Pinelands Regional Field Hockey Team Off to Strong Start With 5-1 Win over Jackson Liberty

By David Biggy | Sep 11, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Pinelands’ Karianna Eagle fires a shot for a goal during the Wildcats’ 5-1 victory over Jackson Liberty in the field hockey team’s opener on Sept. 5.

Little Egg Harbor — Transitioning into a season following the graduation of an NCAA Division I player, whom the offense operated around during the previous two seasons, generally is a difficult thing for many field hockey programs. Head coach Liz Law’s Pinelands Regional crew doesn’t seem to be having much of a problem.

“We came into the season knowing we’d miss Rachel (Papernik),” said senior defender Sarah Keady, who not only anchored the defense, but also contributed heavily on penalty corners during the Wildcats’ 5-1 opening-day victory over Shore Conference Class B South rival Jackson Liberty on Sept. 5. “But we’re so close with each other and work really well as a unit, it’s not really too big of a deal for us to overcome that kind of change to our offense. We worked hard all preseason and went into this game trying to set the tone by scoring first.”

The first part of the mission was accomplished within three minutes, when Keady delivered a corner to junior attacker Jamilyn Hawkins and she fired a screaming shot past the opposing goaltender for a 1-0 lead with just 2:50 gone by. From there, the Wildcats continued to apply the pressure to the Liberty defense.

“We came out really hyped up,” said junior midfielder Layla Frost, who controlled the right side of the field so well it almost seemed at times she was playing the game by herself, swiping the ball from opposing defenders and weaving her way through traffic to develop solid scoring opportunities. “We warmed up really well, and we came out to the field with a purpose.”

With 19:23 left in the first half, senior attacker Adrian Dieckman scored to make it 2-0, and just under 12 minutes later Hawkins sent an excellent sweep shot high from 12 yards into the cage for a 3-0 lead at halftime. The Lions closed the gap to a pair of goals when Natalie Wood managed to poke a ball past Pinelands goalie Mickenzie Horay about seven minutes into the second half, but it didn’t stay that way too long, as Dieckman got to a ball right in front of the opposing cage and popped it in with 19:01 left.

The Wildcats continued to press the Lions’ defense during the next nine minutes before the player now filling the role left behind by Papernik, who’s playing at Quinnipiac University this fall, got in on the scoring action. Following a penalty, junior Karianna Eagle worked the ball forward and zipped a shot through traffic and into the cage to seal the victory with 10:44 to go.

“Karianna’s followed a similar path to Papernik, starting as a right-side midfielder so we could cultivate her right-side field vision,” Law said. “She was over the ball so much last season that it helped her transition to the center spot she’s in now. But coming into the season, she knew the shoes she was going to be filling, and she was all for the challenge.”

Even with the game in hand, Pinelands didn’t stop playing. In fact, the Wildcats mustered another handful of corners and had several more scoring chances, just missing the cage on two of them with under five minutes left, including one by freshman Akayla Palmucci, one of only two players on a very short bench for Law.

“You’d think with such a short bench that our girls might not play as hard, knowing they’re probably not going to be replaced,” she said. “But I’m fortunate that it’s been the exact opposite. Every player on the field knows she’s it, that it’s all on her to get her job done. And it’s true. It is like that, but all these girls have taken their responsibilities seriously, and each one really wants to play well for the team.”

At halftime, Law complimented her crew as being a very knowledgeable group willing to listen, learn and apply what they learn in practice to being effective on the field during games.

“She finally acknowledged we’re a smart team, and I’m really happy with that one. We’ll take that one every day we can get it,” Keady joked. “The truth is Coach Law is the reason we’re so smart about the game. She tells us what to do and how we can get better, and we just do it.”

Frost said Law doesn’t mind explaining even the smallest details to help better her players.

“We all need to work on stuff and get better, and she’s really great at explaining how to do it,” Frost said. “Coach Law will go over something three or four times if it means we can get even a little better every time we’re on the field. She takes the time to help us improve our games, and it shows in how we play together.”

The only bothersome part of the Wildcats’ opener for Law was Liberty’s scoring percentage.

“They had one shot and one goal on the one time they got down below our 25-yard line,” she said. “We need to be able to mentally shift and play good defense even when we’re not seeing a lot of action on that side of the field. That’s something we’re going to have to do better. But otherwise, I’m pretty stoked about our team and the way we started the season.”

— David Biggy

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