That sound you heard at 5:03 p.m. Tuesday was a tectonic rip in South Jersey, Group 2 field hockey.
Sure, it was easy to mistake it just as a cheer from exultant West Deptford players as they waltzed off the pitch at Haddonfield with a 4-1 victory, but there was no question the power balance in the group had blown up in the course of little more than an hour.
After better than a year of Haddonfield dominance dating back to the 2010 South Jersey, Group 2 title game, West Deptford had the dominant look, taking control with Sydney Ponto’s goal midway through the first half and never giving it up.
“We wanted this so bad—not only for us, but for West Deptford itself,” Ponto said after the victory, one of only a few against Haddonfield in the past year for all Eagles teams.
The win was the culmination of plenty of frustration at the end of last year and a grueling offseason that gave the team confidence heading into this year, knowing they had prepared better than ever, Amanda Hojnowski said.
“We came in and we had the mindset of coming to this game and winning everything,” she said.
And from corners to the possession battle to shots on goal, that’s exactly what West Deptford did. The Eagles were relentless on offense and made only a handful of mistakes on defense—one of which led to a Cat Thomas goal, Haddonfield’s only bright spot on the afternoon.
“That was the game plan—just to go after it every single second,” coach Linda Decker said.
Her players clearly bought into that mindset, not letting up even after Hojnowski and Claudia Theriault scored to pad the lead to 3-1.
There was no better example of that than freshman Jade Freeberg’s careening, head-over-heels goal to push it to 4-1. Freeberg found herself with the ball at her feet five feet from the cage, and flicked an off-balance shot into the back of the goal, only to have her momentum carry her right over the endline with the ball.
It was a split-second decision to go for it, and Freeberg said she wasn’t worried about taking a tumble if it meant her first career goal.
“It’s right there—just go, so that’s what I did, just dove into the net,” she said of her thought process when the ball popped loose. “I was just trying to get it in.”
It was enough even to make her coach smile at the effort and guts.
“I said, ‘Jade, I don’t care if it’s not pretty, just hustle and play hard,’” Decker said.
While the early-season success is important, Decker tempered it with the fact that the Eagles are a veteran team—only two starters turned over from 2011—and will inevitably face improved versions of the same teams they beat in the early going.
“We should be looking good right now,” she said. “We have to be concerned about that as the season progresses, as these younger players get their playing time and start developing.”