WOOLRICH TWP. – Maybe this was the way it was supposed to be.
Last year, when the Delsea Regional High School and Kingsway Regional High School field hockey teams met, the Crusaders were unbeaten and the Dragons had one loss. That game ended in a 1-1 tie.
On an overcast, seasonably cool Friday afternoon, they met again. This time the roles were reversed; it was Kingsway with the unblemished record at 12-0 hosting 11-1 Delsea. The result turned out to be the same, but the only difference was this game would end 0-0.
Since this is the only time these two meet, they look forward to playing each other. Even though it ended in a scoreless tie, the game had much of what you would expect in a contest between two intense rivals. There was end to end action, scrambles in front of the cage, clutch pad saves by each goalie and, by the end of the overtime period, it was easy to tell players on both teams had given everything they had to give.
“It’s a good rivalry. Last year we were undefeated and they tied us. It just changed a little bit this year,” said Delsea coach Meg Unger, who earlier this year recorded her 300th career victory. “It was a well-fought game. I knew the girls wanted it and we knew Kingsway was a tough team. But the girls worked hard, they played together and supported each other. This is an eye-opener. It was good experience for the team to play in a game like this.”
Delsea’s senior winger, Dawn Lombardi, who entered the game as Delsea’s third leading scorer with 19 goals this season, helped keep the pressure on throughout the game, but especially at the start when the Crusaders controlled the ball on the Dragons half of the field through most the early going.
“I felt like we played tough the entire time,” Lombardi said. “We didn’t break down at all. We were stepping up to support each other all game and we knew we had each other’s back”.
About 10 minutes into the first half, Kingsway coach Dana Ott called a time out. Delsea had spent most of the opening minutes in the Dragons half of the field and had a couple of opportunities right on goalie Abbey Patel’s doorstep.
“I thought we came out sluggish to start the game and that’s why I called the time out,” Ott said. “After that I thought we controlled the game pretty well, especially in the second half and the overtime.
“Delsea came to play. They had opportunities and they kept the pressure on, but I thought we kept our composure well and we handled those situations well.”
Kingsway was effective getting pressure on Delsea goalie Alley Harris, especially on penalty corners when the Dragons were able to fire some hard shots on the cage, but Harris used the pads to knock the shots away and the defense was able to clear the ball out to a midfielder to begin the transition to the offense. After the timeout, Delsea would still create some nervous moments pressuring the Kingsway cage, but the difference was Kingsway started creating more of its own.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and we knew we were going to have to work harder,” said Kingsway junior Abbie Brown. “I thought we reacted well today, especially when they were pressuring us. We played as a team very well today.”
Neither time got the win it wanted, but both walked off the field knowing the experience of playing in this tense, pressure-filled matchup will play dividends down the road, especially in the tournament.