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Sept. 19, 2015 — Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 3, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) 1

VOORHEES, N.J. — It is a shop-worn maxim of field hockey (and a few other field sports) that a team is most vulnerable when it has just scored a goal.

But when you have two teams that are so even, and so competitive, as 2014 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions finalists Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the TopOfTheCircle.com Top 10, the nature of their play dictates that they are likely to discover a new vulnerability.

And they did when these two elite teams met tonight at McAleer Stadium. On three occasions, a defense wound up conceding goals just seconds after successfully defensing penalty corner chances. It happened in Eastern’s favor twice in the second half as the Vikings won 3-1.

“You have to find a way,” Eastern head coach Danyle Heilig said. “Oak Knoll has a tremendous penalty corner defense, and we did have them beat on a couple of opportunities, but we didn’t score on them. That’s something we’re going to be working on.”

“They did a tremendous job of testing Eastern, and showing where they are on September 19,” said Oak Knoll head coach Ali Good. “I expect that we’re going to learn a lot from this and that we’ll improve a lot.”

The capstone on this game was the goal Eastern senior attacking midfielder Madison Morano scored with about 12 minutes to go. Less than a minute after her corner attempt from an angle at about 12 yards out was well-saved, Morano took advantage of an Oak Knoll turnover, cut into the striking circle, and, from almost exactly the same spot on the field, struck for the final goal.

“That’s where the space was, and it just happened to be the same place where it was on the corner,” Morano said. “We were so pumped up for this game, and we always look forward to playing Oak Knoll because they are a great program.”

About 10 minutes earlier, a similar sequence played out. On the corner play, Morano was bottled up by a double-team at the top of the circle, and she sliced the ball wide from a tough angle. But less than 30 seconds later, Morano seized an errant ball and slipped a pass to teammate Jessica Maute, who found net.

“When it came to me, I knew I had to get it in,” Maute said. “We had to pick it up when they scored first.”

The fact that Eastern was able to score in open play just after missed corners showed the incredible resilience of the 16-time defending state champions.

But the game also showed how good the Oak Knoll corner defense is in defensing all but one opposing corner chance. The Royals’ corner defense unit included four sophomores — goalie Jordan McGinley, midfielder Gabby Andretta, defender Bella Brosie, and fullback Juli Porto, who made a number of solid interceptions and clears.

“We’ve been really working hard, getting to the ball, and keeping the ball out of the cage,” Porto said. “We work really hard to prepare for this caliber of opponent.”

“They are all fearless, and those sophomores play like post-grad seniors,” Good said. “They want this bad, so they are tremendously disappointed. But that’s the exact opposite of what I want them to feel. They should feel very proud of themselves.”

The leader of the defensive pack for the Royals is senior Kirby Comizio, who was hard in the tackles and sure in her angles of pursuit, frustrating the Eastern offense all evening.

“It’s all about working as a unit, and we talk a lot out there,” Comizio said. “When we do that, and are ready for anything, we can be successful.”

Oak Knoll’s lone goal, which opened the scoring in the fourth minute, came just seconds after the Royals had a corner play broken up by Maute. But on the redirect, sophomore forward Ali McCarthy found an open spot to receive a Comizio pass, and she finished.

It was the culmination of an dominant opening five minutes on the part of Oak Knoll, the defending NJSIAA Non-Public state champion. It was as if though the Royals continued with how they played the final five minutes of last year’s Tournament of Champions final. But once McCarthy scored, Eastern started applying stifling forward and midfield pressure, creating turnovers and, eventually corner opportunities.

Indeed, the 10th-minute equalizer, coming off a 1-Up by Eastern’s Alexis Pettisanti, was the only converted corner of the 21 whistled in the game.

While plaudits should be offered to Oak Knoll’s corner defense, the game would not have been won without Eastern goalie Cassie Kincaid, who helped organize her defense and who also made a couple of sliding tackles to bottle up Oak Knoll’s attack. Also, freshman center back Sydney Woolston played heads-up defense for the Vikings, denying a McCarthy break in the open field in the final minutes of regulation.

“She played awesome,” Heilig said. “Insane recovery speed, patience defensively, wasn’t intimidated, and I’m excited and couldn’t be prouder of her.”

“There was a lot of close calls that we would have liked to have had back,” Good said.

It was the 110th consecutive game without a loss for the Vikings, the third-longest unbeaten streak in National Federation history. But certainly both teams are likely to be meeting each other some time in November in the Tournament of Champions — depending on whether both teams are able to win their respective state championships first, of course.

