By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — On Sept. 12, the Mainland Regional field hockey allowed 10 goals to powerful Ocean City, the No. 8 team in the state. But that was an anomaly for the Mustangs’ defense. In Mainland’s six other games, the defense has allowed just three goals while posting three shutouts.
The defense and midfield came through big time on Wednesday night in the annual “Pink Game” against Egg Harbor Township, holding the host Eagles without a shot in the second half while holding on for a 2-1 victory.
Seniors Nicole Pancari and Victoria Battaglia, along with junior Amanda Dearborn and freshman Robin Spector, led a stout defensive effort that shut down a good Eagles offense. The Mustangs were able to keep the ball out of the middle of the field, neutralizing Egg Harbor Township offensive stars Erin Hogan and Angelica Dagit.
“They are a great team and this was one of our hardest games. Our defense played great, and having a freshman in the midfield, she played amazing. It was a great game,” Dearborn said. “Our goalie, Sam (Morton), does everything she can in her power to make sure every girl is being marked, and she makes sure there is always someone back there. We do a great job communicating. It was everything, really, working together.”
“I was very impressed with our midfield. Amanda started everything off and gave us a spark by intercepting the cross-field passes. She’s our left mid, so she was able to get the ball from the left back to the right, which is what we wanted. We came in concentrating on three things — getting the ball to the right, making sure we passed around sticks, and just playing with intensity and heart,” said Mainland coach Jill Hatz. “We put some of our best players in the midfield and on defense. Today was one of (the defense’s) best games, both as a team and individually, and that’s what led to this win.”
It turned into a midfield game with each team’s only scoring chances coming on corners. Mainland got things going quickly, as Paige Care knocked home a goal off a corner just 1:10 into the game to give the Mustangs (6-1) a 1-0 lead. The Eagles answered in the seventh minute when Hogan scored off a corner, but Mainland scored what would turn out to be the game-winner with 4:30 left in the first half as Care scored again on a corner.
“It was a midfield game, and defense,” Spector said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without Paige Care, out best goal scorer. But I’m very proud of the midfield today. We weren’t letting passes get through and Emily Osterman stepped up, along with Amanda. It was an amazing game by the midfield.”
The game was bigger than the final score, however. Egg Harbor Township and Mainland have been organizing a “Pink Game” to raise money for cancer research for the past several years. Each player on both teams dedicates their performance to someone they know who has been affected by cancer.
I think it’s amazing that we are playing for people who are suffering from cancer and supporting ways to make things better,” said Spector, who, as a freshman, got to experience playing in the game for the first time. “This is my first time (playing in this game) and I don’t think it could have been any better.”
“It reminds us that we need to play for those people. We’re inspired by them, and if they are fortunate enough to be able to come to this game, we wanted to show them how much they mean to us by playing as hard as we can,” Dearborn added.
Hatz said the game has become an important part of the Mustangs’ field hockey calendar each season.
“It shows the players that we need to support people and that there are bigger things than sports. Yeah, we’re coming out here and playing a game and having fun, but there is stuff outside the sport that matters a lot more,” Hatz said. “So it’s really good for them to come out and honor someone, and I think it gives each of the girls on both teams a little extra fire coming into this game knowing they are playing for someone. We all know this is a very important game, so I think they come out and play extra hard for those people they are honoring.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN