By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — When the Middle Township High School field hockey team played powerful Shawnee in its season opener last year, the Lady Panthers were severely outclassed in a 10-0 defeat.
Fast forward a year, and Middle was able to compete rather well against the Renegades in the 2019 opener, this time losing by just 3-1.
It certainly helped Middle in terms of confidence going into a new season.
Middle has won three straight games since that defeat. Its opponents haven’t scored in any of them.
“I think it’s great to play a team like that,” Middle coach Janina Perna said of Shawnee. “They’re far better than most of the teams we play, they play on turf, they’re fast, they have kids who play all year round and they’ve got great stick skills. It’s great to get that experience against those kinds of kids. They had multiple Division I players in the lineup. We just don’t see that in our conference.”
So far, Middle hasn’t been challenged by any Cape-Atlantic League team. It beat Oakcrest and Egg Harbor Township by identical 5-0 scores before handing St. Joseph a 7-0 defeat on Monday.
“I like how we’re playing,” Perna said. “We’re utilizing our speed and athleticism. We have a nice balance of offense and defense. We barely lost anybody from last year, so everyone’s experienced from the season before.”
Kate Herlihy scored four goals, Briar Lemma scored twice and Caroline Gallagher added a goal for Middle in the win over St. Joe. Amber Howatt didn’t see much action in goal but made a diving effort on a save in the final two minutes to preserve the team’s third shutout of the season.
Middle plays at rival Lower Cape May Wednesday.