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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Hammonton hockey falls at Shawnee

Dan Russoman/THG. Kiley Kozlowski moves the ball downfield early in Hammonton’s playoff game at Shawnee.

MEDFORD—Hoping to advance to the South Jersey Group 3 championship game, Hammonton High School’s field hockey team fell short, losing a semifinal matchup 4-0 to top-seeded Shawnee on November 3.

The host Renegades took control with a pair of early goals and then used some solid defense to frustrate the Blue Devils the rest of the way, adding two third quarter scores to seal the victory.

“It hurts,” a teary-eyed Hammonton coach Kristen Silvesti said after the game.

“We’re not ready for it [the season] to be over.

“I think it doesn’t matter how good you are, when you lose at this stage of the season, it really hits you that it’s over,” she said.

The game was a rematch of a regular season matchup that saw Shawnee overcome a 1-0 deficit and hand Hammonton a 2-1 loss back in mid-October. The Blue Devils came into last week’s rematch confident that they could beat the Renegades and reach the sectional finals.

“We felt good. The girls were ready and confident,” Silvesti said.

That confidence took an early hit when Shawnee’s Angie Cooker was able to get behind the Hammonton defense and slip a slow, dribbling shot into the Blue Devils cage less than four minutes into the game.

Four minutes later, Shawnee was back on the board when Leah Bruchansky took a pass from Abby Davidson and scored to give the Renegades a 2-0 lead.

Silvesti took a quick timeout to help the Blue Devils regroup, and even though her team trailed by a pair of goals, Hammonton’s coach was confident her team could fight back.

“I really thought that even though it was 2-0 going into the half, 2-0 for a long time in the second half, I felt we had possession of the ball so much and we were playing fine, I thought we had a chance,” Silvesti said.

The break in the action renewed Hammonton, and the Blue Devils dictated the action for the remainder of the first half but were kept off the scoreboard by some solid defensive play by the Renegades.

The score stayed 2-0 until late in the third quarter, when Shawnee’s Ava Frigiola scored to put the Renegades ahead 3-0.

Hammonton continued to play spirited hockey, but Shawnee put the game away few minutes later when Cooker notched her second goal of the match.

“I wasn’t worried, even when it was 3-0, but when that fourth one went in, it kind of hit me. Time’s not on our side,” Silvesti said.

Down by four scores, the frustration and feeling that their season was coming to an end began to show on the field for Hammonton.

“They started getting frustrated and once you see that frustration on the field, you kind of know it’s not going to happen,” Silvesti said.

Hammonton goalie Angelina Catania made nine saves in the game, including one that made her the program’s all-time saves leader.

That record did little to cheer up a Blue Devils team that wasn’t used to losing as it wrapped up a strong season with a 16-4 record.

“I’m not upset. We had two championships, the CAL tourney and our division, so it was a great season for us. It is hard to swallow because we didn’t lose that much and it’s hard because that’s how you walk off the last game of the season, with a loss,” Silvesti said.

The final horn set off a big celebration for Shawnee, which advanced to the championship game against Clearview on November 7, and sparked tear-filled hugs for a disappointed Hammonton team.

The loss was especially tough for the coaches and the seniors, who had been together for four years.

“With this group, the juniors, the sophomores, the freshmen, they’ll be back next year and they’re strong, and they’re awesome, but it hurts to lose those six [seniors],” Silvesti said.

Silvesti, in her second season as Hammonton’s head coach, was an assistant coach with the varsity team for two seasons and also coached the Blue Devils seniors when they were in middle school.

“We kind of grew up together. They supported me and helped me transition. I couldn’t be more proud of how they played and where they’re going to college and what they want to do.

I’m happy. That’s why it’s so hard, it’s like they raised me. I was a kid. They’re all awesome all raised by awesome people and they’re all going to go on and do well in life,” Silvesti said.

Hammonton’s season ended with a tough loss, but after the initial shock of a season ending wore off, the Blue Devils were able to reflect back on their success.

“Absolutely, it was a great season. They played beyond expectations. The commitment, the dedication, the way they pick each other up, the way they support each other, it was amazing and I’m so proud of this team,” Silvesti said.


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