Southern Ousts Atlantic City, Falls to Kingsway in Field Hockey State Tourney

Oct 30, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy STEP THROUGH: Southern senior Emma Wilhelm splits defenders as she moves the ball across midfield during the Rams’ 3-1 victory over Atlantic City in the South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals Oct. 26.

To hear Emma Wilhelm talk about it, a fire was burning among the Southern Regional field hockey team members on Oct. 26. The Rams simply weren’t going to let it go out, either.

“We didn’t want this to be our last game of the season, not on our field anyway,” said the senior captain, who assisted Erika Barbera’s two goals in the second half as the Rams went on to defeat Atlantic City, 3-1, in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals. “After we gave up the tying goal, we just realized that if we kept playing the way we were playing, they would score again and we would be done. Everything came together at that point.”

Despite outplaying the Vikings through the first 40 minutes of the contest, the Rams (17-2) saw their season come dangerously close to ending on Friday with 19:45 to go, as Atlantic City not only scored on a shot from the right side of the circle, but also turned up its offensive pressure during the minutes after the game-tying goal.

That’s when the “E-squared Connection” took over and delivered the Rams to victory. With just under 13 minutes to go and Southern setting up for one of its 22 penalty corners, assistant coach Denise Logue suggested having the corner pass sent to Wilhelm at the top of the circle. Head coach Jenna Lombardo made the call to her players, and Emily Raylman did exactly that – hitting Wilhelm with a perfect pass.

Wilhelm maneuvered the ball to her right, then slightly outside the circle, before swatting the ball toward the goal. Barbera found a spot in front of several defenders and dropped her stick to the ball for a deflection – not only on goal, but into it, giving third-seeded Southern a 2-1 advantage.

“Our passing was great. Our talking was great. We were playing really well,” Wilhelm said. “We just needed to put the ball in the cage. We’re the leaders and everybody looks up to us, so it’s our job to make the plays and keep everybody in the game.”

Less than eight minutes later, the “E-squared Connection” pulled off a similar play after senior Alexis Maul recovered an errant corner pass, which initially had skipped over Wilhelm’s stick, and played it back to Wilhelm. Wilhelm delivered the same slap shot toward goal and Barbera again deflected it in.

“We’ve always had that kind of connection on the field,” Barbera said. “It’s a play that hasn’t worked for us much this season, but today we needed it ,and the connection was there. We’ve been unlucky a few times this season, but today that unlucky stuff had to end.”

For most of the first half, the Rams dominated play. However, Atlantic City goaltender Gabrielle Jacobson was like a wall in front of the cage, and even the right post helped her out on one occasion – when Maitland Demand fired a shot from 10 yards that was deflected on goal but clanked off the post before it was cleared.

After more than 26 minutes of a sustained attack yielded nothing, Southern finally got on the scoreboard. Demand worked the ball inside the circle before unleashing a powerful shot on goal, but Jacobson turned it aside with her left pad. Fortunately, Raylman was parked off to the right of the cage and sent the rebound toward the open right side of the cage, and somehow the ball trickled in behind a pair of defenders with 3:03 left in the half.

Even though the Rams’ offense was solid throughout the contest, Jacobson ended up with 16 saves to keep the Vikings in it.

“When we connect like we did today, we can beat just about anybody,” Barbera said. “Atlantic City wasn’t a bad team and we played well. It’s a huge deal to get the win and be confident going into the next round. We want to go as far as possible. We want the seniors to be able to keep playing.”

Unfortunately, the Rams’ season ended on Tuesday, Oct. 30, with a 3-0 loss to second-seeded and unbeaten Kingsway (19-0-1).

Pinelands Gets Past Sterling,
Climbs Into Semifinals

After a first-round bye for the South Jersey Group II tourney, third-seeded Pinelands Regional eliminated sixth-seeded Sterling, 2-1, on Oct. 29. Senior goaltender Ally Vezos made three saves and senior midfielder Rachel Papernik scored both goals to send the Wildcats (13-3-1) into the semifinals, where they were slated to face off against second-seeded Delsea (16-2-2) on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

— David Biggy

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