HOLMDEL – Teagan Harmon had a pretty good idea where Point Pleasant Boro’s high-scoring Caroline DeKenipp was going with a penalty stroke with 5:36 left in the first half of the Shore Conference field hockey championship match between Shore and Point Boro.
“When we played Point (Point Boro) earlier in the season (a 2-2 tie on Oct. 6), Caroline had a stroke against me,” Harmon, a sophomore goaltender said. “I went early because I knew she was going to that post.”
DeKenipp, a junior midfielder who has 23 goals on the season shot to Harmon’s right and Harmon made the save for what turned out to be a key moment in Shore’s 2-1 win at Holmdel High School’s Bob Roggy Field. It was the second straight season Shore has defeated Point Boro in the final and its 21st SCT title overall.
“I knew she was going there (to the lower right post),” Harmon said. “I made the decision to just dive and it worked.”
Harmon, in his first full varsity season as a starter, along with senior defender Anne Kopec, organized a Shore defense that held Point Pleasant Boro (18-1-1), which had been averaging almost 6.5 goals a game scoreless until the fourth quarter. Harmon made 12 saves, including several of the point blank variety.
She, and the Shore defense, withstood major Point Boro pressure in the fourth quarter. The Panthers had eight of their 15 corners in the fourth quarter, including one with no time remaining and two in the final 18 seconds.
“Her ability to just control and navigate her defense inspired them to maybe play above their current skill set,” Shore head coach Kelly Koenig said.
Senior midfielder Maggie McCrae said Harmon makes her teammate’s job easier.
“She’s willing to do anything she can do to stop the ball from going into the net,” McCrae said. “When you have someone like that back there, it takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders, but it also makes you work harder because if she’s willing to everything she has to stop the ball from going into the net, then I can too.”
Kopec said Shore’s defense has gotten better as the season has gone along.
“Now, we really play as one unit,” Kopec said.
Shore controlled the first three periods
The Blue Devils (16-2-1) were the better team through the first three periods, especially in the first half.
They took a 1-0 lead with 3:21 remaining in the first half when senior forward Samantha Zacharczyk scored her ninth goal of the season off the first of two assists from sophomore forward Gabrielle O’Brien.
Senior forward Maddie Malfa made it 2-0 with 10:53 left in the third quarter when she fired a shot in from close range for her 26th goal of the season off a feed from O’Brien.
Shore outshot Point Boro 11-6 in the first half, and through three quarter had a 14-7 advantage in penalty corners.
Point Boro then applied sustained pressure from the start of the fourth quarter. The pressure paid off with 7:52 remaining when senior Ryanne Fishahn converted a penalty stroke for her 34th goal of the season.
Then, came the two penalty corners in the final 18 seconds.
But, Shore showed the championship poise its program has long had to withstand the pressure.
“It was terrifying, but so exciting,” Kopec said. “I’m so proud of our team.”
“The way they were able to hold strong defensively until the last second shows what this team is made of,” Koenig said. “Point (Point Boro) gave us a real true test, so credit to them for the way they played and what we were able to learn about ourselves.”
Shore 2, Point Pleasant Boro 1
Point Boro 0 0 0 1 – 1
Shore 1 0 1 0 – 2
GOALS/ASSIST: (S) Samantha Zacharczyk 11:39 first period (Gabrielle O’Brien; (S): Maddie Malta 4:07 third period (O’Brien); (PBo) Ryane Fishahn 7:08 fourth period (penalty stroke). SHOTS: Shore 14, Point Pleasant Boro 13. SAVES: (PBo) Anna Doblovsky 12, Teagan Harmon (S) 13. PENALTY CORNERS: Point Pleasant Boro 15, Shore 15.