Field hockey ends season early, but still remains state champions

By Josie Berger, Sports Editor

The West Essex field hockey team was eager for more competition after their 4-0 states victory against Seneca on Nov. 10 left them as North I Group II state champions. But the Knights, hoping to repeat their Tournament of Champions victory from 2016, ended their season with a loss against Eastern on Nov. 14 in the TOC semifinals.

Although their competition was abruptly ended in the semifinals of the TOC, playing against the best team in the nation, Eastern, West Essex played their hardest and proved their sense of teamwork.

Before this defeat against Eastern, a school many regard as the best field hockey team in the nation, the Knights got a foothold in the TOC bracket against Shore Regional with a 2-1 win in the quarterfinals on Nov. 12. Junior Emily Holleuffer scored both goals with assists from senior Ellie Decker. Junior Tara Smith, one of the team’s goalies, saved a total of nine shots, including two in the final minute. Smith, who has been a starter on varsity since freshman year, said the Knights’ chemistry was in perfect sync for that game.

“Our team played really well and I think we really came together as a unit in order to beat Shore,” Smith said. “Our coach made it easy for us to feel comfortable on the field and allowed us to make into the next round.”

The team had an extremely successful season, which stemmed from their work ethic, but also a sense of camraderie among the athletes. Many seniors from last year graduated, which necessitated a large group of underclassmen to join the team. These underclassmen were immediately welcomed and treated like family from the start.

“Being one of the youngest on a team of such great athletes and role models was an experience I will cherish forever,” freshman Cait Lutz said. “Each and every person has taught me to believe in myself and to play for each other, and that is something that will not be forgotten.”

The victory from the North I Group II championship included two noteable goals scored by freshmen Cait Lutz and Gianna Puorro. Now, the field hockey team holds a total of 18 state championships and is eager for even more. All of the athletes believe that the dynamic of the team really helped all the athletes get this far in the season. During this game played against Seneca, seniors said goodbye to their final state championship, but know that the legend of West Essex field hockey will continue to live on forever.

“This years team was truly filled with the best people with the best hearts and all of the momentum from last season will carry on because of the lessons we have learned from this season, going through a rough patch in the beginning and overcoming those challenges to win a state title!” senior captain Ellie Decker said. “Every girl on that team wants another state championship and if they believe in themselves and love each other like we did this season, then they will not only win the state championship, but the TOC as well.”