Top seed Cape blanks Smyrna 2-0 in Division I field hockey quarterfinals

Cape Henlopen senior midfielder Alia Marshall, who scored the Vikings’ first goal, tries to regain possession of the ball against Smyrna’s Leila Sebastian during Thursday’s Division I state tournament field hockey quarterfinal game at Cape. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

LEWES — When Cape Henlopen High took the field against Smyrna High in Thursday’s Division I field hockey quarterfinals, the Vikings knew the Eagles’ defensive unit would be ready for their high-powered offensive attack.

And they were.

After a scoreless 20 minutes to begin the game, it took an in-game adjustment for Cape senior midfielder Alia Marshall to finally break the scoreless game on the Vikings’ way to a 2-0 shutout win in front of the home crowd.

The win earns No. 1 seeded Cape (15-1) a spot in Tuesday night’s semifinal round against No. 4 Polytech (13-3) at the University of Delaware.

Typically playing at the bottom of the circle during penalty corner attempts, Marshall was moved to the top of the circle and was able to put the ball in the back of the cage at the 8:58 mark of the first half.

“Usually I’m lined up on the lower part of the circle, so coach moved me to the top of the circle,” explained Marshall.

Cape senior midfielder Jackie Cannon brings the ball down the field against the Eagles.

“At practices we’ve been focused on just pushing the ball and getting the ball into the circle, so our forwards can work on getting a quick tip-in,” she continued. “But coach told me to drive, so as soon as it came out, I just hit it as hard as I could and hoped for the best and it went in.”

“We had been pushing everything to try to get a faster shot, but we knew that the hit is there and if we could get a fast hit off, we’d be good,” Cape coach Kate Austin explained. “That was the first hit of the game and it was just on target and right where it should be. I think it kind of put them on their heels a little bit.”

Cape’s offense finished the game with 18 penalty corners and put up 20 shots on goal, but Smyrna’s back line and goalkeeper Katie Porter held its ground prior to the Marshall goal.

Porter finished the game with 10 saves.

Cape senior attack Amanda Sponaugle dribbles the ball down field.

“We had that same struggle the first time we played them (a 2-0 win on Oct. 23), where it’s like a wall across the center of the circle that we started to break down,” Austin said. “But we’re going to see that, I think that’s the game plan that teams are going to have when we go against them.”

Ahead 1-0 at the halftime break, junior attack Cameron Smith extended Cape’s lead to 2-0 with a goal at the 20:04 mark of the second half.

“Previously in the game I had some opportunities, but I wasn’t able to do anything with them,” said Smith. “So, I just wanted to get a goal and make everything count, since that’s been our motto this week. We had the ball mostly in our offensive circle, so it was just a matter of getting the ball in the goal.”

“It’s just the fight that the forwards have,” said Austin. “Our motto this week has been ‘make it count.’ It’s just that extra effort as she’s diving into the goal, and everything the forwards were doing on that play.”

With a rematch against Polytech on the horizon, Cape expects to see a similar effort from the Panthers’ back line in Tuesday night’s semifinals.

The Vikings defeated the Panthers, 1-0, on Oct. 11, edging them 24-2 in shots and 17-0 in penalty corners.

“They were really successful, especially stopping us on defense,” Marshall said of the first meeting. “We got a lot of shots off, but we weren’t able to score as much as we would have liked to. We’re going to work on getting corners and capitalizing on those.”

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