Eastern's Kelsey Mitchell leaves a trail of records
Forty-eight seconds. That was the time remaining in the field hockey Tournament of Champions final when Eastern's and New Jersey's most prolific goal scorer slapped a shot past Shore Regional keeper Shannon Johnson.
That was the time remaining in the field hockey Tournament of Champions final when Eastern's and New Jersey's most prolific goal scorer slapped a shot past Shore Regional keeper Shannon Johnson.
Kelsey Mitchell, after 59 minutes, 12 seconds of play scored her second goal of the game, 69th of the season and 171st of her career to help lift the Vikings (26-2) to an 8-2 victory.
In doing so, Mitchell tied the state's single-season scoring record of 69 goals set by Michelle Vizzuso of West Essex in 1994. Mitchell also tied the 1983 record of Tracey Fuchs of Centereach, N.Y., for second place on the national all-time career scoring list with 171 goals.
For those achievements and many others, Mitchell is The Inquirer's South Jersey field hockey player of the year.
The final goal was greatly anticipated because the senior from Berlin had been on a scoring rampage all season, especially in the postseason when she tallied 23 goals in eight games.
Her final goal was one that some on the sideline thought might not come because it was so late in the game. It was a goal that Mitchell declined to address in deference to her teammates, to whom she had given credit after every game all season.
Eastern coach Danyle Heilig seemed relieved after Mitchell scored.
"At the end we wanted to get Kelsey a goal," said Heilig, who had just guided the Vikings (26-2) to their third TOC title in the four-year history of the event. "She's obviously brought a lot to our program over the last four years, so we were trying to get her that 69th goal."
The Iowa-bound Mitchell has left a trail of records tied or broken. In addition to the above, she tied Eastern's single-game scoring record of six goals set by Meghan Bain in 2003; smashed the school's career-scoring and single-season standards of 135 and 49 goals, respectively, set by Shauna Banta in 2003; broke the South Jersey career-goals record of 144 established by Gloucester's Maryanna Watson in 1963; and shattered the New Jersey career record of 145 goals by Vizzuso in 1994.
"My four years here were great," Mitchell said. "I couldn't have been around better people and I learned life lessons that I can take with me off the hockey field."
After Eastern beat previously undefeated Bridgewater-Raritan, 6-1, for the state Group 4 crown, Mitchell spoke about the season and the program: "We worked all year to be able to do this and wanted to uphold the tradition of the people who came before us and keep it going," she said.
There was a lot to live up to. The Vikings' quest from the beginning of the season was to win a national-record 11th consecutive state crown as well as an 11th straight Group 4 championship for Eastern as well as another TOC title. They accomplished those lofty goals with a core of seven seniors who benefitted from Mitchell's play in the scoring circle through her assists, or from her shots and rebounds.
Heilig called Mitchell "a coach's dream" and lamented the fact that she is the kind of player who doesn't come around often.
"Every team tries to mark her up and take her out and do everything they can to stop her," Heilig said, "but she is truly unstoppable."