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Archive for November 14, 2019

Nov. 14, 2019 — The Garden State Firm, Vol. 12: The Cold War

They’ll step onto the pitch one more time, these old, firm friends from Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Summit Oak Knoll (N.J.), to determine the Tournament of Champions winner for 2019.

And like it always seems to be when playing a Friday prime-time matchup in the fall, the cold will be a factor as the forecast low for northern New Jersey will be around 29 degrees.

But the action will be hot as the nation’s two finest scholastic field hockey teams will battle it out for state and national honors.

This isn’t the first time that these teams have met for the ultimate prize; of the previous meetings, six (as denoted by an asterisk) were in the Tournament of Champions final:

(Eastern leads series 6-4-1)
2007: Oak Knoll 3, Eastern 2 (OT)
2010*: Oak Knoll 4, Eastern 2
2013*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 0
2014*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 2
2015*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 1
2016: Eastern 6, Oak Knoll 2
2017: Eastern 2, Oak Knoll 2 (tie)
2017*: Oak Knoll 2, Eastern 1 (OT)
2018: Eastern 5, Oak Knoll 3
2018*: Eastern 3, Oak Knoll 1
2019: Oak Knoll 4, Eastern 1

So, it’s time for brass tacks and a look at the two teams:

Record: 23-1
Championships won: Olympic Conference American Division; South Jersey Group IV; Group IV
Key wins in 2019: Defeated Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 3-0, defeated Winnetka New Trier (Ill.) 7-0, defeated Downingtown (Pa.) West 13-1, defeated Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 9-0, defeated Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) 7-4
Key players: Ryleigh Heck (so, f), Amanda Middleman (sr., f), Elise Pettisani (sr., m), Nina Santore (sr., g), Tara Somers (sr., m), Kendall Jung (sr., m). Kylie Zielinski (sr., d)
The skinny: Heck is the national scoring leader (as far as we can tell) with 78 goals on the season. Nobody else on the team has more than 20, and I think that’s what the Oak Knoll team picked up on when beating them in September. However, we have seen offense outlast defense during playoff time this year (witness the scoring of Katie McLaughlin and Sophia Gladieux in the last two weeks), meaning that Heck is an obvious fulcrum on which this game will turn.

Record: 25-0
Championships won: Union County Tournament, Essex/Union Conference Red Division, Non-Public North; Non-Public
Key wins in 2019: Defeated Hershey (Pa.) 5-3, defeated Malvern Villa Maria (Pa.) 3-0, defeated Mamaroneck (N.Y.) 5-0, defeated Louisville Sacred Heart (Ky.) 6-2, defeated Pottstown Hill School (Pa.) 5-0, defeated Greenwich (Conn.) Academy 3-0, defeated Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 4-1
Key players: Bridget Murphy (sr., f), Anabelle Brodeur (sr., f), Avery Donahue (sr., m), Colleen Quinn (jr., g), Jodi Porto (sr., d), Keely Comizio (jr., d), Emily Antunes (sr., d), Megan Joel (jr., f)
The skinny: Oak Knoll has always had good defense in penalty corners, but the second half of this season has seen Porto, Comizio, Antunes, and Quinn spin together one clean sheet after another. The Royals have shut out their last 10 opponents, and look like a difficult outfit to score on, especially with the athletic Colleen Quinn in goal. Murphy and Brodeur may get a lot of the headlines on the attack end, but I think Megan Joel will step up like she did in the regular-season matchup between these two sides.