CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, N.J. — Last May 24th, Jenna Herlihy was on a Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.) girls’ lacrosse team which boasted the nation’s leading goal-scorer, the nation’s the second-leading assister, and a heap of playoff momentum. Despite all of those expectations, she and her side dropped a 19-16 South Jersey Group I quarterfinal to Martinsville Pingry School (N.J.).
“The thing about us last spring,” said Herlihy, “is that we often would get off to a slow start. It took us a while to figure out what was working and what wasn’t.”
This fall, with Herlihy having the responsibility of being one of the nation’s leading goal-scorers in field hockey, it appeared she has learned important athletic lessons. Herlihy had a pair of goals, one in the first five minutes of each half, helping to propel her teammates to a 7-2 win over Elmer A.P. Schalick (N.J.) in the final of the NJSIAA Group I South Tournament.
It was the first field hockey sectional championship in school history, but one which is now expected, given how the school, housed in a village of about 5,800 people, supports and nurtures its female athletes.
“I think a lot of it comes from the work ethic of our seniors,” said Middle Township head coach Janina Perna. “They’ve become role models for the younger players. They set the example; the middle-schoolers come and watch them play and want to be like them.”
Herlihy, who has not yet committed to a college, is a player with much skill and swerve. She wove around two Schalick defenders in the third minute of play and was tripped up in the scoring circle, and a stroke was duly called. She rifled the ensuing flick off the side goalboard to give her side the advantage.
The Cougars, who had won a sectional championship in 2011 after many years of trying, were not about to let the Panthers have it that easy. Seconds after missing an open goal cage, the Schalick corner attack unit came up trumps with on a penalty corner goal from Allison Lowry.
“It was an even game,” said Schalick head coach Heather Cheesman. “Even though they scored first, our girls never gave up and they were able to get one to respond.”
But about halfway through the first half, Middle got a corner shot from Carly Gombar, which somehow bounced its way through a maze of players and into the goal cage.
After a Schalick timeout, the Cougar defense was able to put more dense marking in the back and shadowed Herlihy. But in the opening seconds of the second half, Herlihy knocked in a scintillating field goal.
“I think they knew they had to come out harder,” “We knew that we had to start passing more and move the ball, instead of relying on one or two people.”
The floodgates opened, as Middle scored five goals in the first 20 minutes of the second term.
“Last year, we had a losing record,” Cheesman said. “Nobody thought they would be here, but they worked their butts off, and I can’t be any prouder of them.”
FULL TIME That’s all for now. Good day, good hockey
FULL TIME The job does not get any easier for Middle Township; up next for them is either Haddonfield (N.J.) Memorial or Collingswood (N.J.); both are among the oldest field hockey programs in the United States
FULL TIME The horn signals the end of play here and Middle takes a 7-2 win
55:39 MTHS PC The 1-Up is defensed
54:39 APS GOAL The Cougars swarm the cage and score off a third rebound. Middle still leads 7-2
49:00 MTHS PC and GOAL A rebound finds a willing Panther for the tap-in; the lead is 7-1
47:00 MTHS GOAL The ball is golfed in from the top of the circle and the lead is 6-1
42:00 MTHS GOAL The ball is flipped in from in front and Middle leads 5-1
35:00 MTHS PC and GOAL A rebound is sent over the line and the Panthers lead 4-1
31:00 MTHS GOAL Herlihy with the dream start in the second half! Middle leads 3-1
30:00 The second half is under way
HALFTIME Schalick has been doing a pretty good job marking Herlihy, but there are acres of open space deep on the wings
HALFTIME The whistle sounds with Middle leading 2-1
29:59 MTHS PC The insert squirts through the dashed circle without being stopped; a mental error
29:59 MTHS PC The shot hits a foot; will rerack
23:00 APS YELLOW The team’s sweeper is off for five minutes
22:00 MTHS PC The ball crawls under Herlihy and advancing is called
13:00 APS TIMEOUT
13:00 MTHS PC and GOAL A long shot from Carly Gombar finds its way through a maze of players! Middle takes a 2-1 lead!
10:00 APS PC Shot is saved!
8:00 MTHS PC Long shot is saved!
6:05 APS PC and GOAL A simple 1-up is sent in! The chase is joined! Game tied 1-1
5:00 Schalick has a pair of players at the posts but the shot misfires!
3:00 MTHS PS and GOAL Herlihy flips it off the inside goalboard and the Panthers lead 1-0
2:55 Herlihy dips and slides past two defenders and is scythed down; a stroke results
1:10 MTHS PC Herlihy is defensed twice!
0:00 The game is on
PREGAME Schalick is in the green with gold letters and black kilts; Middle is in the white with orange letters and black kilts
PREGAME The teams are warming up on Middle’s grass pitch under sunny skies, temperature around 70 degrees. Rain is in the forecast
PREGAME But both teams have had recent success; Schalick won a sectional title in 2011, and Middle has been in the final the last two years
PREGAME The back story to this contest is the occasion: neither Middle nor Schalick had won a sectional championship in field hockey in their programs’ histories before 2010
PREGAME For Schalick, senior goalie Sarah Hatten directs a veteran defense which has held several opponents in one-goal victories for the Cougars
PREGAME Middle has one of the nation’s leading goal scorers in Jenna Herlihy; as always in this kind of contest, the key to victory is being able to get other people involved in the offense
PREGAME Schalick is 14-8 on the season; Middle is 16-1-2
PREGAME Welcome to the NJSIAA Group I South final between Elmer A.P. Schalick (N.J.) and Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.)