With the magnitude of a historic state title on the line for both schools, the play of two freshmen was a testament to each program’s depth.
Cape’s Alia Marshall finished with a goal and an assist, and Ashlynn Carr notched a goal for Delmar as the two teams met for the fourth time in the past five years to determine the DIAA field hockey state champion.
But just like the previous three times (2011-13), the No. 1 Vikings (19-0) prevailed with three second-half goals to become the first team in DIAA history to win five-straight field hockey championships with a 3-1 win over No. 3 Delmar (15-2-1) at Fred P. Rullo Stadium at the University of Delaware on Saturday
“They made history,” Cape head coach Kate Austin said. “No team has ever won five in a row, and this group deserves it. They’ve just worked so hard, and I couldn’t be more proud of the effort they put out. They’ll go down for that.”
Cape continued its dominance of Delaware field hockey, winning its 86th straight game against in-state opponents, along with extending its unbeaten streak against all opponents to 73.
But it wasn’t just the seniors that made the difference for Cape.
After a scoreless first half, the Vikings capitalized 30 seconds into the second frame.
Marshall flipped a shot toward Delmar goalkeeper Madison Blewitt, and senior Sydney Ostroski deflected it past the goalie for the 1-0 lead.
“The first one, I was just in shock,” Ostroski said. “Alia (Marshall) is just an amazing player. When I got a tip on it over the goalie, I really didn’t know what to do but go up and hug her.”
Delmar had wilted at home Nov. 3 when the teams met in the season finale. The Wildcats had the lead 1-0 at half 18 days ago, but allowed four goals by Cape in the second half.
The Wildcats would not go down easy this time.
“We played a full game of hockey,” head coach Jodi Hollamon said. “They executed on their corners and that was probably the difference in the game. We have a really young team, and I’m very proud of them. I say this every year, hopefully we’ll be back.”
It was a Delmar freshman’s turn to step on the stage.
Sophomore Peyton Kemp’s dodging had forced two penalty corners for Delmar in the first half.
A minute after Cape’s goal, Kemp drew another corner and they capitalized.
The Wildcats tapped it back and forth after the delivery, and Caitlyn Wink slid it over to Carr at the left post and she slammed it home to tie the game at 1.
The goal switched the play to give Delmar some time to hold possession, forcing Cape into a timeout with 15:48 left in the game.
As experienced as the Cape team is, Austin reminded them to just continue playing their game.
“Our seniors are just used to it,” Austin said. “We’ve been down. We’ve been even. They start to dig at that point.”
And as she has the entire year, Bernheimer delivered a powerful shot off the corner and Marshall, who inserts the ball, crept to the near post and deflected it to give Cape the 2-1 lead with 14:31 left in the game.
“We usually try and hit it far post on that corner, but it’s whoever gets a stick on it,” Bernheimer said.
Bernheimer got the assist, but it was a quiet day for the senior heading to Drexel. Hollamon had a coaching twist that quieted the Cape captain with sophomore Desiree Granados spying on her.
“She’s one of those players that makes everyone better,” Austin said. “Delmar actually put someone on her to shut her down today, and then we saw a freshman (Marshall) step up and really take control of the game. We’re hopeful for the future, but Tess is a big loss.”
With the 2-1 lead, Cape kept control of the ball to kill the clock, searching for the goal to put it out of reach.
The pressure built on the Wildcats’ goal, and Cape broke through again with 5:31 left in the game. Ostroski sent a pass into the circle, and senior Madison Irwin deflected it past the goalie for the 3-1 lead.
Delmar couldn’t muster the offense to get back in the game.
“The girls played with heart. They played with heart for 60 minutes. I thought there were times that we were the better team. We just didn’t finish in front of the goal cage a few times, and like true Cape fashion, they finished in front of the cage,” Hollamon said.
For Delmar, the message is clear from their coach. It’s a young team, and she couldn’t be more proud.
But they can’t keep losing to Cape.
“Look at the score,” she said to the players, “and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
As for the Vikings, a few of the seniors said how bittersweet it is to have the pressure of winning gone.
“It’s definitely a big relief,” Bernheimer said. “Every year, there’s so much pressure to expect to win, and to do it four times, it’s a really big relief.”
Ostroski, who finished with a goal and an assist, said she will miss her teammates most.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do without these girls,” Ostroski said. “They’re all my best friends, but half of them I hang out with them every day after school. We do everything together so it’s going to be a big change not being with them every day.”
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