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Archive for June 3, 2017

June 3, 2017 — The end of an era in a small town

Yesterday, in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Group I final, Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.) defeated Cape May Court House Middle Township (N.J.) 17-8 behind Ali Baiocco’s eight goals.

While Oak Knoll moves on to play in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, Middle Township makes the three-hour drive home, all the way from Kean University near the shadows of the Empire State Building to the peninsula at the southern edge of the state.

Middle Township High School plays its lacrosse behind a waist-high seawall overlooking the Great Sound between the mainland and the Stone Harbor peninsula. And for four years, a group of extraordinary athletes have plied their trade at the school, located in Cape May Court House, population 4,704.

Senior Jenna Herlihy wound up scoring 275 career goals and had more than 400 combined goals and assists, Somehow, in her spare time, she found time to score 146 goals in field hockey, which is the 19th best career total of all time.

Allison Hunter, a fellow senior, wound up with 319 assists, the second most in history behind Corinne Wessels. And Bridget Ruskey, with 486 goals, narrowly missed on becoming the fourth known member of the 500-goal club. She also finished fifth on the all-time combined goals and assists list.

But it has not been all about the numbers for the young women of Middle Township High School. It has been about the journey. Think back to last November, when Middle met Elmer A.P. Schalick. It was a 2 o’clock playoff game for the Group I South championship, and the student body came out for the game. Throngs of students wearing orange and black came for the game, and added a tremendous atmosphere for Middle’s 7-2 win.

In the winter, it was the girls’ basketball team which made a run for the Group II South title, but lost the title game 34-33 to Manchester (N.J.) Township on a last-second three-point shot.

But this spring, the sectional level wasn’t going to be enough for this cohort. The Panthers, since an 13-8 loss to Ocean City (N.J.), on May 12, went on a tear, averaging 20 goals a game during their opening four playoff games until running into an Oak Knoll side which won the 2015 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

Oak Knoll did everything it had to do to win the game, winning draws and cutting down passing lanes. Only one of Middle’s goals was assisted, and nobody aside from Ruskey, Hunter, and Herlihy scored goals on the day.