By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — If this were a normal season, Kate Herlihy would have probably already celebrated a major milestone.
But since this, as we all know, has been anything but a normal season, Herlihy is in a position where she isn’t positive she’ll even reach it.
“It’s a little stressful,” she said with a smile.
The senior midfielder from the Middle Township High School field hockey team is eight goals away from scoring 100 for her career, a milestone that’s extremely rare in high school field hockey. Herlihy’s older sister, Jenna, is the only other Middle player to crack 100 goals, netting 146 in a career that finished in 2017.
Herlihy whisked three goals into the cage in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over Lower Cape May. She’ll have two more chances to add to her total in the regular season, although one of those contests is against an Ocean City team that rarely concedes goals.
She’ll still have a chance to score more in the revamped sectional playoffs, as Middle Township has been named the top seed in the new Group I Southwest Region A playoffs.
Middle will take a record of 8-1-1 into next week, the regular-season reduced by at least six games thanks to the late start due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s definitely harder now,” Herlihy said. “Obviously it stinks. Not just for my goals, but to be able to play more my last year with all my friends. It stinks for all of us. We’re making the best of it. I’m still trying to get to 100, but who knows?”
Herlihy is one of hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of high school athletes across the state in just about every sport who will have personal accomplishments reduced because of the pandemic.
But Middle coach Janina Perna was quick to laud Herlihy’s accomplishments to date.
“It’s definitely unfortunate. We had no doubt going into the year that she’d get (100 goals) if we had a full schedule. So this has thrown a wrench into it,” Perna said. “But no matter where she falls, the fact that she’s a midfielder and scoring at least into the 90s is pretty impressive. It just doesn’t happen. We might never have another player come through and do that. So if she gets close, great. If she breaks it, even better. But whether she gets it or not doesn’t say anything about what kind of player she’s been for us these last four years.”
Herlihy is a three-sport standout at Middle. She’s already surpassed 1,000 career points and helped the girls basketball team reach the South Jersey title last March. She’s also a top player on the girls lacrosse team.
Herlihy said she hopes to play either field hockey or basketball in college. She said she has interest in Division I Long Island University for field hockey.
But despite dealing with college choices and the pursuit of a scoring milestone, simply being able to play during a health crisis has Herlihy grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s scary but we’re taking advantage of every game we get,” she sai
d. “We’re treating every game like it’s our last because you never know, it really could be. We’re taking advantage of everything we have.
“It’s been so much fun. Even every practice is so much fun. Usually you’ll have some practices where it’s (a grind) but every practice has been so much fun this year. We’re just taking advantage of being around each other for as long as we can.”