South Plainfield defeats East Brunswick for GMC field hockey title

PARLIN — It’s never easy to beat a single team three times in the same season, but on Tuesday night, the South Plainfield High School field hockey team did just that, taking home the Greater Middlesex County Championship in the process. Shannon Hughes and Deirdre Machia each scored and the Tigers held off East Brunswick for a 2-1 victory, their third win against the Bears this season.

The South Plainfield victory was a sign of revenge, as the Bears won the GMCT last season after losing both regular season meetings to the Tigers. South Plainfield head coach Cheryl Hughes stressed how hard it is to beat a team three times in a single year, especially one as talented as East Brunswick.

“It’s very difficult because they get to see you and fix things that didn’t work the first time,” Cheryl Hughes. “Every time East Brunswick comes out, they are a better passing team and they’ve cleaned up their game and they know how to attack us better. We know it’s going to be a tough game against them and it’s really tough to battle them.”

Shannon Hughes got the Tigers on the board 18 minutes into the contest when she hammered home a shot right in front of the East Brunswick net. It was her 20th goal of the season. Danielle Butrico came up with the assist, her 17th of the year. Shannon Hughes was at a loss for words after the game when describing her goal.

“It was amazing. It was off of a corner and I’ll never forget it,” she said.

The Tigers went up 2-0 when Machia ripped home her marker with 23 minutes left to play. But the Bears went on the offensive, earning three consecutive corners, eventually leading to their best scoring chance of the game.

Eight minutes after South Plainfield went up two, Lauren Cram tallied her 11 th goal of the season, with the goalie heavily screened in front, cutting the lead to 2-1. The goal was the first one South Plainfield had allowed since Sept. 27, when they beat Ridge 3-2.

From there, it was just a matter of holding onto the ball and not giving East Brunswick any more chances.

“When you’re up 2-1, it can be 2-2 like that, and you get nervous that your kids aren’t going to mark up and stay with their girls, but we were yelling from the sideline ‘deny, deny, deny,’” Cheryl Hughes said. “And they did it really well, they didn’t let East Brunswick get off a clear shot. The only clear shots that they had were on corners and their goal was beautiful.”

The Tigers won both regular season meetings; by a 2-1 score on Sept. 6 and a 1-0 score 18 days later. But their goal all along was to get back to this game and beat East Brunswick for the county title.

“Ever since we lost to them last year, all we’ve wanted to do was come back and beat them this year, and we did it,” Shannon Hughes said. “It’s amazing. This was our goal from the beginning and we did it as a team.”

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