By LESLEY GRAHAM
The Ocean City High School field hockey team lost a heartbreaker against visiting Haddonfield on Saturday, falling 3-2 in overtime.
The loss was the first for the Red Raiders this season and drops their record to 4-1, while Haddonfield improves to 5-1.
Scoring for the Red Raiders were junior Olivia Vanesko on an assist from Tara McNally and senior Nya Gilchrist on an assist from Sophia Ruh. Ocean City’s junior goalkeeper Nora Bridgeford had four saves on the day.
In what was a game full of back and forth action, with momentum swings dictating the majority of the scoring opportunities, Ocean City got on the board first in the waning seconds of the first quarter.
The Red Raiders were awarded a corner opportunity, with McNally sending the ball into the circle. As Haddonfield fought to get the ball out in front of the goal, Vanesko was able to find the back of the net, giving Ocean City a 1-0 advantage.
The next two quarters would remain scoreless, with both teams being rewarded penalty corners but outstanding defense kept the teams off the board.
As the fourth quarter got underway, Ocean City was 15 minutes away from securing a win against a tough opponent. With 7:37 remaining on the clock, Haddonfield wasn’t about to go down without a fight, finally finding the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Less than two minutes later, Ocean City answered right back on a corner opportunity, with senior captain Nya Gilchrist capitalizing on a beautiful pass from fellow senior captain Sophia Ruh. Ocean City was once again in the lead with under 6 minutes to play.
In what were a tense final five minutes of play, the Red Raiders remained calm and collected to keep the lead in their favor.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Haddonfield was awarded one last corner. With no time left, Haddonfield was able to find the back of the goal on a lofted ball up and over the goalkeeper, tying the score and sending the game into overtime.
For high school field hockey, overtime consists of a 10-minute sudden victory period where each team plays six players plus a goalie.
Ocean City won the coin toss and was able to get possession of the ball to start, getting a good look on cage, but was unable to finish. The next six minutes would be back and forth, reflective of the entire game.
As the minutes waned, Haddonfield was awarded a corner and with 3:21 remaining in overtime completed its come from behind victory.
Ocean City head coach Kelsey (Mitchell) Burke was proud of her team’s fighting effort.
“We knew were going to get a quality game out of them. They are a quality opponent, so it was a very good, high level intense game,” Burke said.
With the shortened season, it was important to Burke to schedule tougher opponents when given the opportunity.
“We schedule these games to be challenged, and that we were,” she said. “We can feel the momentum swings on the field, and obviously we would like to sustain an attack for longer possessions, but against tough teams like Haddonfield that can be harder to do.”
Burke also highlighted the play of senior captain Tara McNally with her consistent play throughout the midfield for the entire game and the play of sophomore left back Andi Helphenstine.
“Andi played beyond her years in poise and helped out the team tremendously today,” Burke said.