SOUTH PLAINFIELD-- In tournament play, the name of the game is to win and survive. Although the South Plainfield High School field hockey team had a few missteps in the later stages of their Greater Middlesex Conference tournament game earlier today, the team still advanced in style.
The second-seeded Lady Tigers (12-3-2) hosted seventh-seeded South Brunswick (4-12) in the first round of the conference tournament, and the home team’s dominant offense controlled nearly every second of the first half. The Vikings found some limited success in the second half, but South Plainfield reeled in control of the game to cruise to a 5-2 victory that punched their ticket to the semifinal round.
The story of the the first half was written by South Plainfield’s offense. The Lady Tigers controlled the ball for virtually all of the the first thirty minutes to the point that the Vikings got off just one shot during that duration.
Ashley Olsen found the back of the twice during the first ten minutes of play, which helped South Plainfield take a 4-0 lead into halftime. The home team outdrew South Brunswick 5-0 in corners in the first half, and the Vikings rarely held onto the ball for more than a few seconds at a time.
South Brunswick seemed to be unperturbed by their first half shortcomings, as they managed to get an early second half goal off a shot from Carly Bansbach. Bansbach knocked in another goal for the Vikings to cut the lead to two. Jennifer Grasso tapped in a goal with five minutes left to seal the home team’s win.
“I think that it's hard to keep that kind of energy going the entire time,” Lady Tigers head coach Melissa Zurawiecki said, referring to her team’s dominant first half.
“We were making some subs and making some changes just trying to give some people some rest when they needed it and we didn't get in the groove the way that we could've in the second half. South Brunswick played their hearts out the entire time and I think keeping up with that, we got a little frazzled and unorganized but I really liked the way we finished it out.”
South Plainfield’s ball control and passing were a major factor in their win, and Lauren Zultowski was an example of that, as she finished with three assists.
“Offensively from top to bottom I think our passing game is finally getting to where we want it to be,” said Zurawiecki. “It's something we've been really working on all season, and I think we're seeing spaces and knowing each other a lot better than we did previously.”
Lynda Farinella and Kourtney Scipio also scored a goal each for South Plainfield.
With the first round game behind them, the Lady Tigers will begin their preparations for their Tuesday semifinal match against Old Bridge. The third-seeded Knights are a familiar foe for South Plainfield, as the Lady Tigers defeated Old Bridge in last year’s GMC championship match. More recently though, specifically last week, the Knights handed South Plainfield a 2-1 loss, their only conference loss of the season.
“We have a bad taste in our mouth from the last time we played them,” Zurawiecki said. “I think the girls are excited to get back onto the field with them.”