The Cape field hockey team escaped a one-sided battle in the Division I state championship final at Rullo Stadium Nov. 18, putting away upstart Sussex Tech 1-0 on a backhanded slap shot off the stick of Cam Smith with 9 minutes left to play, in the 40th minute of the 60-minute game.
Cape carried the offensive action from the opening possession, outshooting the Ravens 21-1, with a 14-2 advantage on penalty corners.
The Ravens’ Grace Lee was credited with 16 saves. Her defensive mates protected the cage as Lee’s goalie style of attack-before-react pressures her defense to make saves.
“They were physical and didn’t worry about getting cards. I think their idea was to get a breakaway goal and beat us like that,” said Cape coach Kate Austin. “Thank God that didn’t happen.”
The state championship was the fifth for Austin in her six-year career and the first for her baby, Jackson, who was on the field after the game.
The seniors leave with three state titles, and many of them are lacrosse players who have also won another three state titles. Cape has won eight total state titles in field hockey, and since 2009, the girls of Cape have won 17 state championships, including nine in lacrosse, six in field hockey and two in Division I track and field.
“Girl power is real at Cape,” said Athletic Director Bob Cilento. “None of these journeys has been easy. I can say, having watched the teams, that they know how to compete in all kinds of games, always with the belief they will win. It really has been quite remarkable.”
Sussex Tech’s tournament journey was also remarkable. The eighth seed in the eight-team tournament, the Ravens beat the top-seeded Padua 1-0, then in the semifinals, they defeated Dover 1-0.
Coach Mia Paltrineri said, “This is a season I will never forget! My grandkids will be hearing about it one day. Hands down, I had the privilege to coach not only who I believe is the best goalie in the state, but I believe the best defense too. Mix skill and knowledge of the game with desire and passion, relentless effort (and wanting nothing more than to beat Cape) and the results say it all. I mean, 1-0 to Cape with having 20 shots on goal, wow. I’m still in shock. We snuck through 1-0 versus Padua and Dover because of our defense. I had a lot of veteran coaches send me messages, ‘Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.’ So close.”
Cape finished the overall season 16-2, while Sussex Tech closed out an 11-6-1 season.
Cape will graduate 10 seniors, while the Ravens say goodbye to six players.