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Archive for October 7, 2019

Oct. 7, 2019 — When four state champions get together

The happiest team leaving McAleer Stadium after a four-game weekend meet featuring host Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), and Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) had to be Sacred Heart.

This year has not been the easiest for the Valkyries. They suffered a rare loss in the Apple Tournament, the nation’s season-opening tournament which the school has hosted for the last 47 years.

The team had also come up empty in the inaugural National High School Invitational a couple of weekends ago, losing to Winnetka New Trier (Ill.), Towson Notre Dame Prep (Md.), and Pottstown Hill School (Pa.).

Heart had also lost its first two games at McAleer this past weekend, but were determined to win its third.

“We’re having a hard time scoring this year,” said SHA head coach Eleanor Mitchell. “So, if we let up for five minutes, the opponents put one in, and we’re done.”

Though SHA fell a goal adrift in the first half, it managed a goal early in the second term to get back on level terms. The next 25 minutes were full of taut, tense field hockey with chances at either end and a plethora of odd-man situations, borne from either speed and passing or umpire cards.

As the clock ticked down under two minutes, Sacred Heart pushed forward for the go-ahead goal, earning a pair of corners. The second corner, initiated with seconds to go in regulation, found its way to Mary Kate Barbee, whose shot went off the goalkeeper and into the cage about the time the horn sounded for the end of regulation.

“The girls called the corner,” explained Mitchell. “They’re slowing proving to themselves that they can play with whomever. It’s all a matter of confidence.”

As corner criteria had not expired, the goal stood, and the entire Sacred Heart parents’ group and team went into hysterics.

“I was supposed to pull right, but I didn’t,” Barbee confessed. “We had done a lot of corners with many passes, and we messed that up, so we decided to take a sure shot (on goal).”

Oak Knoll and Eastern were in the same facility Saturday, but didn’t play each other. The teams have already met this year, with Oak Knoll winning 4-1.

Both teams showed their prowess over the course of their games, with Eastern racking up 16 goals in two matches, and Oak Knoll running out winners over Sacred Heart.

Over the last 12 years, the two contrasting schools have developed a healthy respect for each other; you could hear opposing fans wishing each other well, saying, “See you in November.” Their intimation was that these two sides could very well meet up in the final of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

The weekend proved to be very much a showcase weekend for Ryleigh Heck, the sophomore attacking midfielder for Eastern.

Heck, the younger sister of the injured Kara Heck, is proving to be the same kind of attacking threat — long shots, deft skill in tight corners, and the willingness to try shots from any and all angles. Her goals total after the weekend’s play is at 39, which ties her with freshman Rachel Herbine of Emmaus (Pa.) for unofficial second place behind sophomore Talia Schenck of Lawrence (N.J.), who currently has 45 goals.

Youth, it seems, shall be served.

But if you’re looking for more seasoned leaders, look no further than Oak Knoll, who has three upperclasswomen on the front line: junior Megan Joel and seniors Bridget Murphy and Annabelle Brodeur.

The three of them, along with their teammates, took in the Eastern-Wyoming Seminary game and drank in the knowledge and tendencies of both teams.

“They’re students of the game,” says Oak Knoll head coach Ali Good. “I want them to be able to make decisions on the field.”