Once again, Eastern takes state field hockey crown
The opponent was energized, hungry - loud and aggressive. But it didn't matter, not at all, really. Just as it didn't matter the last 11 consecutive years in which Eastern met Bridgewater-Raritan in the Group 4 field hockey state championship.
The opponent was energized, hungry - loud and aggressive.
But it didn't matter, not at all, really.
Just as it didn't matter the last 11 consecutive years in which Eastern met Bridgewater-Raritan in the Group 4 field hockey state championship.
Eastern is too talented. Too fast, too strong.
And, perhaps most glaring, too skilled.
The Vikings out-finessed Bridgewater-Raritan on Saturday at Bordentown High School, topping the Panthers, 2-1, for their 18th consecutive state championship - the last 12 coming in a title game against Bridgewater-Raritan.
"It was fun, it was a good environment to be in," said superstar freshman Kara Heck, who netted both of her team's goals, giving her 52 goals and 16 assists for the season. "I just treated it like a normal game, just went out there and played."
The final score was actually a reflection of a valiant effort by Bridgewater-Raritan, which withstood a pummeling most of the game by the Eastern offense.
Until late in the second half, when the Panthers finally established a bit of an offense - including a goal by Diana Lambert with 16 minutes left - the game never felt close.
The Vikings took 21 corners - none of which they could convert into a goal - to just three corners for Bridgewater-Raritan (22-3).
"Year after year we come into this game preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," said Panthers coach Alyssa Frazier. "Eastern is a very skilled team with a lot of talented players. But I'm thrilled with the amount of heart we showed today."
Heck is the latest example of the Vikings' ability to sustain its greatness year after year and generation after generation.
Legendary players graduate. New legends-in-waiting take their place.
"Kara is a very gifted hockey player," said Eastern coach Danyle Heilig. "And she just has those intangibles that other kids don't have in terms of competing. If you watch her on the field, sometimes she becomes so determined that she's almost possessed."
The Vikings (22-2) will now take that attitude into the Tournament of Champions - they've won the last four - having not lost to a New Jersey opponent since 2010.
"The 18 in a row is sometimes hard to put into words," Heilig said. "I'm just so proud of this group. We've had highs and lows this season, but to be where we are right now is exciting."
Heck's goal to open the second half was surreal. She shot the ball across her body and beat the goalie to the far side of the cage at an angle that looked impossible.
"I wasn't even planning to shoot it," Heck said. "I was about to pass it, but the last second I saw the corner of the cage and took a shot."
Heck also scored the first half's only goal six minutes in - the result of a nonstop offensive push in the first half by Eastern.
Panthers goalie Christina Zydzik was instrumental in keeping the game within reach. She even stopped a penalty shot by Mackenzie Keegan with 11:40 left in the first half. It underscored the heroics it took by Bridgewater-Raritan to stay in the game.
But really, it was never close.
"When you have that many opportunities on goal - we should have scored more," Heilig said. "But I think we still played hard. I was proud of how we played. But I give credit to Bridgewater-Raritan."
Bridgewater-Raritan 0 1 - 1
Eastern 1 1 - 2
Goals: E-Kara Heck 2; BR-Diana Lambert.
Saves: E-Cassie Kincaid 2; BR-Christina Zydzik 11.