Cape regains title glory, nips Tech 1-0 in D-I hockey final

Cape’s Cameron Smith jumps after she scored the only goal in Cape’s victory of Sussex Tech during the Division 1 Field Hockey Championship in Newark on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

NEWARK — It didn’t take long for Cape Henlopen High to get back on top.

One year after seeing their streak of five consecutive field hockey state titles snapped, the Vikings are champions again.

Cameron Smith’s second half goal allowed the Vikings to edge Sussex Tech 1-0 in the Division I state tournament finals on Saturday at the University of Delaware. It was the first year the tournament was broken up into two divisions.

Cape Henlopen lost in last year’s semifinals to Tower Hill which was its first instate loss since 2010. The Vikings started out this year 1-2 in their first three games with defeats to Dover and Delmar but did not drop a game the rest of the way.

Coach Kate Austin said those two early defeats help take some of the pressure off after such a dominant six-year stretch.

Cape’s Victoria Lockwood watches the ball pass Sussex Tech’s goalie Grace Lee during the Division 1 Field Hockey Championship in Newark on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“You learn to celebrate everything,” Austin said. “It’s easy when you’re used to winning to only celebrate a state championship. We got them to the point where they celebrate every goal or every time you take the ball from somebody. It’s O.K. to celebrate because it’s so much pressure to play hockey here.”

And the Vikings found motivation in those losses.

Austin hung a sign on the gate to Cape’s practice field with the final score of last year’s Tower Hill game on it. When the Vikings lost to Dover and Delmar she added those scores to the gate too.

CapeVsSTechFHFinals7Cape’s Alia Marshall hits passed Sussex Tech’s Erin Kay during the Division 1 Field Hockey Championship in Newark on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“Everyday they had to remember what it felt like to lose,” Austin said. “They did not want to feel that again.”

Since the loss to Delmar, the Vikings reeled off 15-straight victories. They out-scored opponents 12-0 in their three playoff games.

It was a nail-bitter in the finals though.

Cape Henlopen controlled most of the play but could not find a way by Sussex Tech goalie Grace Lee who kept the Ravens in the game with a multitude of diving saves.

Finally Smith found the back of the cage late in the second half. She controlled a loose ball after a pass into the center of the circle before turning and flicking a shot while facing away from the goal and it squirted through a sea of bodies.

Austin said she counted at least 10 clear goal scoring opportunities that were kept out by Lee or shot just wide. Smith said it was difficult not let some frustration set it but she was confident a goal would eventually come.

Cape’s Cameron Smith, left, and Sussex Tech’s Madison Parker chase the ball during the Division 1 Field Hockey Championship in Newark on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“The frustration is they were barely not going in.” Smith said. “We just had to keep the pressure up.”

“It’s tough to play like that because one shot can win or lose the game for you,” “We kept telling Cammie. to trust what we were telling her. We were showing her at halftime and every timeout what to do. She made the right move and put it in the goal.”

Sussex Tech was making its first appearance in the finals since 2010 when the Ravens defeated Tower Hill for the championship.

For Cape, it was the sixth state championship in the last seven years and the Vikings’ eighth all-time.

“It’s a great feeling because these girls have worked so hard for this,” Austin said. “It’s hard to put into words right after the game. It’s emotional because they’re such a great group.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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