Happy November from the seat of South Jersey high school field hockey power.
South Jersey Times area teams include two No. 1 seeds and one No. 2 in the three public school brackets that still have SJT teams remaining after first-round play in Groups 1 and 2 on Hallloween.
All Hallow’s Eve also marked the end of the regular season with a makeup meeting between Vineland and Millville. What better time could there be to preview the remaining playoff races and a few unofficial regular-season awards?
This is the one player anyone should be happy to drive any distance or set an alarm for just to see. We’ve already seen that Clearview’s Darian DeLeo has a knack for scoring against everyone no matter how strong the team is. The senior has scored in 17 of the Pioneers 18 games. And that one game she didn’t score in was a 2-0 win against Williamstown, which dropped her season average against the Braves to 2.5 goals per game.
It’s not just that DeLeo scores goals, she scores spectacular goals.
Good luck figuring out which Kingsway player is going to be the game-changer on any specific day. There are just too many options to choose from. If you’re looking for someone who will always be around when good things happen, put your money on junior Sabrina McGroarty.
Thanks to the shock of curls piled on her head, McGroarty is easy to spot in the rare cases when she’s standing still. When McGorarty is in motion, there’s always a good chance she’s in the middle of something good happening for Kingsway.
There are plenty of reasons West Deptford has bubbled up to the top ranks of Group 1. Goalie Paige Duczkowski is one reason but the on field key to the Eagles success has been senior midfielder Natalie McGivern. Her 20 goals, including a season-best four in the Eagles playoff opener against Bordentown, are one thing, but its has been her consistent effort and leadership through the spine of the attack that sets her apart.
Triton has been one of the best stories of the entire field hockey season. If anyone was to ask what team owns the longest win streak in South Jersey, even the most knowledgeable field hockey fan would have a hard time guessing that the Mustangs’ 14-game win streak takes that honor.
Look no farther than Aurelia McManis for the biggest reason for Triton’s long win streak. Sure, her 32 goals — one more than freshman Olivia Broome — leads the team on the scoreboard. McManis could have played for any team in South Jersey but dedicated herself to making her hometown team successful. It’s leadership that sets McManis apart. Well done, Mustangs.
Kingsway’s unprecedented season could well in in a state championship. If it does, defense will have to play a huge role in the final run toward a title. There are few more solid and dominating defenses out there than the one the Dragons trot out game after game. The key to it all is the supreme confidence the entire defense has in sophomore Soren Kipphut in goal.
In her first year as a starter, Kipphut has faced all the best teams in the state, and beyond, and come away the better for it. Expect her season total of nine shutouts to grow throughout the playoffs.
South Jersey Group 1: No. 2 West Deptford is headed for a championship game rubber game in a season-long battle with No. 1 Collingwood. The two teams split one-goal regular-season road wins. The Eagles should feel comfortable playing in Knight Park.
Gloucester has the best chance to spring an upset into the semifinals, with a road game at Maple Shade. Schalick meets Collingswood and Woodstown faces West Deptford in their quarterfinals.
S.J. Group 3: The biggest obstacle for top-seeded Clearview is could be tradition. The bracket is littered with elite field hockey programs like Allentown, Moorestown, Shawnee and Ocean City. The Pioneers have a the 2019 state title in their DNA, plus home field throughout the bracket to help them earn a return trip to a state final.
Triton, with Burlington Township, and Delsea, against Shawnee, have interesting first-round games to navigate before thinking about long playoff runs.
S.J. Group 4: This is clearly Kingsway’s bracket to win but they might have to finally nail the coffin shut for Eastern to do so. No team has beaten Eastern in Group 4 playoff action since Nov. 13, 1998. That run could end on Nov. 1 in the first round or Nov. 4 at Kingsway.
Washington Township hosts Gloucester Tech in the only early-round game involving two SJT teams. The best either team can hope for is a semifinal trip to Kingsway. Williamstown would have to win two road trip games in the Shore Conference to earn a semifinal bid.
S.J. Non-Public: Our Lady of Mercy earned a bye and a home game against Notre Dame on Nov. 4 but their path is blocked by Camden Catholic in the semifinals. Gloucester Catholic hosts Paul VI for the right to face St. Joseph Academy, where the path would likely end.
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