By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The Middle Township High School field hockey team went into Wednesday’s game against rival Lower Cape May as a favorite on paper.
Lower Cape May wasn’t interested in what happens on paper, though, and promptly went out and grabbed a 1-0 lead two minutes into the game on a goal by Maggie Boyle off a corner chance.
Middle finally equalized in the second quarter but the teams went into halftime at 1-1 as Lower Cape May proved to be solid competition.
But the Lady Panthers controlled the second half. They scored three goals, limited Lower Cape May to only a couple of opportunities via the counterattack and wound up with a 4-1 victory.
“We were very slow to start. I don’t know where the energy was,” Middle coach Janina Perna said. “I think being 1-1 at halftime opened their eyes and they realized this wasn’t going to be as easy as maybe they might have thought. I told them that they had to control the tempo if we wanted to win. In the second half we attacked more and we played more together as a team with higher energy and it worked for us.”
Herlihy gave Middle the lead for good midway through the third quarter with a hard shot from the top of the circle. Dakota Ludman then gave Middle a two-goal cushion late in the third quarter when she pounced on a loose ball near the cage and flicked it with her backhand into the open goal.
Abby Teefy set the final score with 2 ½ minutes to play, adeptly redirecting a shot by Ludman inside the left post.
Middle (3-0) is off to a good start to this abbreviated season after also posting victories over Mainland and Our Lady of Mercy Academy.
“We’ve worked hard, especially this senior class,” Perna said. “This is four years of hard work for that group. We’re thankful we’re able to play. We’re taking it day by day and the most important thing is that the girls are having fun. That’s what we want it to be about.”
Lower Cape May dropped to 0-2 with the loss. One of the Lady Tigers’ highlights in the second half came when goalkeeper Reagan Morrison stopped a penalty stroke with a diving save to her left midway through the fourth quarter.
Lower Cape May endured some off-the-field drama just before the start of the regular season. The Lady Tigers’ opener last weekend against Atlantic City, an eventual 4-3 loss, was in jeopardy after it was learned following a scrimmage with Millville that a Millville player had shown symptoms of illness. The player’s COVID-19 test came back negative, however, and Lower was able to proceed as planned.