Coming into the 2012 season, the South Plainfield High School field hockey team told its coaching staff that they had two goals. One was to win the Greater Middlesex Conference and the other was to play in the NJSIAA North 2 Group III final.
Thanks to the spectacular play of their stars and a deep lineup, the Tigers were able to meet both of those goals, but it was the play of Shannon Hughes that stood out more than anyone’s.
The junior forward scored 23 goals and added 17 assists in helping South Plainfield to a 21-2-1 record with a GMC Tournament title and a berth in the North 2 Group III final along the way.
Hughes is the Home News Tribune Field Hockey Player of the Year.
“It’s just amazing. I love field hockey and I would do anything for this sport,” Hughes said. “It’s such an honor to be recognized like this.”
Hughes refused to take too much credit for the Tigers’ success, instead deflecting some of the credit to her teammates.
“As a team, it was amazing to be able to meet both of our preseason goals,” she said. “It was awesome to be able to do that as a team, especially with the record that we had. I honestly have no words to describe this season with this team.”
In the GMCT final, Hughes scored the Tigers’ first goal of the night, as they would go on to defeat East Brunswick 2-1. Hughes scored 20 of her 23 goals against GMC opponents this season, and when it was all said and done, she was thrilled to have won such a competitive conference.
“It meant to much to be the best team in the GMC this year,” Hughes said. “When we were going into the finals, that’s what we wanted; especially having lost in the conference finals against East Brunswick last year.”
But the Tigers weren’t done at that point, as they had only accomplished half of what they had set out to do.
After defeating Mendham in the quarterfinals of the North 2 Group III tournament, South Plainfield went into overtime against second-seeded Freehold Borough.
Just 1:35 into the extra session, Hughes scored the game-winning goal, setting off a wild celebration with her teammates and with that marker, Hughes knew that she had helped her team reach what it had ultimately set out to do.
“I’ll remember that forever and being able to do that for my team, to help deliver that win was awesome,” she said. “Winning against Freehold to get us into the sectional final was my favorite moment of this year.”
Only a junior, Hughes has one more year left to improve her game, something she said she hopes to do.
“I think there’s always room for improvement, so I’m hoping there’s still room for me to grow and be even better than this year,” Hughes said.
But whether or not she improves her game and puts up even more points next season, it won’t matter much to her because she is the consummate team player.
“I’m so proud of my team and everything that we were able to accomplish this year,” she said. “It was awesome to share all of this with them and I hope to do it again next year.”