Holmdel, N.J. - The Holmdel High School field hockey team is building momentum as they head into postseason play, extending its winning streak to three straight games and improve to 9-8 on the season with a 2-1 victory over Middletown North on Thursday night.
“It’s very exciting,” said Holmdel field hockey coach Melissa Murphy. “Our goal this season is to finish with a winning record. We’re on the right path towards that. We made a change in our lineup that has allowed us to attack more offensively than before.”
Holmdel took control of the matchup midway through the first half.
Leading the Holmdel offense up the field in transition, center forward Madison Yan found a wide open Bella Campillay by the cage and the sophomore knocked in her first career high school goal to put the Hornets up 1-0.
“Felt great to finish and start the game off the right way,” Campillay said. “Madison (Yan) gave me a great pass and I just needed to tip it in. I was so happy to score and celebrate with my teammates.”
The Hornets took a one-goal lead into halftime, adding to it with just under 18 minutes left to play.
Senior Natalie Grana helped extend the Hornets lead to 2-0 with 17:55 left to play, showing great effort to corral the loose ball in front of the cage.
Hoping to score double digit goals this season, Grana fires home her team-high 10th goal of the season to give Holmdel a two-goal lead.
“It’s really exciting to accomplish that goal, especially with it being my senior year,” Grana said. “I controlled the ball and took my time to take a good shot into the left corner and it went in.”
Holmdel held firm control of the game, but Middletown North didn’t go away quietly. Down two goals, they grinded out a rally attempt in the final 10 minutes of play.
Getting a corner opportunity with less than eight minutes to play, Middletown North took advantage of its chance to creep back within a goal.
Receiving a nice pass from teammate Dani Johnson off the corner, Mary Morgan slashed a bullet into the back of the cage for her fifth goal of the season, cutting the Holmdel lead to 2-1 with 7:20 to go.
Middletown North had a shot to tie things up with just over three minutes left to play, but Holmdel goalkeeper Jenin Engemal came up huge for the Hornets, with a great save on Olivia Cerbo’s laser shot on the cage, to keep Holmdel in the lead.
Engemal finished with a game-high four saves in the win.
“Jenin’s confidence has been growing every game,” Murphy said. “This is her first year playing goalie, so being towards the end of the season, her play has gotten better and better each game with playing tough teams in the Shore Conference.”
Holmdel controlled the action in the Middletown North zone for the rest of the contest, to hang on for its first nine win season since 2013.
The Hornets will have their first home state playoff game in six years on Tuesday by getting the No. 8 seed in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 2 Tournament and will host No. 9 seed Hopewell Valley.
“All of our work this season is starting to connect, and we’re finally playing the game that we’ve been trying so hard to execute,” Murphy said.
With the loss, Middletown North drops to 6-11 on the season.
Still having two games left to play before they battle Millburn in the second round of the NJSIAA North 2, Group 3 Tournament, Middletown North field hockey coach Jane Sieg feels her team can fix their little mistakes and get some momentum going into the state playoffs.
“I’m very happy with how well we played in the second half and I think that will give us a little momentum going into next week,” Sieg said. “We had a lot of good opportunities to score. We have to do a better job of capitalizing on them and putting the ball in the back of the net.”
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