EGG HARBOR TWP. – For Natalie Naticchia, having the Haddonfield Memorial High School field hockey team reach the state championship game is not a new experience.
Now a senior, Naticchia will be making her fourth trip to the title game, following Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over Woodstown in the Group 1 seminal played at Egg Harbor High School.
“It never gets old,” Naticchia said after her two goals paved the way to the win. “It’s the best feeling in the world.”
The Bulldawgs will be out to win their third straight title when they take on Shore Regional on Saturday night at Bordentown High School.
Talk to the Haddonfield players and coaches and they point to Naticchia as being one of the team’s pivotal players’ during this recent run of success for the Bulldawgs.
“She’s great for us up on the forward line,” said coach Lindsay Kocher. “She’s quick. She’s fast and she’s got quick hands. And the thing with her is her motor doesn’t stop. She just keeps going. She can run for days.
“Even if she’s up on the forward line, she can make some long runs defensively and make some defensive stops for us.”
Teammate Abby Marthins, a junior who added a goal and an assist for Haddonfield on Wednesday, confirms that Naticchia is one of the driving forces on the team.
“She’s really awesome,” she said. “She brings us a lot of goals, and she’s really funny too. She’s nice to all the other girls and she just brings the team together.”
Being called a team leader is a role that Naticchia has come to embrace over the years.
She has been a varsity contributor since her freshman season, and each year she has taken on more responsibility to help the team improve.
This year she has taken charge as an offensive leader, her two tallies on Wednesday running her career high total to 26 for a season.
“Having a big role on the front line, I think I’ve led the team pretty well,” Naticchia said. “But the team makes its easy to lead. Everyone is so willing, everyone is so kind, everyone is so hard working. So it just happens naturally.”
She also realizes the value of finishing her career with a potential three state championships, something few have ever been able to accomplish in any sport.
“That’s a goal,” said Naticchia. “It’s special. I think we know what it takes to get there and it doesn’t just happen. We have to work hard every single time we’re practicing. How you practice is how you play.”
On the other side of the field, Woodstown coach Suzy Massara knew her upstart team was going to be in for a challenge.
Knowing of Haddonfield’s long history of success in the sport, the coach looked at the game as an opportunity for her girls to prepare for the next time.
“Anytime we play in a setting like this against teams like this, that’s a learning experience,” she said. “My girls don’t ever give up. Moving forward, we’ll take this and run with it, I think.”
Haddonfield took control of the game early by scoring two goals in the first half.
The first by Natacchia with an assist from Marthins came only 12 minutes into the game. Marthins added her own goal 12 minutes later, and the tone was set.
Naticchia extended the lead to 3-0 early in the second half before Maddie Bickel closed out the scoring effort late in the game.
Goalie Megan Maynes was pretty well protected by the Haddonfield defense throughout the game, and was able to record the shutout.
State Group 1 Semifinal
Woodstown 0 0-0
Haddonfield 2 2-4
Goals;, Maddie Bickel, Natalie Naticchia 2, Abby Marthins.
Saves: Megan Maynes, H, 3, Ella Roberts, W 7.