With Saturday’s 3-1 comeback victory over Oak Knoll, the Eastern High School field hockey team kept its amazing run alive and earned another taste of redemption in the process.
Oak Knoll was the last team to defeat Eastern. That came five years ago in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final on Nov. 21, 2010.
Since then, the Vikings have played 110 games without a loss – an unbeaten streak that ranks third all-time in the nation’s history for field hockey. The program is very familiar with that type of streak – it holds the national record of consecutive games without a loss at 153 compiled from 1999-2005.
Saturday’s win over Oak Knoll, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation by topofthecircle.com, would be an achievement that would have most teams celebrating, but not top-ranked Eastern.
“To me, it’s a win,” Eastern coach Danyle Heilig said. “It’s just another win and this is just another season and I didn’t even know that to be perfectly honest. That’s exciting and it’s exciting for the program. It’s exciting for the girls and it’s exciting for all of the girls that have been here that have helped to set that standard.”
Eastern’s national record is in jeopardy though. Watertown (Mass.) is undefeated in its last 142 games, a streak that includes 82 straight wins.
Eastern’s current run has been equally as impressive, however, and Heilig attributes it to the work ethic and abilities of her players.
“There’s so many things that go into it,” she said, “but I think the key ingredient for us is always trying to outwork our opponents. Whether it’s in practice, whether it’s in the offseason — it’s about working harder every year so that we’re always staying a step above.”
Though she’s been as humble as one could be throughout the entire streak, Heilig admitted that going this long without losing is a testament to the coaches and players that have been with the program over the years and it’s representative of the tireless work her kids have put in. She also knows the streak could end at any time, but that’s not something she worries about.
“We don’t talk about losing,” Heilig said. “I’ve never been a believer in the fact that you have to lose to learn lessons. I think it’s about taking lessons every time you step on the field, whether it’s practice or whether it’s in a game. … That’s what it’s really about: always improving. And that’s the beauty of this game is you can always get better and that’s really what we’re focused on.”
Clearview’s Chandler McFeeley has developed into one of the most prolific scorers in the state.
In only five games, the junior has scored 11 goals. That’s five more than her 2013 total and almost half of her total from last season. She’s currently tied for sixth in the state in goals and is among the top three in South Jersey.
In a Sept. 16 game against Williamstown, McFeeley tallied six goals.
“I do practice field hockey year-round with a lot of other teams and a lot of other programs,” she said. “I’ve definitely been focusing on harder shots and better technique.”
The early season rise for McFeeley has captured the attention of her coach Britney Ewan, who spoke highly of her player after a close 2-0 loss to Woodstown on Monday.
“She’s just a phenomenal player,” Ewan said. “She’s got great control, great stick skills, great poise; she sees the game from every angle you can think of. … She’s just a do-it-all kind of player.”
McFeeley has found herself to be the focal point of opposing defense that have begun double-marking the Drexel recruit according to Ewan. Instead of getting frustrated, McFeeley is thriving off the extra attention.
“I do feel pressure, but not a lot of it, no,” McFeeley said. “I’m perfectly happy with anything and how it goes. Definitely seeing the attitude on the field and all of us together, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Under the Radar
Haddonfield is making a case to break the Top 15 rankings
With a 3-2 win over Collingswood on Sept. 12 and a tie with West Deptford on Sept. 18, the Bulldawgs are 6-0-1 on the season.
At 7-0, Cumberland is ranked No. 13, aided by a five-game shutout streak. The team has allowed only two goals through its first seven games. Two of those wins have come against ranked opponents (Hammonton and Woodstown).
Daniel Spevak can be reached at email@example.com