By Ryan Fennell
Holmdel – The top-seeded Shore Regional Blue Devils jumped out to an early lead in the Shore Conference Field Hockey Tournament semi-final game at Holmdel high school on Tuesday against fourth-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven and went on to win, 8-0, in dominating fashion.
The Blue Devils displayed superior ball and stick control and maintained possession for nearly the entire game.
RFH was outshot 21-2 and any momentum the Bulldogs managed to gain was quickly extinguished by a smothering Shore defense.
“Our game plan was ball possession,” said Shore head coach Nancy Williams. “This is what we’ve done all year and that’s what we planned; maintain possession wherever they give it to us and keep moving the ball until we find the open seams.”
Despite being outshot 13-1 in the first half, the Bulldogs were able to stick with their Shore counterparts for the most part in the first half, with Jackie Hempstead’s six saves (9 overall).
The Blue Devils got on the board at 4:39 in when Aileen Johnson scored off a penalty corner, one of Shore’s 23 in the game, with Carol Middough on the assist.
Molly O’Neill fed Kara Casale later in the first to put the Blue Devils up 2-0, which forced Rumson to take a timeout with 19:55 remaining in the half.
Toni Roma scored unassisted with 11:05 remaining and Shore took a 3-0 lead into halftime.
Middough had a goal of her own, assisted by Alyssa Ercolino, to open the second half followed by Johnson’s second goal of the game just over a minute later and Shore had taken full control of the game.
“We wanted to play as a unit and have both defense and offense step up and play as a whole,” said Johnson, who missed last season with a torn ACL. “[The season]’s been great. I can’t express how happy I am to be back.”
O’Neill added another goal in the second half and Hannah Barreca also scored twice.
The Blue Devils advanced to the SCT finals that were originally scheduled for Thursday, however, the first round of the NJSIAA state tournament begins on the same day and the state game takes precedence over the conference.
“I’ve never had to do that,” Williams said. “Usually this tournament (SCT) runs four games in nine days so I don’t know what it’s going to do [to the team]. We’ll just have to play it out.”
Freehold defeated Wall in its semi-final game and will face Shore in the Championship in a rematch of last year’s final. Shore won last year’s title game against Freehold, 2-1.
The SCT Final would be played either Saturday or Monday of next week depending on whether Shore’s NJSIAA state tournament first round game against Henry Hudson is played Thursday or is rescheduled for Friday.