OAK KNOLL (4-1) 1 0 — 1
EASTERN (4-0) 1 2 — 3
OK: Ali McCarthy (Kirby Comizio), fg, 4th minute
E: Alexis Pettisanti (Kristiina Castagnola), pc, 10th
E: Jessica Maute (Madison Morano), fg, 38th
E: Morano, fg, 48th
Shots — OK: 6; E: 16. Saves — OK: Jordan McGinley 5; E: Cassie Kincaid 12, defensive 1


POSTGAME That’s all for this evening; thanks for joining us. Box score and game story to follow

POSTGAME Eastern would score only one on 14 corners, a credible performance for a young Oak Knoll corner defense unit. But the Royals conceded two second-half goals in open play shortly after unsuccessful Eastern corners

POSTGAME The visiting Royals had the initiative and an early lead, but Eastern applied a tourniquet in the midfield and denied space all over the pitch

FULL TIME At the final horn, Eastern wins 3-1

59:30 Eastern’s Ashley Thomas takes the ball to the corner flag and the assembled Eastern fans sense victory

57:30 Sydney Woolston of Eastern chases down McCarthy on the left wing and makes a saving tackle! What a play!

52:49 Oak Knoll fires a pass in the circle that is fumbled over the end line; unlucky to not have scored there

50:00 EA PC Shot goes wide!

49:05 OK YELLOW Bella Brosie is off for five minutes; not what you want at this juncture if you are chasing the game

47:50 Morano cuts majestically into the Oak Knoll defense and beats McGinley from the exact same spot from which she missed on the penalty corner; Eastern leads 3-1

47:00 EA PC Morano cuts right and aims a shot on goal that a logged McGinley saves

44:44 And just like that, the Royals scissor into the circle, and go in on Kincaid but she saves it

44:22 Timeout, Oak Knoll. They need to solve the midfield pressure that Eastern has applied over the last half-hour

44:00 EA PC Defensed once again; is Eastern getting too complicated in its corner plays?

41:25 EA PC Morano defensed by Porto again; what a game she is having!

41:00 Eastern’s Nikki Santore is tackled from behind as she cuts into the middle of the circle; could it have been the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity? The result is a penalty corner and not a penalty stroke

37:35 EA GOAL Maute takes a telling pass from Morano and scores; Eastern takes a 2-1 lead!

37:09 EA PC Morano slices a backhand wide!

36:00 Morano has a shot deflected over the end line; that looked dangerous for the Oak Knoll defense in open play

33:09 EA PC Defensed and cleared by Andretta! What a play!

30:00 And the second half is under way

HALFTIME Eastern will look back on some of its missed chances during the halftime team talk. If the Vikings get it sorted out in the offensive end, watch out

HALFTIME Oak Knoll has had the better of the play in the attack end, but the Eastern defense has played extremely well after yielding the opener in the fourth minute

HALFTIME Both teams are seeking their identities, both in the early season and in this game after graduating such strong players

HALFTIME The horn sounds with the game tied 1-1

29:00 EA PC Insert pass is completely mistrapped; an uncharacteristic error that leads to a break on the other end

27:15 EA PC Maute’s sizzling blast goes wide!

26:30 EA PC Morano tackled; will reset

25:16 Timeout, Oak Knoll

23:45 Eastern springs two players free inside the stroke mark but the through pass hits a the heel of an attacker; hosts are extremely unlucky to not have scored

21:00 EA PC Same option right, defensed by Andretta

20:00 EA PC Option right defensed by Juli Porto, but a foul means a reset

17:30 OK PC Ended on a raised ball

15:30 EA PC Morano with a pair of shots but defensed by the duo of Andretta and OK goalie Jordan McGinley

14:11 Timeout, Eastern. The Royals are starting this game just like they finished the Tournament of Champions final last fall; playing on the front foot and earning corners

12:20 OK PC Saved off the line by Kristiina Castagnola!

11:30 OK PC Defensed by Madison Morano

9:19 EA PC and GOAL Alexis Pettisanti with the 1-up blast! Game tied 1-1

7:30 EA PC Defensed by Gabby Andretta

6:39 McCarthy is in on the Eastern goal cage but Cassie Kincaid with a sprawling stop! Oak Knoll could have assumed complete control had that gone in!

3:18 OK GOAL Ali McCarthy finds the ball and some open space and scores a classic poacher’s goal after the cleared corner; Oak Knoll leads 1-0

3:00 OK PC Defensed and cleared by Jessica Maute

2:25 OK PC Defensed and cleared by Alanna Gollatto

1:30 OK PC Defensed by Madison Morano

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME Oak Knoll is in the black uniforms with the white numbers and blue trim, Eastern is in the white with red numbers and blue trim

PREGAME The teams are warming up under warm skies with temperatures around 82 degrees

PREGAME Our full preview of this game appears below this space; there’s little building necessary for two teams of such quality

PREGAME Eastern is 3-0 this season; Oak Knoll is 4-0

PREGAME Welcome to McAleer Stadium in Voorhees for this intersectional field hockey game between Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) and Voorhees Eastern (N.J.)

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