When Ocean City plays its brand of field hockey, the Red Raiders are virtually unstoppable. Seneca held the Red Raiders in check throughout the first half on Wednesday in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals, but once Ocean City’s passing game started clicking in the second half, there wasn’t much the Golden Eagles could do.
The top-seeded Red Raiders got second-half goals from Nicholl Fenton, Shannon O’Reilly and Julia Herrington to wrap up a tidy, 5-0 win over No. 4 Seneca, setting up a rematch of last year’s sectional final. Cumberland, the No. 2 seed this year, took down No. 3 Hammonton, 7-1, in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“Seneca is a great team. They have skill, speed and they are very smart. They’re not like the teams we play around here, so it was a very different style, but I think we adapted really well,” Herrington said. “Our coaches said to just play our game. We needed to play our game and focus on the passing game. The second half was a lot more efficient than the first half, and we got done what we needed to.”
The Red Raiders (19-3) got on the board early, as Fenton scored in the sixth minute. But the Golden Eagles (14-6-1), who scored a 4-0 shutout over Lacey Township in the quarterfinals, played tough defense throughout the first half and goalie Sarah Hann came up with some solid saves on corners to keep Ocean City’s offense in check.
Ocean City took a 2-0 lead when Rialee Allen tapped in a rebound on a shot off the post by Herrington. Despite the lead, the Red Raiders had some kinks to work out offensively in the second half, and coach Cory Terry stressed the passing game at halftime.
“We were talking about things we needed to fix. We talked about what we had on defensive corners and what we had,” said Allen, who finished with a goal and two assists. “I thought we could have done a lot better (in the first half). We’re better off when start off with a strong passing game, and I think in the beginning we weren’t doing as well as we had hoped.”
Allen scored on a pass in from Fenton with 16:52 left in the game to give Ocean City a 3-0 lead and a little bit of breathing room, and O’Reilly made it 4-0 a few minutes later with a nifty move inside the circle. She beat a Seneca defender on the end line, dribbled in to get herself in position in front of the net, then ripped a shot to the lower left corner.
Herrington capped off the scoring with 7:54 left when she took a corner pass from Allen and blasted a shot past Hann from about 12 yards out.
“Our coach trains us to hit it as fast as we can to get the shot off. The goal is to get it on cage hard and accurate,” Herrington said.
The Red Raiders had four different goal scorers, and that has been their formula for winning all season.
“We’re a team that works together. We’re all in this together,” Herrington said. “We’re all skilled players and we all have the potential to score, which is amazing. We don’t have one person who is scoring all the goals.”
Despite being the heavily favored No. 1 seed, Allen and Herrington said the Red Raiders aren’t taking anything for granted.
“We’re nervous during every round of the playoffs, and this is the last year for a lot of us, so we’re trying to make it all the way,” Herrington said.
Ocean City is scheduled to take on Cumberland Regional on Friday at Carey Stadium at 2 p.m. for the South Jersey Group 3 championship.
“We know what to expect, but we have to come out as if we are the underdogs because you never know when a team can come out and have a good game and we can have an off game,” Allen said. “So we always strive to be our best, and we did pretty well today.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays