SPHS “Tiger Trio” Erases Early Deficit to Fire South Plainfield Past East Brunswick 6-2

Credits: Mak Ojutiku
Credits: Mak Ojutiku
Credits: Mak Ojutiku
Credits: Mak Ojutiku

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Every team, at some point in the season or another, has to fight through a tough situation. The South Plainfield High School field hockey team found themselves in a few of those situations today in the second game of their season, against East Brunswick High School.

In the recent past, the Tigers haven’t responded well when their opponent gets the opening goal of the game. Today though, they most certainly did.  Despite a game opponent and the sweltering heat, the Tigers’ offense fought through an early deficit, and gave the team a 6-2 away victory over the East Brunswick Bears.

The win was the first time the Tigers won after conceding the first goal of a game since Melissa Szeliga began coaching the team three years ago.

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“Our team motto this year is rise up,” said Szeliga. “I think (the team) just took that and rose above everything that happened today.”

The game started off rocky for South Plainfield, as East Brunswick’s Amy Fakhri picked up the first goal of the contest just one minute and 45 seconds into the first half. South Plainfield responded quickly though.

The Tiger Trio, which consists of forwards Caity Hughes, Nicole Zultowski, and Angela Sanchez, went on the attack immediately after their concession. 

Five minutes after the Bears’ goal, Zultowski weaved through East Brunswick’s defense and delivered the ball to Hughes who buried the tying goal. With 11 minutes left in the half, midfielder Mary McNeil picked up a go-ahead goal.

The Bears notched an equalizer at the 18-minute mark in the second half, but the Tigers once again reacted quickly when Sanchez scored off a pass from Hughes just moments later.

The Tiger Trio finished the game with three goals and two assists, with Hughes notching two goals and one assist on her own. In the last eight minutes of the game the Tigers tacked on three more goals.

Szeliga said she was impressed by the play of her forwards and of midfielder Ashley Veliz, who she praised for her ability to move the ball up the field offensively. She also noted the diversity in the Tigers attack, as four of her players found the back of the net.

“Their passing game was beautiful especially in the second half,” Szeliga said. “I think that’s what's really going to be a big force for us.”

After the game, the coach said that getting back into games where their opponent scores first has been one of the biggest hurdles for her team in the past few years. She said it felt great to see her team overcome that issue today.

“We made it to the GMC finals twice, and when (the opponent) scored first we kind of sat back and didn’t know what to do,” Szeliga said. “Being able to see that they can do that this early in the season, and rise above that and come back and score again, and then score often like they did in the last part of the game gives us good hopes going forward with the rest of the season.”

The Tigers next game is Tuesday away at Metuchen High School.

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