A strike and a save secure state title for Cape field hockey

Wiggins and Sabbagh on opposite ends of winning story
November 12, 2023

A first-quarter strike and score by Cape senior Grace Wiggins and a final-minute save by freshman Atia Sabbagh sandwiched a furious and athletic Division I state championship field hockey game, and the Vikings emerged with a 1-0 victory. 

The reverse chip shot off a rebounded save on a corner by Smyrna’s Dru Moffett got past goalie Morgan Newcomb. Smyrna fans raised arms into the air while Vikings partisans dropped their heads like, “We don’t know how much more of this fun we can take.”

Sabbagh never wavered, or looked excited or worried.

“The entire ball had to cross the line, and it didn’t,” she said. “I knew I had gotten to it.” 

There are no replay challenges in high school field hockey, but available platform video behind the goal cage confirmed Sabbagh made the save that sent the 2023 state championship trophy onto the Fred Harvey bus and back to Cape.

“We’ve been in one-goal games and even won a state title 1-0, but never a game this close with so many great players,” said Cape coach Kate Austin. “I was hoping we would find that second goal to put some space between us and Smyrna, but it just never happened.”

What did happen was each high-scoring team only managed six shots on goal, with Cape having a 6-5 advantage on penalty corners. 

Newcomb and Smyrna’s Halle Geiger each had five saves.

Smyrna, coming off a 2-1 overtime sudden-death victory over Cape in last year’s state championship game, ran the table in the 2023 regular season, going 15-0, having beaten Cape 2-1 and Delmar 3-2. The Eagles are the only team in history to beat both Delmar and Cape in the same season.

Delmar, which lost to the Vikings 2-1 at Champions Stadium Oct. 19, beat Smyrna 6-0 in the Henlopen Conference  Championship game before rolling through the Division II state tournament, capping the title run with a 6-0 win over Newark Charter in the finals for its eighth consecutive championship. 

Cape did not allow a goal in the state tournament, outscoring three opponents 19-0. Newcomb, with support from Anna Lopez, finished the 2023 season at 17-1 with 14 shutouts.    

Corner chatter - Smyrna had a third-period goal taken off the scoreboard when the officials determined it was an illegal high shot. By rule, a shot with a backswing has to hit the 18-inch board in the back of the cage. Cape had a corner goal taken away in the fourth quarter of the 2022 state championship game. The Vikings at times played with four freshmen on the field, including Sabbagh, Ally Diehl, Emily Wells and Mairead Rishko. Cape graduates 11 seniors, including Hannah Maney (Iowa) and Grace Wiggins (Richmond). Smyrna graduates just three seniors, including Dru Moffett (Michigan) and Halle Geiger (Drexel). Austin, who notched her 200th victory as Cape’s head coach (2012-23) with a semifinal win over Milford, won her 10th state title. Cape graduate Robin Adair had won 10 state titles as head coach at Tower Hill.


Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter