Stafford Leader

With Experienced Core, Southern Field Hockey Expects Success

Sep 14, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy DRIVE: Southern junior midfielder Maitland Demand (right) lifts a shot toward the goal.

At the end of last season, after the Southern Regional field hockey team had just lost to Rumson-Fair Haven in the Shore Conference Tournament championship, head coach Jenna Lombardo couldn’t say enough good things about her team. Even at that moment, she was looking ahead to this fall.

“Of course, I’m already excited about next year,” she said at the time. “We’re still building. We still have things to improve. We’re going to keep pushing until we’re holding that trophy Rumson just won. This isn’t the end for Southern Regional; we’re going to be back.”

Several seniors graduated from last year’s 21-3 squad, which set a school single-season record for field hockey victories, and reached the SCT final for only the second time in the program’s history. Yet with 10 experienced players returning to the roster, including a strong nucleus through the middle of the field, the Rams may be primed for another deep run in the SCT, as well as another Shore Conference Class A South title.

“Our eyes are focused on winning A South and getting as far in the SCT and state tournaments as we did last year,” Lombardo said. “We have a lot of new surprises stepping into the lineup.”

Lombardo never reveals her team’s secret weapons at the outset of a season, but some of those weapons already in the lineup are well known throughout the conference.

First and foremost among them is junior midfielder Maitland Demand, who led the Rams with three goals and two assists in a 2018 opening-day, 6-0 blowout of Toms River South. For two seasons, Demand has had a powerful presence in guiding the Rams’ offense.

Along with her will be a solid crew of returning players, including forwards Erika Barbera (who added two goals and an assist against Toms River South), Ruby Ramales and Emily Raylman, as well as midfielders Alexis Maul and Maggie Brummer. One particular newcomer to the roster, sophomore forward Kiera Lyons, is expected to make an immediate impact.

Defensively, Southern is as strong as ever, particularly with senior Erica Wilhelm at the center. Around Wilhelm, several returning players will have key roles in keeping the ball away from the goal: Priscilla Nicolini, Jessica Caiazzo and Destiny Naia.

Lauren Bakker, who logged some productive minutes behind former goalie Maddie Leyh last fall, will be the primary net minder. Bakker had four saves in Southern’s opening win on Sept. 5.

The rest of the squad includes forwards Emma Desiderio, Kayleigh Lang, Ceyla Drexler, Erin Moran, Abby Patchell and Kayla Rasmussen; midfielders Gabby Deo, Kate O’Boyle, Tara O’Neill and Veronica Ruoff; defenders Samantha Zarillo, Jess Oyola, Michelle Contreras and Grace Cartagena; and goaltender Lauren Ricci.

— David Biggy

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