By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The area’s two high school field hockey teams had two different experiences last fall.
Middle Township was one of the area’s best teams last season and won a sectional championship behind a senior-laden team.
Lower Cape May, meanwhile, went through a transition season behind a rather young team.
For 2021, both clubs should be rather competitive against their respective schedules.
The following is a look at the two programs:
LOWER CAPE MAY
Lower Cape May went 4-7 with a rather young team last fall, including a victory in the first round of a South Jersey tournament that was revamped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s group under seventh-year head coach Anne Bracken is a bit more talented and figures to be more competitive.
There are 11 returning players, including six seniors, so the team is longer on experience and leadership than in recent seasons.
The senior returnees include Sabrina Faulkner (MF), Maggie Boyle (F), Jenna O’Neill (MF), Maddie Schiffbauer (F), Molly Davis (F) and Julia Gibson (MF). Faulkner lead the team in scoring with five goals last fall, with Schiffbauer and Boyle adding four apiece.
Other returning players include juniors Caroline Craig (D) and Jessica Goodroe (F) and sophomores Camryn Lyberger (MF), Ryan Salinsky (F) and Marcella Mogavero (MF).
“I expect us to be competitive,” Bracken said.
Lower Cape May opens its season Wednesday at county rival Middle Township.
Despite the restrictions and anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Middle Township enjoyed one of its most rewarding seasons last fall. The Lady Panthers went 13-2-1 and won the South West A sectional championship, ending the season with an overtime victory at home in the title game.
Many of the key players from that team have graduated, including leading scorer Kate Herlihy, so expectations might be tempered just a bit. Still, there many reasons for optimism, such as the return of much of the defensive players and the opportunities being given some talented younger players.
Returning players include seniors Kylie Graham (D), Sophia Braun (MF), Chloe Breakell (F), Jada Nagle (MF), Olivia Verdade (F) and Grace Thompson (GK). Thompson posted six shutouts as a junior last season and is regarded as one of the CAL’s top goalkeepers. Graham and Braun are also two of the league’s better players at their positions.
Other returning players include junior Maddy Scarpa (F) and sophomore Abby Teefy (MF). Teefy was one of the CAL’s top freshmen last season.
New players coming into the varsity team for the first time include juniors Eliza Billingham (D), Erin Cowan (D), Mia Elisano (D), Vincenza Panzini (F), Elianna Talante (F) and Maggie Hoag (MF) and freshmen Gwen Boal (F) and Jax Pickering (D).
“I am excited for new leaders to emerge that will fill a lot of spots left by our talented seniors that graduated,” said 11th-year head coach Janina Perna. “The returning players are blending well with a talented freshman class that I think will be very successful in the next few years.”
Heather Heun is Perna’s assistant coach.
Middle Township hosts Lower Cape May Wednesday in its season opener.