After a first half of frustration, the No. 3 Rumson-Fair Haven field hockey team broke through No. 10 Freehold Township’s defense in the second half with four goals as the Bulldogs defeated the Patriots, 4-0, in a nondivisional game on Saturday afternoon.
Despite each team having four shots at halftime and Rumson-Fair Haven holding a 7-4 advantage on penalty corners, it was a scoreless game after 30 minutes.
Then, the Bulldogs (9-0) found the openings in Freehold Township’s defense.
“Obviously, Freehold Township was very successful in the first half defending us because we hardly got any shots on goal. And when we were getting shots, their goalie (Lori Brennan) was able to come up with the save or it wasn’t even getting to the goalie as their defenders were coming up with the ball,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Julie Vaccarelli said. “Our girls weren’t really doing a good job of cutting in front of the ball but in the second half, I think they picked that up and that was definitely helpful for us.”
The Bulldogs got on the board at 41:25 after a wild scramble in front of the cage. Emily Babeuf emerged from the scramble with the ball and she passed it to Lauren Melita for the shot and a 1-0 lead.
One minute and two-three seconds later, the Bulldogs made it 2-0 as Madison Maguire fired a hard shot from the top right of the circle.
“I think the girls just picked up the level of intensity in the second half. They realized what they needed to do to be successful against Freehold Township. They just started playing Rumson-Fair Haven field hockey,” Vaccarelli said. “The first few minutes of the first half, I thought we were connecting well and then it kind of just fell apart as we weren’t supporting each other off the ball. In the second half, that definitely changed and that’s when the momentum in the game completely changed as well.”
Rumson-Fair Haven built a commanding 3-0 lead at 51:18 when Abigael Donohue scored after a pass from Maggie Jennings. The Bulldogs had pelted Freehold Township’s Brennan (15 saves) with a series of shots and on the third shot in that series, the Bulldogs found the back of the cage.
“In the first half, we came out and we played hard and we played together as a team. Everything they have worked on this season they brought to today’s game and used it in the first half. It was one of the best first halves we’ve played all season,” Freehold Township interim coach Kara Gardner said.
But that stout defensive effort didn’t hold up against Rumson-Fair Haven’s relentless offensive pressure in the second half.
Overall, Rumson-Fair Haven finished with 19 shots and 13 penalty corners compared to Freehold Township’s 10 shots and six penalty corners.
“We wanted to keep the ball out of our defensive circle and use our skills to move it up the sideline,” Gardner said. “Lori is a two-year varsity starter and she is awesome. She has stepped up as a captain this year and she’s in charge of our defense.”
Rumson-Fair Haven’s final goal came with 16 seconds left as Maguire found the back of the cage again, this time from the top center of the circle to make it 4-0. Overall, Rumson-Fair Haven’s Megan Kane made four saves.
“The girls played hard to the end of the game and we still had our chances even in the final seconds to get the ball into the cage,” Gardner said.
Rumson-Fair Haven is one of four undefeated field hockey teams in the Shore Conference this season and the Bulldogs are currently in first place in the Class A Central division. Rumson-Fair Haven’s next game will be Monday at 3:45 p.m. at home against Holmdel. Freehold Township is in first place in the Shore Conference Class A North division and the Patriots will play their next game Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Colts Neck.