By LESLEY GRAHAM
The Ocean City High School field hockey team suffered a 7-2 loss Saturday morning to undefeated West Essex.
The Red Raiders are now 3-2 on the year, while West Essex is 5-0.
Olivia Vanesko, a sophomore for Ocean City, scored both goals on the afternoon, with each tally coming in the second half.
Ocean City got off to a sluggish start, spending most of the first half of the game in the defensive end. Thanks to some quality defensive work by Grace Burke, Morgan Pizagno and Sophia Ruh, the Red Raiders were able to hold the Knights of West Essex to three goals. Ocean City trailed 3-0 at the half.
As the Red Raiders started to settle in during the second half of play, their offensive opportunities began to surface. With under five minutes of play, Vanesko found the back of the net for her first tally to cut West Essex’s lead to 3-1.
West Essex was awarded a corner penalty, which allowed the Knights to regain a three-goal differential, at 4-1.
Less than four minutes later, Ocean City had a corner penalty, but was unable to finish and West Essex used quick passing and aggressive ball play to push the pace to their offensive side and find the back of the net. With under 20 minutes to play in the second half, West Essex had a solid 5-1 lead.
Ocean City was not giving up, though, and after some back and forth action in the midfield, Vanesko chipped in her second goal of the day off a pass from Morgan DeCosta.
Ocean City had once again fought its way back to only a three-goal deficit. The Red Raiders had another scoring opportunity on a corner, but the West Essex goalkeeper, senior Tara Smith, made a phenomenal kick save on what would have ordinarily been a sure goal for Ocean City.
West Essex would score two more times in the game to finish off the Red Raiders.
Ocean City Head Coach Kelsey Mitchell wanted to make sure her team knew just what could be accomplished by scheduling tough non-conference games early in the season.
“We schedule these games to be battle-tested. It’s an opportunity and a measuring stick to show what we are capable of and what we can improve on. So far, we have been doing a good job of that,” Mitchell said in a post-game interview.
“We have some really tough games early in the season, so we can work the kinks out by October and be ready for playoffs,” Mitchell continued.
The Red Raiders are back in action Monday for a 4 p.m. home contest.