By BRIAN CUNNIFF
STONE HARBOR — It isn’t normal to hold Senior Day ceremonies at your first home game of the season.
But, as we all know, there isn’t a whole lot of normal going on anywhere in 2020. So maybe this made perfect sense after all.
It sure did for the Wildwood Catholic Academy girls soccer team Tuesday.
The 11 Crusader seniors enjoyed a day they’ll remember for a long time, as the team scored the first four goals of a 4-1 victory over Lower Cape May.
The Wildwood Catholic tallies were scored much in the same fashion — direct balls played through the middle of the field or over the top of the defense to spring one of the team’s athletic forwards free.
“One of the strengths of our team is our speed up front,” Wildwood Catholic coach Kara Saunders said. “We have four or five girls up there with good speed. We came into the game wanting to play the ball wider, especially with Jordan (Dougherty, one of Lower’s top players) playing in the back in the first half, but it just happened to play out that we got chances by playing the ball through the middle.”
Ivy Bolle scored the first of her two goals with 15 minutes to go in the first half to open the scoring. Lower, playing against the wind in the first half, would have done well to stay within a one-goal deficit at the interval, but Marianna Papazoglou and Nola Quinn each tallied in the final seven minutes of the half to up the Crusader lead to 3-0.
“All the credit to Wildwood Catholic. They have a game plan and they stick to it and they have the speed up top to make it happen,” Lower coach Darren Rutherford said. “We weren’t quite ready for their quickness and their physicality. Being down 1-0 at half would have been more ideal, since we were getting the wind in the second half and they would’ve been playing against the sun, too. I felt like the first 20 minutes we played really well. But then that first one went in and then they got two quick ones. There were some unfortunate bounces for us and they finished their chances.”
Bolle scored again early in the second half to put the game out of reach. Lower got on the board through Sianna King with 15 minutes to play.
Two games into this pandemic-shorted season, each team has just six games left to play. Each is 1-1.
“Every game has to be played like it could be the last game,” Saunders said. “You can’t take any game for granted, especially with 11 seniors. I want them to take the games seriously but I also want them to have fun. I want them to look and say, ‘Yeah, everything was crazy and we only played eight games, but we had a lot of fun.’”
Rutherford echoed those sentiments.
“I want to make sure they understand the game of soccer is something they can enjoy, even if it’s just for eight games,” Rutherford said. “They worked hard all summer even though we weren’t sure we were even going to have a season. So we’re happy to get a chance to get the season started and get the season moving.”