CLARK – It was an all too familiar setting on the Nolan Field turf at Arthur L. Johnson High School on Wednesday as Shore Regional (21-4) and Newton (18-2-2) battled in the NJSIAA Group I state semifinals for the second consecutive season.
And it was Shore Regional defeating Newton 5-1 as result of a pair of timely first half goals by Julianne Hurley.
“This win is really exciting for all of us,” Hurley said. “Last year we only won by two goals (a 2-0 final), and it was nice to come out here and really show what we can do when we play a complete game.”
Hurley opened the scoring in the fourth minute, collecting a crossing pass from sophomore Abby Kopec near the far post and pushing it past Newton keeper Katie O’Brien – who made nine saves – for an early lead.
The Blue Devils advantage was short-lived as Newton’s Emily Weiss knotted the contest at 1-1 less than a minute later, pulling the ball from a scrum in front of the cage and poking it past Shore goalie Sarah Dwyer.
“Newton called a time out after the game was tied and I talked to the girls about settling down,” second-year Shore coach Kelly Koenig said. “Settling down and playing good, calculated, aggressive hockey was the key for us. But I think the game was getting to our girls early, and they were getting too high, and sometimes, especially defensively, that can be damaging.”
Koenig’s stoppage-time missive was an effective one, as the Blue Devils defense held Newton off the board, while the attack sprang into action.
An Annie Deusch rip from the top of the circle deflected off a stick in front and high over O’Brien’s blocker to put Shore back on top 2-1 in the 21st minute, before Deusch fired a low-riding rocket off a penalty-corner set play to the far post for a Hurley deflection goal, her second of the night, and what’s more, a two-goal lead to take into the half.
“It was a bit of a relief for us to build that lead up after they came down and scored,” said Deusch, who will play for Monmouth University next fall. “But we came out of that timeout fired up and focused, and we needed to play that way to finish this game off.”
Newton came out of the half firing, testing the Blue Devils’ Dwyer, who stood strong making seven of her nine saves in the second half.
“I think Sarah was proactive in the way she was taking those second half shots,” Koenig said of her Boston College commit. “She was redirecting the ball, clearing the ball, stepping up in front of the play, and directing her defenders. But what helped her most is that she was calm and poised.”
Shore turned its defense into offense as Deusch notched her second of the night in the 44th minute, before Jessica Welch delivered another in the 58th minute to cap the 5-1 victory and send her club into Saturday’s Group I State Final at 10 a.m. against Haddonfield.
“We’re pretty confident moving forward,” the Stanford University-bound Welch said. “But we can’t go into it overconfident. We believe in our team, we believe in one another, and we’ve worked hard to get to this point.”
Following the final seconds of this match, Newton coach Lisa Bechtel had nothing but praise for her team and its efforts.
“I don’t think the score of this game represents how well our girls played,” Bechtel said. “They were resilient and persistent, and this was truly a great group of girls who faced some challenges this year tob get to this point. Overall, they were united, and I think we gave Shore a good game tonight.”
Chris Rotolo: firstname.lastname@example.org