By LESLEY GRAHAM
The Ocean City High School field hockey team defeated the visiting Mainland Mustangs 3-0 on Thursday in the semifinal round of the Southeast A playoff.
The win boosts Ocean City’s record to 11-2, while the Mustangs see their season come to a close with a record of 8-5.
Scoring for the Red Raiders were junior Racheli Levy-Smith with two goals and senior Tara McNally adding one.
Both Alexis Smallwood and Andi Helpenstine added assists on the afternoon.
The game was the third time the teams have met, the previous two meetings in the regular season both going in favor of Ocean City. Both teams were playing with a heightened sense of urgency knowing that at this point in the season it is win or go home.
The first quarter of play was evenly matched with Ocean City and Mainland fighting for control and possession.
Both teams had scoring opportunities, with Ocean City drawing a number of corners, but Mainland’s goalkeeper made some outstanding saves to keep the Mustangs knotted at zero with the Raiders.
As the second quarter of play got underway, Ocean City’s Levy-Smith was able to open up the scoring on a pass from Andi Helpenstine, giving Ocean City what would be the game winning goal with under seven minutes remaining in the half.
Adding a bit of extra insurance, McNally powered another one in for the Red Raiders with under 30 seconds to go, giving Ocean City a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
When the second half got underway, the game would remain without a score for another full quarter and most of the final quarter as well.
With two minutes remaining in the game, and the Mustangs attempting to muster all their energy for a comeback, Ocean City put the nail in the coffin with a third goal, from the stick of Levy-Smith, her second of the afternoon.
Ocean City Head Coach Kelsey Burke was happy with how her team played.
“The team was able to make adjustments mid game so that was good to see,” said Burke post game.
As the Red Raiders prepare for the championship game this Saturday, it is also the last game of the season.
“We are looking forward to Saturday. We know either way, it’s our last game of the season, so we are trying to enjoy every minute of it,” Burke said.
The Red Raiders will face Egg Harbor Township for the championship on Saturday on their home field at Carey Stadium.