NORTH CALDWELL, NJ – The No. 1 West Essex Knights field hockey team made a statement with a dominant, 9-0, win against No. 5 West Milford in the NJSIAA North 1, Group 2 Semifinals on Wednesday.
Five different players found the back of the cage for the Knights, who will return to the North 1, Group 2 Championship for the sixth time since 2010.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to be if your going to try to make a run for States,” said head coach Jill Cosse. “If one or two people are popping in goals, that’s pretty easy to stop to me. We’ve been talking about that and I think that was a really big deal.”
Junior Lia Sinisi opened the scoring for the Knights with her first of three goals 10:32 into the game on an assist from sophomore Julia Russo and West Essex never looked back.
The Knights hammered the ball past West Milford junior goalkeeper Megan Lamb three more times before the end of the half including two goals in the span of 1:40 from sophomore Sarah Iannuzzi and Sinisi.
With about five minutes to go, West Milford began to put pressure on the Knights, who up to that point controlled the ball in West Milford territory for the majority of play.
After a slew of saves by West Essex senior goalkeeper Paige Innarella and some key defensive plays by senior Caitlin Morrissey and sophomore Deven Aschenbach, the Knights broke out of their end and put the pressure back on West Milford qith a goal from sophomore Ashley Iannuzzi with 1:05 left in the half.
“Your defenders’ job is to keep that ball out of the cage and so it’s nice to see your defense respond like that,” Cosse said. “I don’t love being in that end of the field as a coach, however I need to see my kids perform under that kind of pressure and I thought they did a great job.”
The Knights went back to dominating the possession game in the second half, allowing West Milford few quality chances while generating plenty of their own.
Ashley Iannuzzi added her second goal of the game just over two minutes into the half and Russo would score two of her own before the 20 minute mark. Freshman Julia Vardiman and Sinisi scored the last two goals in the decisive, 9-0, win.
West Milford will host No. 2 Ramsey in the North 1, Group 2 Final at 11 a.m. on Friday and is planning for Ramsey to come in with a chip on their shoulder after last year’s, 7-1, defeat at the hands of West Essex in the North 1, Group 2 Semifinal.
“We expect them to come here and not want to lose their last game of the season,” Cosse said. “We played them last year in the semi’s and beat them on our field. I always think that when your facing someone a year later for a state title, they are going to want you a lot more than they did last year.”
Ramsey advanced to the Finals earlier on Wednesday with a, 2-0, win against Hackettstown. Both teams will be trying to use the momentum from a shutout win in the Semifinals to capture the North 1, Group 2 title.
West Essex, who already won the Essex County Tournament with a, 6-0, win against Montclair on Oct. 17, will look to earn their first Group Title since 2013 and advance to the Tournament of Champions.