MIDDLETOWN, NJ: If one were to vote for which high school sports team in New Jersey was looking forward to competing in the upcoming fall season the most, it’s likely the Middletown South field hockey program would be among the front runners.
The Eagles were outstanding last year, finishing with an overall record of 18-4-1 and earning the NJSIAA North Group 3 Sectional title with a 1-0 triumph over Chatham. They were defeated by Warren Hills in the State Group 3 semifinal round in 2019. Clearview captured the State Group 3 crown.
“We graduated one starter and returned nine,’’ Middletown South head coach Jordan Hickman said. “I think we are definitely a contender to win the Division. We split last year with Colts Neck, our biggest competition, as always, in our Division is Colts Neck. We also played tightly last year with Freehold Township and Howell, so we will be anticipating good matchups again this year. Middletown North moved into our Division this year and as our cross-town rival, games against them are always very emotional and competitive, regardless of team success and strength, so it will be interesting to go back to playing them twice.’’
Key returning student athletes for the Eagles include Lia Simoniello (forward, senior, captain), Madi Cigolini (forward, senior), Kayla Freibott (forward, senior), Gianna Racioppi (midfield, senior, captain), Renee Lioudakis (midfield, senior, captain), Emily Salvadore (midfield, senior, captain) and Peyton Kenney (defense, junior, captain).
Promising newcomers looking to make a positive impact on the varsity level include Kylie Doyle (junior, midfield) and Makenna Blozen (forward, midfield).
“Each of the three starting forwards recorded 15-plus goals last season and 20-plus total points,’’ Hickman said. “This will be the second season as a starting unit for the three of them together, and they have shown dominance, poise and fluid play. Gianna, Renee and Emily were each selected for various post season honors including All Division, All Shore and All Group 3 teams. They are dominant in the midfield and have been playing there together for four years. They all play major roles both offensively and defensively.
“Peyton is a dangerous, talented defender with a true passion for the game. She is a leader on and off of the field. She is quick to the ball no matter where it is in the circle and is often on the winning side of a 50/50 matchup. While she is an impact player on defense, she also plays a big role in offensive corners.’’
The Eagles are scheduled to host Howell in a regular season contest on October 3.
“Team goals-come out on top in tight games, win the Division for third consecutive season, return to the North 2 Group 2 Sectional and continue to advance,’’ Hickman said. “Overall my team is experienced, confident and skilled and I think we're in a really good position to keep momentum from last year going and have a really great season.
“The girls worked extremely hard in the off season to be prepared to come in to this season ready to make impact plays, win big games and use momentum from a record-breaking season (first Sectional title since 1995) last year to drive them forward and be the best they can be every day.’’