Rumson-Fair Haven Cruises Past Southern Regional Field Hockey Squad in SCT Championship

Nov 08, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy Southern goaltender Maddie Leyh makes a diving save during the second half of the Rams’ 5-0 loss to Rumson-Fair Haven in the Shore Conference Tournament championship on Nov. 4.

For 29 minutes on Nov. 4, the Southern Regional field hockey team looked every bit as powerful as Rumson-Fair Haven, the Rams and Bulldogs playing even throughout the first half of the Shore Conference Tournament championship on the turf at Raritan High School. Then a switch flipped. Bridy Molyneaux was the culprit, her goal with 30 seconds left in the half shifting the momentum in a big way.

In the second half, Rumson-Fair Haven proved why it had won the previous three SCT crowns.

“We were in the game,” said coach Jenna Lombardo, whose Rams’ season ended with a 21-3 record following the 5-0 defeat by RFH. “With the exception of that first goal, I thought we were just as good as they were. We had chances in the first half. We were playing a great game to that point. Then they got that goal right before the half and fed off it. Ultimately, they were just too skilled for us. The better team won today.”

From the opening possession, the third-seeded Rams came out flying against the top-seeded Bulldogs, immediately firing the ball toward the goal, trying to establish an offensive rhythm. And just over three minutes into the contest, the Rams were knocking on the door of an initial go-ahead goal, when Katlin Conroy’s hammer shot toward the left post was just missed on a deflection attempt by Sam Minafo.

Halfway through the first half, the squads were even on penalty corners, 3-3, and Southern continued to put pressure on the RFH midfielders and push the ball forward at times. But the Bulldogs withstood the Rams’ pressure and countered several times, and with about 10 minutes left started to carry the better of play through the midfield and into their offensive zone. During the final minutes of the half, Rumson secured a few more corner attempts.

On one of them, Molyneaux received the corner pass and fired a shot on goal that skipped through a defender’s legs and past Southern goaltender Maddie Leyh for a 1-0 lead. Ultimately, that’s all the Bulldogs needed, but they didn’t take any chances.

“Rumson has a lot of very skilled players, and they know how to get the ball around the field,” Lombardo said. “Our girls did their best, but that much skill is hard to beat. They scored some beautiful goals.”

Just over eight minutes into the second half, Ana Claire Piacentini corralled a loose ball from near midfield, stick-handled her way along the left side and gained the 16-yard arc before sending in a backhanded shot from about 14 yards away for a 2-0 lead. Rumson poured on the goals from there, as its constant pressure continued to yield corner opportunities – 18 total.

First, it was a Lily Croddick power shot from the top of the arc with 14:53 to go, followed by a Kaitlyn MacGillis rebound goal about 3½ minutes later. Emma D’Amelio capped the scoring with 4:50 left, deftly redirecting a knee-high hammer shot over the right shoulder of Leyh, who had come out to challenge the shot, from 9 yards away. Leyh ended up with 14 saves.

“There’s something to be said about the first half,” Lombardo said. “Our girls played incredible. I really couldn’t have asked for more. They deserved to be here. At the end of the day, if you know you did all you could and put it all out there, that’s something to be proud of. And all the coaches are proud of the way our girls played.”

Earlier in the week, the Rams were no match for the team considered by many to be the best in the state, Eastern Regional, as the Vikings cruised to an 8-0 romp in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. But the two shutouts to end the season were not at all indicative of the season Southern had put together – 21 victories is a record, and Lombardo’s crew was only the second ever to reach the SCT championship, as well as the only Ocean County team to get that far during the past 15 years.

“Only the best teams are playing at this time of year, and we were one of them,” Lombardo said. “This is the winningest team in Southern history, and nobody expected that, except for us. This has been an amazing season, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of here.”

After Lombardo’s last post-game talk of the season, most of the players embraced each other and a bunch cried along with the seniors who had played their final game, all knowing they were part of something special.

“The girls make this program so special,” Lombardo said. “It’s truly a team. They don’t care about individual stats; they care about each other. And that’s the culture we breed at Southern.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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