Eagles top Barnegat to advance to quarterfinals of Shore Conference Tournament

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Middletown High School South field hockey player Christine Ryan dribbles the ball across the field and makes a pass to a teammate during a game against Barnegat on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Middletown South won 4-1 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South field hockey player Peyton Kenney dribbles the ball into the Barnegat zone during a game played on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Kenney scored a game-high two goals in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South field hockey player Makenna Blozen dribbles the ball past a Barnegat defender up the sideline during a game played on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Middletown South won 4-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South field hockey player Kylie Doyle passes the ball up the field during a game against Barnegat on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Middletown South is 14-2 on the season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South field hockey player Christine Ryan dribbles the ball across the field and makes a pass to a teammate during a game against Barnegat on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Middletown South won 4-1 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South field hockey player Peyton Kenney dribbles the ball into the Barnegat zone during a game played on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Kenney scored a game-high two goals in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South field hockey player Makenna Blozen dribbles the ball past a Barnegat defender up the sideline during a game played on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Middletown South won 4-1.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Middletown High School South field hockey player Kylie Doyle passes the ball up the field during a game against Barnegat on Oct. 16 in Middletown. Middletown South is 14-2 on the season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The Middletown South High School field hockey team has been a train of success for four years.

The Eagles recently won their fourth consecutive Shore Conference A North Division title by going undefeated (12-0) in division play and they improved to 14-2 overall after defeating Barnegat High School, 4-1, in the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament.

Just two years after winning the North Jersey, Section II, Group III state sectional championship, the success her team has had during the past four years is a joy to see for Coach Jordan Hickman, especially with a new cast of players leading the way in 2021.

“Coming into this season, I had a lot of new players and I didn’t know how things would shake out,” Hickman said. “I just graduated a huge senior class. We were playing a tougher schedule. I was just hoping we could still compete for the division and get into the conference tournament. Here we are now with 14 wins and another division title, just cruising right along.”

Seniors Peyton Kenney and Kylie Doyle are the only two players left from Middletown South’s 2019 state sectional championship team. They are both having fine seasons.

In Shore Conference Tournament second round action on Oct. 16 in Middletown, Kenney scored two goals in the first quarter as the Eagles defeated Barnegat, 4-1, and advanced to the tournament quarterfinals for the second time in three years.

Kenney scored just over four minutes into the contest, sweeping her way through the Barnegat defense and scoring for a 1-0 lead.

Freshman Caroline Bedetti scored her sixth goal of the season moments later to extend the lead to 2-0.

With under :30 to play in the first quarter, Kenney scored again for a 3-0 lead. She leads Middletown South in goals (14) and assists (9).

 

“It feels good proving people wrong and showing we can still rise to the occasion as a younger team,” Kenney said. “It feels good to keep building off what we have done with most of our starting lineup from last season gone.”

As a player who was part of the 2019 state sectional championship team, Kenney has done her best to get her teammates to understand their efforts are not just about winning a state championship, but about keeping the success of the program going strong.

She believes the Eagles can make a run at a state championship and at the Shore Conference Tournament championship.

“I think we all have the capability to step up and it has shown throughout the season,” Kenney said. “I think this postseason is going to show a whole new team that was better than it was before.”

Barnegat scored in the second quarter to trim the Eagles’ lead to 3-1, before freshman Avery Lassman scored her fifth goal of the season in the fourth quarter to make the final score 4-1.

Middletown South has scored 64 goals in 16 games.

Senior Christine Ryan has scored 12 goals and added six assists. Doyle has played well as the leader in midfield. She has scored seven goals and added five assists. Senior Paige Derevjanik has contributed to the team’s success by scoring seven goals and adding two assists.

Junior goalie Leila Black has been solid in the cage with 42 saves.

The Eagles will play Ocean Township High School in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Oct. 19.

Hickman said the Eagles’ focus is on advancing as far as they can in the conference tournament before trying to win a second state sectional championship in three years.

The Eagles have moved up to the Group IV state sectional tournament (from Group III) for 2021.

Hickman knows the track to winning a state sectional championship in Group IV will be difficult, but she believes her players have shown they can compete with the best of the best and said winning a fourth straight Shore Conference division title proves that.

“Winning the division again was a big thing for us. It showed us where we stand heading into the postseason. Right now, we are focused on the Shore Conference Tournament and trying to take things one game at a time,” the coach said.