Tiara Duffy is a defender, and through 66 minutes of field hockey she hadn’t crossed midfield a single time.
But the Cape Henlopen senior broke out of the back in overtime Tuesday, making a long run to set up Allie Yeager’s winning goal as the top-ranked Vikings once again frustrated No. 2 Delmar 2-1.
Wildcats star Booter Ellis was closing in on the ball in Delmar’s offensive end just past the halfway point of the 10-minute overtime. Duffy outraced her, gained possession and controlled it up the right side.
“Booter was about to get the ball, so I knew I had to run as fast as I could and beat her to it,” Duffy said. “People have been telling me all week that I need to carry the ball more, so I just trusted my instinct and I carried it up.”
She sprinted into Cape’s attacking end and passed to Tess Bernheimer, but Wildcats goalkeeper Tressie Windsor charged out to smother her shot. The ball rebounded to Yeager, who had missed twice previously. She didn’t miss this time, winning it with 3:30 left in overtime.
“I just knew I had to lift it,” Yeager said. “I had to redeem myself for the last two shots. So I just lifted it and hoped it went in.”
Cape (6-0-1), the two-time defending state champions, ran its in-state winning streak to 41 games. Delmar (8-1) has lost only five times in the last three seasons. All of them have been to the Vikings.
“We were better than them today, in my opinion,” Delmar coach Jodi Hollamon said. “We had the ball more in front of the circle, we had more corners, we put some pressure on them offensively that I don’t think they’ve had.
“We just didn’t take the shots at the top of the circle when we should have. And then we did not play the overtime well, at all.”
The Vikings outshot the Wildcats 11-6, but Delmar led 11-9 in penalty corners. It was a tightly played defensive game, with Duffy stopping several Wildcats chances and Delmar defender Tessa Jarvis foiling numerous Cape ventures into the circle.
The Vikings took a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute when Amanda Smith got a bouncing shot past Windsor. The Wildcats finally tied it in the 53rd minute when Ellis converted Amy Wilson’s entry on a penalty corner.
“It’s hard to go up and then have them score on you,” Cape coach Kate Windett said. “We wanted to sit back and kind of prevent a little bit more on defense. But once they got that goal, we just had to go at it again.”
Cape and Delmar have gone on to meet in the last two state championship games, with the Vikings winning 3-2 and 2-1. No one would be surprised if they square off again in the big one this year.
“If it works out, if we’re on opposite sides of the bracket, I don’t doubt it,” Windett said. “They’re such a strong team. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll see them again, and they’ll fix things and they’ll be ready for us next time.”
The Wildcats won’t be lacking motivation.
“Hopefully, even though we didn’t come out on top, I think we’ve set the tone that they might not want to play us again,” Hollamon said. “It’s always a great rivalry. It’s always a good, spirited field hockey game. It just stinks to come out on the bad end every time.”