Peyton Kemp took a long look at the Rullo Stadium scoreboard.
The game was over and Delmar had lost. But Kemp and her teammates were determined to return to the DIAA State Field Hockey Championship.
A year later, the Wildcats’ determination paid off.
On Nov. 18, Kemp and Delmar defeated fourth seed Tower Hill 3-0 for the Wildcats’ first state title. In doing so, Delmar ended the five-year reign of Cape Henlopen, the team that vanquished the Wildcats a year earlier.
Delmar, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, went 14-1 in the regular season, during which Kemp tallied 22 goals and nine assists. Then, in Delmar’s first two playoff games, Kemp scored five goals, including a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Lake Forest.
For her play this season, Kemp was named the state’s field hockey Player of the Year by the Delaware Field Hockey Coaches Association.
“My freshman and sophomore year, I definitely was lacking the heart a little bit, but then I picked it up,” Kemp said. “The field hockey team acted as a family, and we definitely clicked this year and we were able to do everything throughout the summer together with everyone, so it was really good to know that those girls were like my sisters and that had my back the whole time.”
Kemp believes her best performance of the year came against the Hillers with everything on the line.
“I feel like I stepped up a lot, the intensity, the aggressiveness, because we were laid back the first ten minutes and then we definitely picked it up after I scored the first one,” Kemp said. “We just knew what we had to do.”
Tower Hill entered the game having outscored opponents 11-0 in the first three rounds of the tournament.
But in the seventh minute, Kemp ended the Hillers shutout streak by beating the goalie with a reverse strike. Kemp assisted on the Wildcats’ two other goals.
Tower Hill coach Robin Adair said Kemp’s stick work and on-field vision stand out.
“She controls the ball well, she sees the field, she can look one way and then the other,” Adair said. “She’s got all the tools. She’s an extremely skilled player.”
Kemp took up the sport after an aunt gave her a stick as a gift. When she arrived at Delmar as an eighth-grader in 2013, she tallied five goals and one assist. She scored 14 goals in each of her next two seasons.
“She’s turned into a player that not only can score, but a player that can pass, that can play defense very well, that can distribute, as well as being a leader on and off the field,” Wildcats head coach Jodi Hollamon said.
Kemp cites former teammate Booter Ellis as a role model. Ellis is now a sophomore playing at William & Mary.
Kemp, too, hopes to be a role model. She helps coach the Delmar Middle School indoor field hockey team. Hollamon was happy to see Kemp passing on her knowledge to the next generation of Delmar players. Among her proteges is her younger sister, Mya. The freshman plays midfield for the Tigers and scored three goals this season.
Peyton, who has played field hockey for the Shore Byrds travel team, also played softball for Delmar in the spring along with Mya.
“We definitely enjoy playing with each other,” Peyton said. “We play with each other on travel too. It’s never been a rivalry at all.”
Kemp carries a 4.2 GPA. She favors math and is taking statistics and trigonometry classes. While she hasn’t chosen a college just yet, Kemp said she is looking at both the University of Delaware and St. Joseph’s University. She hopes to study elementary education.
Hollamon believes Kemp’s style of play will translate well to the next level.
“She’s already to the point, skill-wise, that she’d be able to excel at the college level,” she said. “Certain things that Division I, Division II or Division III programs would bring to her would be getting stronger, and I think she can do that and be a great college hockey player.”
But for now, Kemp, along with her teammates, have to learn what it’s like to be defending state champions.
“We’re definitely going to have the pressure to keep winning for the following years,” she said. “We’re going to keep cheering everybody on, keep the family close among us girls.”