to get close to the net, generating just three shots over 60 minutes. Bridgewater-Raritan only put four shots on goal.

Senior center back Grace Jamin and her defensive mates were a brick wall, cutting off drives and blocking shots.

So, Rumson-Fair Haven is a complete team. It just has to start playing complete games.

“Once we get the hang of our game, we always end up accomplishing stuff,” Jamin said. “We just have to not start slow.”