UNION, N.J. - In one of the most dramatic field hockey games of the season, Eastern pushed West Essex to overtime. But the Vikings came up just short and lost, 2-1, in the championship game of the Tournament of Champions.
West Essex senior Lia Sinisi converted on a penalty stroke with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the overtime period to give West Essex its first championship in the Tournament of Champions.
This loss also ended Eastern's winning streak of 144 games against New Jersey teams.
This was Eastern's fifth consecutive year making it to the T of C final, and it lost in a very physical game.
"I think the team played very well," Eastern head coach Danyle Heilig said. "I think we got robbed [on non-calls by the officials]. I think they played through things that we have not had to play through all season long."
The game went back and forth all night with both teams having great opportunities and strong possessions. Eastern's Kara Heck scored midway through the first half to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
West Essex responded four minutes after with a goal from Sarah Ianuzzi that was assisted by Ashley Ianuzzi.
Eastern had some promising chances in the second half that could have given it the lead but could not find the back of the cage.
"I think they played a very strong second half," Heilig said. "We probably did not take advantage of opportunities like we needed, especially with so many things going against us. But I am proud of the way my kids played."
Even with this loss, the Vikings put together a phenomenal season, finishing the year 23-3. They won another Group 4 state championship and found themselves competing for their eighth T of C championship.
"We have still had an outstanding year," Heilig said. "We still have some outstanding players who have done some outstanding things for us all season long. This does not take away from it."
This was the final time the seniors will be taking the field for Eastern, and they were part of a historical run for the program.
"I don't think that I could have asked for Mackenzie [Keegan], Alexis [Pettisani], Kayla [Somers], Kasey [Quicksill] and especially Cassie [Kincaid] in the cage to do anything more," Heilig said. "I think they did everything they could do, and unfortunately a few balls didn't go our way."
Eastern 1 0 0 - 1
West Essex 1 0 1 - 2
Goals: Eastern- Kara Heck (1). West Essex- Sarah Ianuzzi (1), Lia Sinisi (1)
Saves: Eastern- Cassie Kincaid (19). West Essex- Tara Smith (11)