By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
LINWOOD — The Mainland Regional field hockey team may have had a bit of jet lag coming off its recent preseason trip to Disney in Orlando, Fla. Atlantic City jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the season opener for both teams on Thursday, as Natalie Fabi found the back of the cage off a corner with 12:35 left in the first half.
It didn’t take long, however, until Mainland forward Paige Care took over the game.
Care scored to even the game, 1-1, with 5:37 left in the first half, then gave the Mustangs the lead for good early in the second half with her second goal. She went on to score four goals, as Mainland came from behind to win, 4-1.
“Our team is good coming back. Once we are down, we really try to come back and we work together as a team doing that,” said Care, who broke into the starting lineup last season as a sophomore and became one of Mainland’s top scoring threats along with then-senior Ashley Albright. “I have a lot of faith in my team. Even though we were down, I trusted that we could come back.”
“Look at her today. I don’t know how she does it,” said senior captain Nicole Pancari, a defender. “She gets up (to the offensive zone) so fast, and if the coaches tell her to go faster, she will. She’s just that kind of player, and we need her on the field as much as she can be out there.”
With 11:41 left, Care gave Mainland a little bit of breathing room when she tapped in a long pass to push the lead to 3-1. Her fourth goal came with 10:22 left. Payton Ortzman ripped a shot, but Atlantic City goalie Gavrielle Jacobson — filling in for the injured Izzy Turner — made a nice save. Care was there to corral the rebound and poke a shot past Jacobson to make it 4-1.
“We’re just trying to get back to where we were and recover from last year, losing a couple of really good starters. I think we’re a really good team this year,” Pancari said. “There was a little bit (of jet lag). We just got back a few days ago. It was a good trip, though, and we learned a lot, worked really well together and bonded as a team. So, I think it really helped us and I think it will help our season.”
“We played really well in Disney. It was really hot down there and we were tired from our flight coming back, but I think Disney really helped us a lot because we worked really well as a team and played really well down there, I thought,” Care said. “So, coming back, I felt pretty confident.”
Care was quick to give credit to her defense for shutting down the Vikings and allowing Mainland to stage a comeback.
“Nicole is awesome. Every time it gets back there, no matter what side it is on, she can clear the ball,” Care said. “And Victoria (Battaglia) is really good at carrying the ball out (of the defensive zone).”
Pancari said it was good to get a strong test from a team like Atlantic City in the season opener. Mainland travels to Cape-Atlantic League power and arch-rival Ocean City on Monday night.
“I think it was the perfect start to our season knowing that we had to push ourselves. We were down 1-0 in the beginning and we had to come back, and that’s what we’ve been doing the past couple of (preseason) games,” Pancari said. “We need to start out strong, but we’re still working on that. But, I think the girls do a good job of coming back and scoring.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN