In a packed Champions stadium, two teams, both of whom are truly champions, took the field at 6 p.m. for the D1 vs D2 Game of the Week.
These two teams have a friendly rivalry. They are always well coached, fundamentally sound, quick and built as tough as hockey players come.
Both programs have set the bar for excellence in high school field hockey in Delaware and consistently produce players who go on to continue their academic and athletic career at the next level. Cape and Delmar field hockey are synonymous with the word Champion.
Delmar has won seven State Championships and Cape Henlopen has 10.
When these two teams meet, it is always a big night in field hockey and that proved to be true once again. Oct. 22, 2016, is the last time Cape Henlopen defeated Delmar in a regular season game until tonight.
The first quarter got off to an exciting start with both teams trading possession in the midfield. It didn’t take Cape long to draw their first penalty corner of the night with 12:08 on the clock. Devon Degregory (Salisbury University commit) inserted to Grace Wiggins (University of Richmond commit) but her shot was wide of the cage. Delmar’s Jordyn Hollamon (University of Maryland commit) took the ball down the middle of the field unassisted and found the circle at the 10:49 mark for Delmar’s first corner. Emily Bitters (Shippensburg commit) inserted Hollamon whose shot was saved by Cape’s goalkeeper Morgan Newcomb. 9:53 Delmar got another chance on a corner but DeGregory denied a pass into the circle. Delmar’s offense dominated the quarter and produced another corner at 7:18. Hollamon shot but was denied by Newcomb. We were scoreless at the end of the 1st quarter.
The second quarter was a lot of back and forth in the midfield for the first few minutes. At the 10:00 mark Delmar earned their first corner resulting in no goal as the ball deflected off a stick. Delmar had the offensive advantage for the first half of the quarter but that would shift at the 7 minute mark when Cape grabbed their first corner and scored off a pass from Grace Wiggins to Hannah Maney, who shot, and Atia Sabbaugh put her stick on it to deflect it up into the cage. Cape took the lead 1-0. Delmar would not be denied their opportunities to score. Corners at 4:29, 3:29, and 2:45 all resulted in blocked shots by Newcomb or shots that went wide. With just 45 seconds left, Cape took a corner and Devon Degregory inserted it to Grace Wiggins who dribbled right to find space and unloaded a shot with a big swing and scored to put Cape up 2-0 going into halftime.
Both teams regrouped at the half and got some much needed rest as substitutions to this point were sparse. These teams are in great condition and the starters don’t get much of a break. Cape came out with a corner at 10:50 but it did not get converted to a goal. The quarter was a stalemate with great play in the midfield by Cape’s Wiggnins and Rishko as well as Delmar’s Hollamon and Bunting. At 6:30 Delmar created another corner opportunity but Cape’s defense denied their attack. Delmar Brooke Moore, was a defensive star in this quarter and seemed to show up everywhere Cape was in the circle. Just when we thought the quarter would go by and Delmar would only have 15 minutes left to try to close the gap, Jordyn Hollamon drove to the circle and her pass just wasn’t strong enough but defender Lexi Nowakowski couldn’t create enough space and caused another corner for the Wildcats. The insert from BItters went to Hollamon, who dribbled to get open and lifted the ball for the goal to cut Cape’s lead in half as the quarter came to a close. Cape 2, Delmar 1.
Cape dominated the fourth quarter and just played with a confidence I haven’t seen from Cape yet this season. They were composed, communicating, and driven to keep the lead. Atia Sabbaugh, Lulu Rishko, and Grace Wiggins handled all the transitions from Delmar by stepping to the ball, closing passing lanes and intercepting passes. They made more work for Jordyn Hollamon and Laela Brown. When Delmar could get a breakaway, Ally Diehl worked in tandem for defensive takeaways. Cape suffered a yellow card on Atia Sabbaugh with just 35 seconds left for hitting the ball after the whistle, the first card of the night. As time ran out, that would not become a factor as the Cape Vikings emerged victorious over the Delmar Wildcats for the first time since 2016.
Cape Henlopen Reactions
Head Coach Kate Austin joked with me when I asked how it felt to come out on top over Delmar again by saying (while laughing) “it’s alright”. We made light of it, but in all seriousness, we both know what a win like that means for her and her team. “These kids don’t know what it’s like to beat a team of Delmar’s caliber because it hasn’t happened while they’ve been in the program. This has been a long time coming and is well deserved. She credits her team’s win to weeks of preparation in practice and respecting how good Delmar is. “We played with a level of confidence tonight that we haven’t had before. They weren’t scared because it’s Delmar, they respect them and their talent but played Cape hockey. We controlled the tempo and made some adjustments to the lineup like putting Ally Diehl over on the other side to match the speed of Laela Brown. She said she loves how Ally just works but doesn’t force anything, doesn’t overwork.” Next up for Cape is two regular season games and they will take things one day at time, fine tuning things and competing at a high level everyday in practice.”
Goalkeeper Morgan Newcomb knew she would be under fire from the Wildcats and I when asked about the defensive communication that we could hear from the field she said “it’s so important and we haven’t always been good at it. But we have made it a point of focus this season and we talk as much as possible and that has helped us be successful.” Newcomb ended the night with 8 saves.
There are two players of the game who’s level of play tonight changed the momentum and consistently and turned the tide in favor of the Vikings. #2 Grace Wiggins and # 20 Devon DeGregory. Wiggins scored the second goal which would prove to be enough for the win and DeGregory was lights out on defense.
Wiggins said she knew she would have to attack in the middle of the field and that having everyone drop to play defense would be the most important factor in keeping Delmar from scoring. Wiggins was “proud of the connections her team made tonight.” She made some great blocks off hard shots from Hollamon and said she’s able to defend so well because she reads their body position and can hold in between the passing lanes.” Wiggins will attend the University of Richmond next fall to play field hockey.
Devon DeGregory is the Viking’s center back and holds down the fort back there. She has one of the best block tackles I’ve seen since All State Defender Anna Stankofski was a Viking. Devon said she felt like they played patient on defense tonight and she knew exactly when to step to the player to tackle. “I know when their head is down, it’s my time to stay low and step.” She credits her midfielders and fellow defensive players with dropping back on defense so she can afford to carry the ball out and up toward midfield. She knows her teammates and trusts they will help create the double teams at the right time, making their defense so successful. DeGregory will play field hockey at Salisbury University next fall.
Delmar (11-2) The Wildcats will host Laurel Oct. 24 and Seaford Oct. 26 for their last two regular season games. The Henlopen Championship Game will be held Saturday, October 28, 2023 at Delmar with introductions at 10:15 and game time set for 10:30 am. Delmar, Southern Division Champs will take on Smyrna (Northern Division Champs) in a rematch from earlier in the season where the Eagles defeated the Wildcats 3-2.
Cape Henlopen (12-1) Next up for Cape is Sussex Tech Oct. 24 and Sussex Central Oct. 26, both home games. The Vikings will then await the tournament seeding in Division 1 to see if they can capture the title back this season.
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