Jaguars bond during preseason field hockey event in Orlando
The Jackson Memorial High School field hockey team’s trip to the KSA Events Preseason Field Hockey Invitational in Orlando, Fla., and its three-game sweep late last month have set the tone for a solid start to the season.
“It wasn’t as much about field hockey,” coach Jenna Blondina said of the late-August trip. “We played every day there, but it was [about] the bonding. I told them to go their separate ways around the park, but they stayed together as a team. That’s what they wanted to do. I didn’t tell them to do that, but I was glad to see that.”
It carried over to a 3-1 season-opening victory over Toms River High School South on Sept. 13, as Kayla Skodmin scored off a pass from defender Rianna Jackson, and the Molnar sisters, Kara and Kayla, put in goals to make it 3-0 at halftime. Morgan Novak, who started as a freshman in goal last year, made some good stops, with defensive support from Brooke Weinstein and Kelsey Leibner, before yielding a goal on a penalty strike at 49:27.
The Jaguars followed with a 6-0 victory over Brick Memorial High School, which did not get a shot on Novak with sharp efforts from defenders Courtney Saxton, Weinstein, Jackson and Leibner. Kara Molnar scored four goals, and Jackson and Skodmin each put in one goal.
“We were a little sluggish at the start and picked it up a little, and overall did well,” Blondina said.
The Jaguars were scheduled to take on Toms River High School North on Sept. 18 at home, and they travel to Lacey Township High School on Sept. 20. There was already a surprise in the young season, as Toms River North upset Southern Regional High School.
Blondina gave credit to the Florida trip, which she said put her team in the toughest four-team bracket and tested the maturity of the team led by 10 seniors.
“It was awesome,” Blondina said of the tournament experience, as all 17 girls played in every game.
It started with a 7-1 victory over New Jersey team Mountain Lakes High School, as Kayla Molnar put in three goals and Jackson fired in two.
“They all played really well that game,” Blondina said.
Then came a 10-1 blowout of Roy C. Ketcham High School of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., as Teresa Carr scored three goals, and Skodmin and Jackson each drilled home a pair. It was capped by a 3-1 victory over Huntington Beach High School (California), as Skodmin, Jackson and Jenna Mc- Donnell each scored.
In all of those games and in the Toms River South game, Jackson Memorial got off to a solid start, and Blondina feels that is vital to the team’s success.
“We need to come out fast and score first,” the coach said. “If we put up a couple of goals, it’s about defense and forcing teams to the outside of the field. That’s a big thing we were preaching, not to let teams’ offense take shots from the top of the circle.”
Blondina believes that will be the key to the many seniors who are looking to leave their mark by competing well in the Shore Conference A South Division, and by reaching the Shore Conference and state tournaments.