Group III Champs: Moorestown, NJ Defense too Much for Ocean City, NJ
OCEAN CITY — With the way the Moorestown field hockey team’s defense had been playing during the sectional tournament, even one goal might have been enough on Tuesday afternoon at Carey Stadium to upend top-seeded Ocean City in the South Jersey Group 3 championship game.
Turns out the Quakers got two goals, each in the third quarter, and that was plenty as Moorestown scored its fourth consecutive shutout and beat Ocean City, 2-0, to claim the title. The Quakers (13-6-1) will take on North Hunterdon, a 3-0 winner over Randolph in the North Jersey Group 3 championship, in the overall state title game. Ocean City ends a brilliant season with just three losses, against Moorestown, Haddonfield and Egg Harbor Township.
Neither team had much success offensively in the first half but that’s because each team’s defense is so good. Coming into the game, Ocean City goalies Taryn Dolka, a freshman, and senior Nora Bridgeford had combined for 100 saves and the Red Raiders had posted 12 shutouts in 22 games.
“We knew this game was going to be so much tougher than the ones before, so we were just really getting ready for a tough game,” said Moorestown senior captain Ava Cickavage, who scored the Quakers’ first goal. “They are a great team but we fought to the end and came out on top.”
Ocean City had several corners in the first half but the Red Raiders were continually thwarted by Moorestown’s defense, and goalie Catherine Parker, who finished with four saves. With 6:46 remaining in the third quarter the Quakers broke the scoreless tie with a little give-and-go off a corner. Ava Sassano sent the ball in to Cickavage, who played the ball over to Ava Tilger, but instead of shooting, Tilger dished back to Cickavage, who tapped in the pass to give Moorestown a 1-0 lead.
“We talked (at halftime) about just going to the ball and giving it all we’ve got because, who knows, this might have been our last game. We just wanted to empty the tank,” Cickavage said. “That first goal was off a corner. It was supposed to be me to Ava Tilger, and she just slipped it back to me and it was kind of impromptu, I just shot it. I was lucky it went in. It felt great. I jumped so high I think I beat my vertical leap record. It was amazing knowing that I could help my team win.”
“It was a real confidence booster because having that first goal is always a good thing,” added freshman forward Adelae Chierici. “It gets you hyped up, your whole team runs up, and it’s just a really good feeling.”
Ocean City (20-3) found itself trailing 2-0 just two minutes later when Sydney Kowalczyk shoved a long pass up to Chierici, who found herself one-on-one with Dolka. Dokla dove to her left to try to stop the shot, but Chierici was able to deposit a shot into the far left corner of the goal.
“That’s happened to me multiple times and I usually run into the goalie, but it was a great pass from Syd and I was able to finish,” Chierici said. “It was such a great feeling with all my teammates hugging me.”
That was all the Quakers needed, as Ocean City wasn’t able to put up any serious offensive threats in the final 15 minutes.
Moorestown felt like it was ready for the challenge Ocean City presented because the Quakers had faced state powerhouses such as West Essex, Eastern, Kingsway and Camden Catholic throughout the season. That brutal regular-season schedule certainly got the Quakers ready for the postseason. In the state playoffs, Moorestown has outscored its four opponents 25-0.
Said Chierici, “I feel like we were really ready. We always talk about that we’ve been through the battles, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we really came out for this game and fought until the end. I was really proud of us.”
What’s next: Moorestown vs. North Hunterdon in the Group 3 state championship game, time, date and location TBD.