South Hunterdon earns at least a share of conference crown
Game No. 13 wound up being anything but unlucky for South Hunterdon.
The Eagles stopped Mount Saint Mary, 6-1, at home on Tuesday afternoon for their 12th win in 13 tries. With it, head coach Mary Ellen Mandatta reported, South Hunterdon has clinched no worse than a share of the Skyland Conference division championship for the second consecutive year
“We’ve all been together for at least six years,” Sarah McCaffrey said of Mandatta’s nine-member senior class. “We have great teamwork, but we also go to a small school, so we have to work a lot harder to get where we want to go. We play against these bigger schools with 800 kids or so. We have to have a great work ethic. We have only a select few to pick from and they have tryouts, so it’s definitely more satisfying when we beat a bigger school.”
South Hunterdon hasn’t allowed the numbers crunch to slow it down. The Eagles are cruising, having been in only two one-goal games: a 2-1 triumph over Voorhees on Sept. 14 and a 3-2 setback to Bernards on Sept. 24.
“We really try to put the right girls in the right places, where we think they fit best,” Mandatta said.
Senior Brett Lelie is more of a distributor than a goal scorer. Although she won’t garner as many headlines, she’s content in her position.
“I feed the offense; it’s my job,” said Lelie, who, in a bit of role reversal, registered a pair of goals against Mount Saint Mary.
Everything appeared to be working Tuesday. The Eagles defense held the Lions without a shot in the first half. Mount Saint Mary did find the back of the cage late, but, at that point, the game was already well in hand.
“Defensewise, not a lot of action today,” Mandatta said.
Senior goalie Sam Soscia was credited with three saves. South Hunterdon was led offensively by senior Kaycee Zelkovsky, who finished with a hat trick and reportedly has 28 goals and six assists on the year. Classmate Amber Dey (12 goals and 11 assists in 2013) chipped in a goal and three assists, while McCaffrey had an assist in the second half. Sophomore Ashley Eick was held in check by Mount Saint Mary, but is third on the team with nine goals through 13 games.
“Ashley Eick has really picked up her game,” Lelie said. “She’s improved a lot from last year.”
If the Eagles are going to make a charge in states, however, the onus will fall on South Hunterdon’s senior class.
“They play very well together and they really know how to complement each other on the field,” Mandatta said. “[On offense], we like to keep the ball out wide. That’s our biggest strength, and we send it across the middle because we have good stickwork with some of the seniors. We have a lot of speed, too.”
For some, it’s imperative to uphold the tradition at the Lambertville, N.J., high school.
“It’s great to come out and play really hard, win and be really successful, knowing South Hunterdon is known for field hockey,” Lelie said. “We’re just representing our school and it feels awesome.
“This year, we’re definitely more united,” she continued, “and we’re going out with a bang.”
The Eagles’ standing put a smile on McCaffrey’s face.
“I’m definitely feeling really good, considering our record, where we can go and what we have accomplished so far,” she said.
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