Using an explosive offense and clutch goaltending, the Eastern field hockey team defeated Ocean City, 5-1, on Wednesday in the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions.
The win advanced the Vikings to Friday's championship game against West Essex. West Essex advanced on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Bishop Eustace.
Eastern (23-2) was coming off a tough Group 4 championship win on Saturday but did not waste any time in gaining control of this game.
Freshman Kara Heck was the first to score for Eastern, seven minutes into the game, and the Vikings never looked back. Eastern got three more goals, from Alexis Pettisani, Jessica Maute and Mackenzie Keegan, before the first half ended, and they still continued to dominate possession.
"We really tried to keep the ball to the outside of the field and not allow them to come back to center," Eastern coach Danyle Heilig said. "I think it worked for us in some ways. That's really what it was for us, about trying to keep the ball to the outside. . . . Their strength [is] going up the middle."
Eastern's senior goalie, Cassie Kincaid, who finished with 12 saves, made it hard for Ocean City to get anything behind her.
Ocean City (22-4) received a penalty stroke two minutes into the second half, which, with a goal, could have given them the momentum. But Kincaid dived to her right and deflected the shot away.
"Usually during penalty strokes, I psych myself out," Kincaid said. "But I didn't really think about it. I think that save was huge. Then we built even more off that. The momentum from that save made us want to score even more. So I think that was a big turning point in the game."
Heck scored another goal in the second half. It was her 53rd of the season, tops in the state.
Rialee Allen scored an unassisted goal with less than four minutes to play to put Ocean City on the board.
Eastern has 11 seniors who will be playing their final game against West Essex on Friday, and Kincaid has made sure they realize the importance of the game.
"Every game I'm thinking, 'This could be my last game.' So I just want to give it all," Kincaid said. "Having that thought in the back of my head . . . makes me want to keep it going."
Eastern 4 1 - 5
Ocean City 0 1 - 1
Goals: E-Kara Heck 2, Alexis Pettisani, Jessica Maute, Mackenzie Keegan. OC-Rialee Allen.
Saves: E-Cassie Kincaid 12; OC-Maddie Kahn 7.