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Nov. 6, 2010 — No. 3 Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 4, Sewell Washington Township (N.J.) 3

VOORHEES, N.J. — A century ago, Constance Applebee described the game of field hockey as “a run-run-running game.”

But today’s modern field hockey, especially as exemplified by yesterday’s New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Group IV South semifinal between Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Sewell Washington Township (N.J.), requires a coach and a staff to manage the inner athlete — what you don’t see underneath all of the physical attributes. This encompasses desire, commitment, and how a team responds to adversity.

Yesterday at McAleer Stadium, both teams suffered their share of setbacks. But Eastern dealt with theirs just a bit better. After going down 2-0 in a shade over 15 minutes, the Vikings were able to come back to win an improbable 4-3 decision with a pair of goals in the last 90 seconds of play.

The story of the Eastern comeback was the story of Washington Township’s sudden misfortune. With the Minutemaids holding a 3-2 lead with the clock ticking down under two minutes in regulation, Eastern earned a penalty corner, the initial shot of which was blocked by Township’s outstanding and resolute penalty corner defense unit of Lindsey Hatch, Erin Waller, Nicole Tiernan, and Kaitlyn Grabert. With the rebound falling to Eastern’s attack, the ball was flipped towards the Minutemaid goal. The scoring attempt hit Hatch on her scalp, drawing blood.

As the shot was the second taken on the penalty corner, the ball height was legal. But since Hatch was on the goal line behind her goalie, Chelsea Holland, a penalty stroke resulted from the play. After a 10-minute delay for the trainers to tend to the player and the blood spills on the turf, Eastern senior Brittany Evangelisti stepped up to take the stroke, and buried it under Holland, who had guessed correctly but couldn’t come up with the save.

“I was just telling myself, ‘it’s a goal,’ ” Evangelisti said. “That’s all I was thinking.”

The game resumed, but the Maids were without Hatch, who was the best player on the park throughout regulation. She had a goal, cleared or stopped a number of Eastern’s 27 penalty corner chances, and served as a calming influence for her teammates.

“Lindsay is the best player on our team, no doubt, and we need her on the field,” said Washington Township head coach Jeanine O’Connor. “What was disappointing was how much time it took to recover from all that, because there was a lot of down time that I don’t think helped us. There were kids who were upset on our team about Lindsay, and are standing there thinking about it.”

Eastern, upon leveling the match, took full advantage of Hatch’s absence. The Vikings earned a pair of penalty corners in the final minute of regulation. During the last corner, awarded only a few seconds before the clock expired, Evangelisti threw a pass from the right wing across the face of goal, where an unmarked Kasey Morano sent the ball over the goal line, and sent the assembled Eastern fans into delirium.

“I respect (Washington Township) tremendously, because they come out to play and come out to win,” said Eastern head coach Danyle Heilig. “They play hard, and give everything they have on the field. And you have to respect that.”

If not for the last two minutes of play, the game might have been remembered for Washington Township’s fearless offensive execution against Eastern’s back seven. Hatch (13th minute) and Keli Margiotta (50th) had a pair of well-taken goals, borne from the Minutemaids’ pace, simply outrunning their marks — in essence, taking what has made the Vikings 11-time defending state champions and throwing it right back at them.

“We wanted to put (Eastern) in a position where they haven’t been in, and see how they respond to that,” said O’Connor, whose team has lost eight consecutive years to Eastern in the state tournament. “Eastern does have some young kids on the field, and though they’ve had great seasons, they’ve never been in that situation. You’re leading your train in the direction you want to, following your game plan, but you also know that on the other side is this ferocious Eastern team that is the champion that they’ve proven to be for 11 years. And they are that great for a reason.”

It worked, as Eastern fell two goals adrift within 15 minutes and 10 seconds, forcing Heilig to use both of her timeouts to try to limit the Vikings’ adversity and the Minutemaids’ momentum.

“When I looked at my players, there were tears in their eyes,” Heilig said. “I tried to calm them down and get them to channel their energies the right way. Only three of my kids did that today, and the rest played on their heels, and played like they were deer in the headlights. Only Cori Allen, Brittany Evangelisti, and Carly Celkos were able to channel their energy, and they played hard to win the game. This was a new place for these kids to be in; we haven’t been down all season.”

But Eastern overcame its adversity, something which cannot be said for Washington Township, despite doing everything necessary to win the game.

“Since we’ve played them so tough the last two times, we came in thinking that we were going to win, and we couldn’t,” Margiotta said. “I’m upset that we couldn’t hang in for the last two minutes, but we put it all out there.”

“Your goal is not to just be good, but to play with the best, and if you don’t have that mentality as a coach, you’re never going to get there,” O’Connor said. “One of the things, as head coach, that I had to decide was if Eastern is that good, you can either succumb to it, and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right, they’re that great, and they’re going to beat us,’ or you can make your kids believe, through your own hard work, through your own changes through the season, through your own climbing forward every game, and making those corrections, that you, too can be in this game and make that happen. And we came within two seconds from making that happen.”

