First-half goals boost East Brunswick into GMCT final vs. South Plainfield

East Brunswick high school field hockey players celebrate their first goal against South Brunswick Tuesday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

East Brunswick high school field hockey players celebrate their first goal against South Brunswick Tuesday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

EAST BRUNSWICK — Scoring early in a game has been a rarity for the East Brunswick High School field hockey team this season.

On Tuesday, the Bears scored three first-half goals, dfeating South Brunswick 3-0 and securing their spot in a fifth straight Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Final.

The second-seeded Bears set up a rematch with South Plainfield in Thursday’s final, to be played at East Brunswick’s Jay Doyle Field.

The Tigers beat fourth-seeded Metuchen 4-1 Tuesday.

Meagan Costello, Taylor McNamara and Rachel Huang got the East Brunswick (15-3-1) goals in the opening half to ease the pressure and provide momentum that they hadn’t had much of in first halves this season.

“ Jumping on top quick, which has been something we haven’t done much this season, that in itself gave us the momentum we needed today. That’s how we won the game, absolutely, without a doubt,” East Brunswick head coach Cindi Todoroff said.

Costello got the game’s first goal when she took a penalty corner pass from Leah Zweig and blasted it past South Brunswick goalie Lizzy Ruedemann at the 2:20 mark.

Less than seven minutes later, McNamara took a Costello pass in the middle of the field, turned to her right and shot a low shot past Ruedemann to double the lead.

Huang added an unassisted marker at the 12:51 mark to essentially put the game out of reach heading into halftime, where Todoroff didn’t really think about a potential trip to the conference finals.

“I think we were thinking about winning the second half; if you win the second half, you’re in the GMC Finals,” she said. “But to do that, we had to play our game, which is controlled hockey and we had to not get into a bang-ball game. South Brunswick stepped up and made it very difficult for us to play our game.”

The Vikings couldn’t mount a serious threat in the second half, but it wasn’t because they didn’t have chances. South Brunswick (8-3-4) earned five corners and had at least double that number of looks in front of the East Brunswick net, but couldn’t get it past Emily Polinski, who made two saves to pitch the shutout.

East Brunswick had 12 corners and 11 shots in the game, but after scoring three quick goals, they didn’t need to do much more than run out the clock.

“Unfortunately we didn’t convert a lot of the chances that we had on corners, partly due to some miscommunication, but their goalie played phenomenal hockey again,” Todoroff said.

With victories in their last nine games and 10 of their last 11, Todoroff believes her squad is playing its best hockey of the year, with a rematch against South Plainfield on the horizon. Last season, the Tigers beat East Brunswick 2-1 for the GMCT title and South Plainfield has won both regular-season meetings in 2013.

“We just need to be sharp on Thursday,” she said. “In the first game against them, Mother Nature wasn’t our friend, because we only got to play one half due to rain and lightning, and in the second game, we weren’t our friend; we outshot and out-cornered them, but made two mistakes that they converted for goals. So, hopefully everything will be on our side and we’ll be able to come out of there with a championship.”

South Plainfield 4, Metuchen 1: Shannon Hughes finished with two goals and an assist, including a tone-setter one minute into the contest, as top-seeded South Plainfield advanced to the final.

Jessica Bishop added a goal and an assist, while Charlotte Macchia added a goal for the Tigers.

Rachel Guloyya scored a goal for fourth-seeded Metuchen.

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