WILMINGTON – For the first time since 2010, there will be a new Delaware field hockey state champion.
Sparked by a pair of goals from Isabelle Pilson, Tower Hill beat the five-time reigning state champions Cape Henlopen 2-0 in a DIAA Field Hockey Tournament quarterfinal game.
The Hillers (15-1) survived the Vikings’ comeback bid to advance to Tuesday’s semifinal game against Padua at the University of Delaware’s Rullo Stadium. In the other semifinal game, Polytech, an upset winner over Caravel, faces Delmar. Tower Hill is vying for its first field hockey state title since 2008.
Saturday’s quarterfinal game lived up to the hype. Tower Hill (14-1) and Cape Henlopen (13-2) entered the game undefeated against Delaware opponents this season.
Tower Hill coach Robin Adair wasn’t surprised to see Pilson step up and deliver. It continued a season-long trend for the junior forward.
“She’s been amazing,” Adair said. “She’s a good, solid player. She hustles everywhere and her skills are tremendous. She’s a great player.”
Tower Hill led 1-0 at half, but Adair told her team the lone goal wasn’t going to be enough against the Vikings. Tower Hill was certainly challenged by Cape Henlopen’s attack in the second half, facing plenty of pressure. The Vikings (13-3) had plenty of opportunities during the second half. In the last 14 minutes of the game, Cape Henlopen had seven corners, including four in a three-minute stretch as they trailed by a goal.
The Hillers’ defense held strong, though, and turned one of the Vikings’ corners into a counter attack that culminated in a Tower Hill penalty stroke with 10:04 left. But Cape Henlopen’s junior goalkeeper Lori Ferguson delivered a huge save with her blocker to keep the Vikings down only one goal.
Vikings coach Kate Austin thought Ferguson’s save would spur her teammates to connect on an equalizer. Then Hillers junior Natalie Hobbs using an aerial dribble along the goal line to get past Cape Henlopen defenders before eventually finding Pilson in front of the net. Pilson had her stick ready and didn’t miss, giving Tower Hill the 2-0 lead with 9:39 to go in the game.
“We were trying to keep them out of our defensive zone and get another one and just stay up,” Pilson said. “We knew that we had one and if we could keep the energy up we could get another and just try to stop them.
“I think we were nervous in the beginning and once we got that first goal, we could settle in and start connecting passes.”
The two teams’ similar style of play kept the game close. Ferguson tallied three saves for the Vikings while Hillers goalkeeper Emerson McCauley stopped four shots.
“It’s unfortunate this was a quarterfinal game,” Austin said. “This easily could have been a final. I think that’s why it’s tougher because we lost a lot earlier than people expected. But I think that’s why it was good. We had two seniors on the field so the future is bright. It’s unfortunate they had to lose, but it’s OK to lose to Tower Hill.”
Tower Hill controlled the possession for much of the first half, especially in the final 20 minutes. The Hillers finally capitalized off a corner with 6:26 remaining in the first half. Pilson controlled Taylor Stenz’s pass and fired a rocket through the Vikings’ defenders for a 1-0 lead.
“It was a great pass, really smooth and we’ve been working on getting those in and we did,” Pilson said. “We executed so that was good. I was just trying to stop the ball and get it off as fast as possible.”
Contact Meghan Montemurro at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @M_Montemurro.