Washington Township (15-5) 2-1–3
Eastern (22-0) 1-3–4
WT: Lindsay Hatch, fg, 13th
WT: Erin Waller, pc, 16th
E: Carly Celkos, pc, 26th
E: Stephanie Byrne, pc, 47th
WT: Keli Margiotta, fg, 50th
E: Brittany Evangelisti, ps, 59th
E: Kasey Morano (Evangelisti, Celkos), fg, 60th
Shots — WT: 9; E: 18. Saves — WT: Chelsea Holland 13, defensive 1; E: Alana Barry 5, defensive 1.

FULL TIME At the final whistle, Eastern wins 4-3 and will play in the Group IV South sectional final, but not without a major scare from an excellent Minutemaid team. Township suffered an incredibly cruel twist of fate in the last 90 seconds of regulation after playing so well and taking the initiative. As good as Eastern played in its comeback, spare a thought for the great game plan Washington Township conceived and executed. This is a Game of the Year candidate, surely.

60:00 EHS PC and GOAL An Evangelisti cross is tipped in by Kasey Morano and the Vikings pull ahead 4-3 at the death! Unbelievable scenes on the pitch!

59:15 EHS PC The Vikings take the ball in the midfield and earn a late corner, which finds a WT foot; will reset for an untimed corner; is there a final twist in this tale?

58:47 EHS GOAL Evangelisti buries the stroke and we’re level 3-3!

58:47 The trainers are tending to Hatch and are cleaning her and the turf off; both teams are huddling before the stroke is taken

58:30 EHS PC Ball stopped again by the WT defense, but the rebound is swept towards goal, and poster Lindsay Hatch takes it to the head, and is down injured. As it is the second shot on this penalty corner, it is a legal shot attempt. As Hatch was on the goal line, Eastern is going to be awarded a penalty stroke

56:47 WT GREEN CARD Hatch for a push

56:30 WT PC saved off the line! If that one is not cleared, the game is all but over

55:25 WT PC block by Cori Allen

54:00 EHS PC ends on a dangerous shot

52:00 WT PC save by Barry

49:50 WT GOAL Keli Margiotta splits two defenders and the Minutemaids lead 3-2! What a game!

49:00 EHS PC is defensed

48:00 EHS PC draws iron!

46:20 Timeout, Washington Township

46:20 EHS PC and GOAL Stephanie Byrne on the post ties the game! Unbelievable resilience by the 11-time defending champions from Eastern

45:00 WT PC ends on a bad pass

43:00 WT PC is tackled away by Cori Allen

40:00 EHS PC blocked over the endline

39:00 EHS PC High-lo is blocked off; the corner defense unit is playing incredible hockey

38:30 EHS PC is defensed again! How many times can the Maids survive this kind of pressure?

35:00 EHS PC blocked over the endline

33:45 EHS PC is defensed again by Hatch

30:00 The second half is under way

HALFTIME Important for Eastern to get that goal before the interval; a two-goal deficit is so much greater psychologically than one goal; but the Vikings do not have any more timeouts to make adjustments

HALFTIME Township has thrown its speed and skills right at Evangelisti and the Eastern defense, and the formula has worked splendidly. The corner defense unit (Lindsey Hatch, Erin Waller, Nicole Tiernan, and Kaitlyn Grabert) has been strong in front of Holland

HALFTIME If this score stands, it will be a significant result, but bear in mind that these two teams have met the last seven years in the state tournament, and the Minutemaids are due

HALFTIME The score is Washington Twp. 2, Eastern 1

29:40 EHS PC Township clears again; Tiernan and Waller have been stellar on the defensive corners

25:23 EHS GOAL Thanks to a little airdribbling, Carly Celkos pulls one back on a shot over Holland

24:45 EHS PC broken down by Tiernan again, follow-up cleared off the line!

23:16 Timeout, Washington Township

23:00 EHS PC Long blast saved by Holland’s toe

21:30 EHS PC 1-up corner is whisted back for danger

18:00 EHS PC Passing play broken down by Nicole Tiernan

15:26 EHS PC Evangelisti shot saved by Chelsea Holland

15:10 Timeout, Eastern

15:10 WT PC and GOAL Erin Waller is left all alone in front of the cage and makes the score 2-0

14:00 EHS PC A well-worked passing sequence finds the outside of the cage

12:36 WT GOAL Lindsey Hatch’s 32nd of the season stakes Township to the lead

12:07 Timeout, Eastern

7:30 Heroic Eastern tackle stops another Minutemaid thrust; Eastern is allowing too much room in between the 50 and its 16

5:00 EHS PC Evangelisti’s drive is saved, and a reverse followup is wide

4:30 EHS PC Stick obstruction; will reset

1:56 Township break up the left side is broken up by Alana Barry

0:00 The game is on

0:00 Washington Township is in the navy with red trim, Eastern is in the white with maroon trim

PREGAME This NJSIAA Group IV South tournament game could mark a historic milepost. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), winners of the last 11 Group IV state champions, meets the one opponent who matches up with them best. Sewell Washington Township has played Eastern tough the last four years, and, with all due respect to Shawnee and Bridgewater and Oak Knoll, is the one team that could end the Eastern dynasty


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