EAGLES GET REVENGE AND CAPTURE SECTIONAL CROWN
By Eugene M. Stewart
MIDDLETOWN – On Friday, Nov. 1, on a relatively warm November day, the Middletown South field hockey team took to their home field against Chatham for the Section 2 Group 3 Sectional final. This was a moment the entire South team had waited for after last year’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Millburn in the final.
“It feels really, really good!” stated an elated coach Jordan Hickman, following the1-0 win to caption the sectional title. “We lost last year after coming out and playing really strong. After making it to this point and losing in the final to Millburn last year and then beating them in the semifinals on Tuesday when they were the number one seed, we had a great feeling coming into the finals and the girls were really prepared.”
After a less than rewarding season in 2017, the 2018 Eagles finished the season with a record of 19-3 before coming up short against Millburn in the final.
“We planted a seed last year, we wanted it to grow this year,” said junior forward Kayla Freibott, who scored the game’s only goal.
Grow it did, when at the 20:00 mark, taking the pass from junior Lia Simoniello, Freibott crossed in front of the goal and wristed a shot back into the goal.
“That was one of the prettiest goals I’ve seen scored,” said Hickman. The goal heard across New Jersey served to both open and close the scoring on a game dominated by defense, as both teams gave their all preventing the other from scoring.
“The girls had a really good attitude today and were not coming home with a loss,” added Hickman.
The victory capped an excellent season for South, the second winning season after a 2017 season with only five wins. Opening their 2019 campaign, South began with a 4-0 win against Matawan. The next game was a battle at Red Bank Catholic, taking the first loss of the season, 4-2. Shifting into top form, South ran off a string of 11 straight victories besting Freehold Boro (twice), Manalapan (twice), Ocean Township, Freehold, Colts Neck, Howell, Long Branch, St. Rose and Middletown North.
A loss and a tie followed as Freehold and Colts Neck, respectively, played close games with a one-goal difference. South wrapped up the regular season going 3-1 with wins against Ocean Township, Howell and Long Branch, while losing to Southern Regional, 2-0.
The NJ state playoffs began on Oct. 26 for South as they defeated Cranford, 3-0, then Millburn, 2-1, in the semifinal before defeating Chatham for the sectional championship.
“We put up a lot of goals typically,” reflected Hickman. Over 23 games, up to and including the sectional championship, South averaged just under four goals per game while surrendering just under .5 goals per game. South scored 98 goals with 76 assists and rejected 261 shots on their goal.
Middletown South, which rolled out one senior, nine juniors and one sophomore this season, earned their revenge against Millburn and then topped Chatham for the elusive title. The Eagles would fall to Warren Hills, 3-0, in the Group 3 semifinal, ending Middletown South’s season, but what a run the Eagles had and now return all but one starter next year.
This year’s team included seniors Kelsey O’Keefe and Kim Waters, juniors Renee Lioudakis, Gianna Racioppi, Emily Salvadore, Simonello, Garbiella Unrath, Sophia Raymond, Lauren Palmadesso, Victoria Ruggiero, Madison Cigolini and Freibott, sophomores Peyton Kenney, Kylie Doyle and Christine Ryan, and freshman Dusty Pranci.