After winning the first six games of the season and racking up 33 goals in the process, the South Plainfield High School field hockey team has put the rest of the Greater Middlesex Conference on notice.
The defending GMCT champions had outscored opponents 33-4 in the season’s opening month prior to a 5-0 drubbing of Sayreville (1-2-1) Tuesday afternoon, with senior captains Jess Bishop and Shannon Hughes leading the offense.
The duo has combined for 41 points this season and both added to their totals against Sayreville in a game where the Tigers didn’t appear to have their best effort throughout much of the first half.
Bishop scored her 12th goal of the year and added two assists to give her eight for the season and Hughes scored once and assisted on two more goals to pad her totals to 12 and nine respectively. Having a pair of elite players like South Plainfield (7-0) does is quite a luxury for head coach Cheryl Hughes.
“These guys feel like they have a lot to prove because we lost 13 seniors and everybody was saying that there’s no way that South Plainfield is going to be good again,” Cheryl Hughes said. “And I think that stuck in Shannon and Jess’ mind and the other seniors on the team want to say to everybody that we can be as good and if not better than last year and they’re really striving to do that so far.”
The Tigers expect to get every team’s best shot this season and that includes the Metuchen Bulldogs (4-2), who’ll be the Tigers’ next opponent Thursday afternoon. Cheryl Hughes knows that her squad will have to play better than they did against Sayreville to remain unbeaten in the GMC.
“Today was just one of those days. They (Metuchen) have a lot of good players, Rachel (Gulotta) and Olivia (Volpe) especially, and they have been scoring left and right,” Cheryl Hughes said. “We know they can play and that they’re talented. So I told our guys that if they’re going to come out and sleepwalk again, we’re going to be in trouble. So they need to be in the right mentality for Thursday.”
But having Bishop and Shannon Hughes, along with the senior leadership of Emily Lubach should help the Tigers avoid another less than stellar start.
“We need to think on defense and shoot as much as possible and force the issue and eventually the shots will go in,” Lubach said. “We need to be smart in the midfield and play hard and smart on defense and do what we do.”
With two eight-goal games already in their pocket this season and three others with five or more goals, including Tuesday’s win over the Bombers, South Plainfield has what it takes to score with anyone in the state, including Metuchen’s duo of Gulotta and Volpe, who have teamed up for 18 points this year. The biggest challenge for the Tigers on Thursday is to come out and not expect a victory without putting in the work, according to Lubach.
“Every game isn’t going to be a walkthrough, we need to treat every game like it’s a championship and we need to go out and work for it every game we play,” she said.