By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

LINWOOD — The Lower Cape May field hockey team is young, but hungry to find success this season. The Caper Tigers started the season with a 1-0 win over Oakcrest, but then lost three straight games, including getting blanked 3-0 by Mainland Regional in the third week of September.

The Tigers wanted some payback on Thursday afternoon in Linwood, and sort of got it, forging a 1-1 tie with the host Mustangs after coming back from a deficit late in the second quarter and getting the better of the possession throughout the second half.

In overtime, Mainland turned on the jets but — much like Lower throughout the second half — couldn’t punch a goal in. Both teams left the field frustrated with their offensive production, but feeling good about the trajectory of their respective seasons based on the intensity with which they played.

“It was a hard fought game and we just couldn’t finish. But, considering that last time we lost to them 3-0, I’m proud of them. They played like I know they can play, we just didn’t finish today. We had opportunities and just missed. We were right there. It’s a game of inches, and those inches didn’t go in our favor today,” said Lower Cape May coach Anne Bracken. “The last time we played them I had never been more disappointed in a team, and I can say that this time we played them I have never been more proud. That will tell you how far we’ve come, and we have a couple of starters injured. One had finger surgery on Wednesday and one of our other starters is out with a fractured shin. So I’m happy with how we played (being two starters down). We had a little talk about playing for those injured players because they are dying to be out there.”

Mainland’s Madison Siglin tries to get around Lower Cape May midfielder Nora Shoffler during the teams’ 1-1 tie. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“I think we did some things really nicely, but Lower Cape May’s sticks were down the entire time and we had trouble getting around their sticks,” said first-year Mainland coach Erin O’Connell, a former Mustangs player (2013) who is taking over for longtime skipper Jill Hatz. “The heart from both teams is what got it to the score of 1-1, nobody really wanted to let up at any point.”

After a relatively uneventful first quarter, all the scoring in the game took place in the second frame. Mainland (4-5-1, 3-3-1 Cape-Atlantic League National) got on the board first when senior Grace Bean scored off a rebound of a shot by Michaela Werber with 10:40 left before halftime. The Caper Tigers (1-3-2, 1-3-2 CAL National), however, knotted the game, 1-1, with less than four minutes to go before the break when Jess Goodroe made good on the second of two straight corners, deflecting in a shot from Olivia Lewis.

Lower Cape May had plenty of chances in the second half, but a stout Mainland defense kept the Tigers off the board. The Stangs twarted a pair of corners with 2:45 left in the third quarter, and with less than a minute left in that period Goodroe sent a nice cross in to Lewis, but Lewis’ shot went just wide to the right.

It was similar theme in the fourth quarter. Early on, the Caper Tigers had three straight corners but couldn’t convert. The overtime belonged to Mainland, save for a few counterattacks, and Mustangs goalie Farley O’Brien made a huge save in a one-on-one situation with 5:09 left. Mainland benefitted from an untimed corner at the end of the overtime period, but couldn’t convert as the game ended in a draw.

Mainland seniors Emily Smith and Grace Bean talk about their team’s 1-1 tie against Lower Cape May, and what Mainland needs to focus on the rest of the season

“We did fall back a little bit (in the second half) but we started to pick up the intensity and the energy of the game,” said Mainland senior Emily Smith. “Once we all started working together a little more, we did great.”

Added Bean, “we came out with a ton of energy and we really continued that energy. We were really playing together as a team, and I think we played really well today.”

Both coaches lamented missed opportunities, but also said this was the kind of game they can build on, if for nothing else than the effort both teams put in through 70 minutes of field hockey.  

“We have to focus on finishing and getting the ball in the net,” Bracken said. “We also have to keep the positivity up. We’re a young team and it’s been a bit of a frustrating season. But we like playing Mainland, they are good and they are a nice team — they are just good competition; there’s no hooking feet or anything like that.”

Said O’Connell, “in the second half of the season, that’s when teams are starting to play their best hockey so we have to rise to that level and we have to make sure we’re also playing our best hockey.”

What’s next: Lower Cape May hosts Atlantic City on Friday at 4 p.m. Mainland hosts Atlantic City on Monday at 4 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sullyglorydays@gmail.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays