The Eastern Vikings field hockey program proved once again it’s the best in New Jersey, and possibly the best in the entire nation. Their 2015 season featured yet another undefeated record (27-0), a 17th consecutive state Group 4 championship and a fourth Tournament of Champions title in a row.
So it’s no surprise that Eastern is the Courier-Post Field Hockey Team of the Year. After all, the Vikings haven’t lost in 133 games, own 76 straight victories and scored 235 goals this season, which is tied for second-most in state history.
“I think there’s obviously a few factors that go into it,” Eastern coach Danyle Heilig said about the success of her program. “You obviously have to have kids that are completely committed to the program and completely committed to the sport of field hockey. You have to have very supportive parents at home. I think you have to have a good coaching staff in place that is going to continue to elevate their level of play. I think one of the best things we have in place is tradition. There is a winning feeling around here, and there is tradition that these kids want to be a part of and want to continue.”
But it’s not just the winning that is a tradition at Eastern, it’s also the way they accomplish it. Domination is a good way to describe it.
In three TOC games, the Vikings outscored their opponents 16-1 and held an 87-17 edge in shots.
The other impressive aspect of the team’s success this season was the fact that the team moved on after the nation’s all-time leading scorer and four-time Courier-Post Player of the Year Austyn Cuneo had graduated. Some believe this team might have been even better.
“This year we had a lot of goal contributors, not just a few people,” Madison Morano said. “If you look at our scorebook, it was a lot of people contributing, and I think that was very motivating for all of the girls. We weren’t just sitting back and letting a few people do their jobs. Everyone was trying to put it in, and I think that was an awesome thing this year.”
Though Nikki Santore led the state in goals (69) and assists (36) this season, this year’s version of Eastern field hockey seemed to have more abundance of talent and teamwork.
Morano pitched in 44 goals and 29 assists (both top five in the state), while the team had three other 20-plus goal scorers — Mackenzie Keegan (30), Jessica Maute (26), Alexis Pettisani (20). The team attacked from almost every angle.
“I knew what I had to do, and having everyone on this team being able to score too was a big weight off my shoulders,” Santore said. “When I had the opportunity, I knew I had to finish, and I think my teammates really helped me with that.
“I think we were more team-oriented, and we had a lot of players who did a lot of things for us. It really helped us.”
Heilig spoke highly of her players, calling them unique with how they played like college- or even professional-level athletes. They showcased pride and dedication to honing their skills. It’s a value that has been instilled at the top from Heilig and shows why Eastern is constantly a powerhouse.
“To me, it’s small details,” Heilig said. “I try as a coach to pay attention to small details because I think they have a huge impact on the larger game. I’m not someone that just watches a drill go through; I am constantly coaching and constantly yelling or encouraging change. That’s my job, and I feel like paying attention to all of that really makes a difference.”
1. Eastern 27-0 (1)
2. Ocean City 22-2 (2)
3. Haddonfield 21-2-1 (6)
4. Washington Township 17-3 (9)
5. West Deptford 21-1-1 (3)
6. Bishop Eustace 17-4 (5)
7. Cumberland 17-2-1 (10)
8. St. Joseph 19-1 (4)
9. Moorestown 14-5-1 (7)
10. Woodstown 15-4-2 (8)
11. Delsea 17-6 (11)
12. Clearview 13-4-3 (12)
13. Rancocas Valley 17-6 (13)
14. Haddon Township 17-6 (14)
15. Kingsway 13-3-3 (15)
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