The three high school field hockey programs in Cape May County combined for 46 victories last fall, the most collectively in a season since the respective programs began.
Another stellar season is expected this fall. Ocean City and Middle Township are again strong contenders for conference and sectional titles, while Lower Cape May returns many of the key players who helped produce a 14-win season in 2018.
The following is a look at each of Cape May County’s high school field hockey teams:
LOWER CAPE MAY
Lower Cape May enjoyed an outstanding season last fall, going 14-4-2 overall.
Many of the top players from that group return, although three key players will miss the entire season due to injury.
Leading the way for the Lady Tigers are senior captains Eden Brojakowski (D), Makayla Heuber (GK) and Reese Bracken (MF/F). All three are among the top players at their positions in the Cape-Atlantic National Conference.
Other returning players include seniors Gabrielle DiDonato (MF) and Anna Franklin (MF/F); junior Nina Young (MF/F); and sophomores Maggie Boyle (MF/F), Sabrina Faulkner (MF/F), Jenna O’Neill (MF/D) and Maddie Schiffbauer (MF/F).
New varsity players expected to crack the lineup include seniors Emma Golden (MF), Kiersten Keywood (D) and Julianna McClain (D).
That group will try to help make up for the loss of Carina Raymond, Maya Critchfield and Julia Cook, all of whom will miss the season through injuries. Despite those losses, Lower should still be among the better teams in the conference, thanks to its solid roster depth.
“As always, our main goal is to improve upon the previous season,” fifth-year head coach Anne Bracken said.
Lower Cape May opens its season Thursday at St. Joseph. The team’s first home game is Monday against Our Lady of Mercy Academy.
— Brian Cunniff
Middle Township challenged itself with a tough schedule last fall and lost six games in the regular season. But having faced difficult competition proved valuable in the postseason, as the Lady Panthers rallied to reach the South Jersey Group I title game.
With all but one starter returning from last year’s team, this could be a special season for Middle.
“I feel we can do very well,” ninth-year coach Janina Perna said. “Only losing one starter to graduation has left us in a good position. We have a lot of experienced players that have only gotten better since last season. Our goal is to get to the South Jersey final this year and win.”
Middle features a dynamic offense, led by a pair of proven goal scorers in senior Caroline Gallagher (MF) and junior Kate Herlihy, who combined for 46 goals a season ago. Junior Briar Lemma (F) added 10 goals last season.
The top returning defensive players include senior Ava Karimalis (D) and junior Alexis Frank (D).
Other returning players with varsity experience include seniors McKenna Super (F), Michaela Graham (D), Veronica Johnson (MF) and Amber Howatt (GK); juniors Shea Gerhard (D) and Dakota Ludman (F) and sophomore Chloe Breakell (F).
New varsity players looking to add depth include juniors Camryn Oliver (D) and Alexa DiPalantino (D) and sophomore Grace Thompson (GK).
Middle was scheduled to open its season Tuesday at home with a non-league contest against powerful Shawnee. The team’s first Cape-Atlantic League game is Friday at home against Oakcrest.
— Brian Cunniff
Ocean City’s field hockey team returned to normal last fall. After a year without a championship in 2017, Kelsey Mitchell’s Raiders (19-4-1) dominated the Cape-Atlantic League and won the school’s 16th South Jersey championship in NJSIAA Group III. The Raiders gave up a goal to Vineland in their first game and finished their 14-0 CAL season by outscoring league opponents, 92-1. It was Ocean City’s 21st CAL field hockey title in 22 years.
Among those gone are Reese Bloomstead, a two-time all-star who scored 44 career goals and assisted on 31 others; all-star Jaclyn Charbonneau (22 goals, 14 assists); and Maddie Kahn, the nationally-recognized goalkeeper who kept those opposing teams off the scoreboard; plus Shannon Decosta and Sophia Gresham.
But first team all-star seniors Molly Reardon (21 goals, 8 assists last year) and Morgan Pizagno will be back along with senior Chloe Prettyman (team-leading 19 assists), junior Tara McNally (13 goals); junior Nya Gilchrist (9 goals); junior Morgan Decosta; and junior Sophia Ruh.
Sophomore Nora Bridgeford will take over for Kahn in goal and Mitchell (33-12-1 in two seasons) is counting on junior Alexis Smallwood and sophomores Ally Leeds and Olivia Vanesko to fill other gaps in the lineup.
OCHS is ranked No. 19 in the state in the preseason by NJ.com and will play another challenging schedule that includes No. 3 West Essex, No. 6 Shore Regional, No. 7 Kingsway, No. 14 Bishop Eustace and No. 16 Haddonfield.
“I believe we have the talent and determination to be a contender in our division,” Mitchell said. “We are blending returners from last year’s squad with some hungry, fresh faces so I am eager to see how we come together. We take pride in getting better every day. We really focus on the small details because I believe these things are what lead to bigger success. We are putting in the work, so we are hoping to match and improve upon last season’s achievements.”
The Raiders open this weekend with two games at Carey Stadium – Vineland Friday afternoon and very tough Shore Regional Saturday morning.
— Tom Williams