Cape nabs D-I field hockey three-peat with 2-0 shutout of Padua

Members of the Cape Henlopen field hockey team celebrate their Division I win over Padua at Sussex Academy on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

GEORGETOWN — Anna Stancofski still remembers when her team lost a heartbreaking 2-0 shutout to Tower Hill High in the quarterfinals to end her freshman campaign in 2016.

The Cape Henlopen High senior defender made sure her teammates didn’t have to feel that pain again.

Cape nabbed its third consecutive DIAA Division I field hockey state championship with a 2-0 shutout of Padua Academy on Saturday afternoon at Sussex Academy.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Stancofski said. “It just feels so good to go out with a bang. Our freshman year, we lost, and it was the worst feeling in the world and we just never wanted to feel that again. That feeling was just so bad … all we wanted to do was get another one.”

The Vikings’ Anna Stancofski celebrates with goalie Julie Heffernan.

It marked the second straight year the top-seeded Vikings (17-2) shut out Padua to clinch a title, with last year’s championship ending in a 5-0 shutout at University of Delaware’s Rullo Stadium.

This is Cape’s 10th overall field hockey title and seventh since coach Kate Austin took over the program in 2012.

Over the team’s three-year D-I reign, which started with a 1-0 title win over Sussex Tech High in 2017, Cape has posted an overall record of 50-5 with a trio of DIAA trophies. This season Cape outscored opponents 54-9 and posted 15 shutouts.

Noelle Sabbagh and Samantha Connors, both sophomores, netted the two second-half goals for the Vikings (17-2). Sabbagh’s score got the offense going and Connors provided the insurance goal.

Cape’s Noelle Sabbagh hits the ball past Padua’s Angela Taglione.

Cape edged Padua, 15-2, in penalty corner attempts while outshooting them 6-1.

“It feels great,” said Sabbagh. “I scored in last year’s title game, I scored this year, it’s just one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

Sabbagh’s goal in last year’s championship was also the first on the board for Cape, coming less than four minutes into the game.

With just a 1-0 win over second-seeded Padua in the regular season showdown on Sept. 21, the girls knew the Pandas would come out seeking revenge.

It was senior Cameron Smith who scored the lone goal, with 42 seconds remaining, in the regular season win.

This time around, the Vikings had similar issues hitting the back of the goal cage in the first half against the strong back line of Padua.

“They came out very strong,” said Connors. “Knowing they lost just 1-0 last time we played them, they came out for blood and they wanted to win … I think we underestimated them in the beginning, and they played really well today.”

“They’re a great team all-around,” said Sabbagh. “They’re really fast, very athletic, really good on defense and they just showed out today.”

While Cape controlled the time of possession for much of the first half, edging the Pandas 6-0 in corners, they struggled to finish in front of the cage when provided with scoring opportunities.

The two sides went into the break with a 0-0 deadlock and the tie wasn’t broken until Sabbagh’s goal at the 12:51 mark finally put the Vikings on the board.

Cape’s Cameron Smith hits the ball past Padua’s Grace Mercer.

Connors put the finishing touches on the title shutout with her score at the 1:37 mark.

It was Connors who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 semifinal win over Polytech High just two days prior.

At the time, the semifinal score was the sophomore’s biggest goal of her young high school career, but she says the one that cemented the team’s championship is now her biggest.

“This is definitely my biggest one,” she said. “I never thought I’d be able to do that … I was shocked. The ball was in the midfield a lot and we just got it up there and I guess I was just at the right place and it just happened; it felt great.”

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