WEST WINDSOR: Pirates erupt for state field hockey win

Kaganskiy excels in first year in goal

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   Jess Kaganskiy played goalie in lacrosse, so when her friends convinced her to come out for field hockey as a sophomore, she stuck with the position in her new sport.
   ”I never played a fall sport,” said Kaganskiy, now a senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High South. “They were looking for a new goalie and my friends kept bugging me. I said, I guess I’ll try it. I never expected that I’d love it so much.”
   Kaganskiy has given the Pirates just what they needed in her first year starting for the varsity. She had nine saves as the fourth-seeded Pirates pulled away from fifth-seeded Monroe for a 6-2 win in the first round of the North Jersey Section 2, Group IV tournament Monday.
   ”I had no idea that we would win that much,” Kaganskiy said. “It was crazy. I expected a close game. We scrimmaged them earlier in the preseason and it was pretty close.”
   A lot has changed since that preseason. Even in the last couple of games, there have been drastic changes.
   ”I think we’re working a lot better now together,” Kaganskiy said. “There’s a lot more communication, which has been a lot more beneficial for our team. We’ve changed our lineup a bit which seems to be working out for us.”
   Injuries to starters Sarah Klieger, Claire Meiers and Sarah Moxham robbed WW-P South of some offense, so head coach Christine Cabarle moved the McCormick sisters forward, Sam from center back and Katie from center mid. Sam McCormick scored three goals and Kate McCormick had a goal and two assists in the win over Monroe. The new lineup produced five goals in the second half.
   ”Our hands were kind of tied,” Cabarle said. “We were missing three starters. We weren’t creating enough offense. I moved Sam and Kate up. I have to hope they score enough goals to counteract the number of goals we give up.
   ”I like to think of it as they’ll keep the ball up there,” she added. “They do. They make everyone around them better. It’s turned it on for the three higher forwards. They’re pushed more so they’re performing better.”
   The Pirates were left with a far less experienced defense in front of Kaganskiy, but she never doubted her new-look defense that includes freshmen Keely Lyons, Courtney Skolka and Vanessa Huang, the last two of which were just called up to varsity.
   ”I don’t think about that when I’m playing,” Kaganskiy said. “With the newer girls. I guess I talk more, but it doesn’t change how I play.”
   After Monroe had tied the Pirates, 2-2, early in the second half Sharma Suchira gave the Pirates their game-winner before the McCormicks padded the lead. The defense did not allow a goal the final 20 minutes and Kaganskiy has come on strong.
   ”Jess is a senior, and it’s her first year as our starting varsity goalie,” Cabarle said. “She’s exceeded our expectations. She’s really grown into her position. It’s great to see her playing so well.”
   The Pirates are hoping to continue to play well as they travel to top-seeded Hunterdon Central today. Last year, Hunterdon knocked WW-P South out of the tournament, but today’s match will have a chance at a rematch. Cabarle is hoping the Pirates can stay within striking distance before pulling the stunner in the high stakes playoffs.
   ”We typically work well under pressure,” Kaganskiy said. “During overtime, that’s when we seem to excel. The first North game and the Hopewell game, there was so much pressure and we pulled it off. We work well under pressure. That just shows it’s possible.”
   The winner of today’s semifinal match will meet either No. 7 West Windsor-Plainsboro North, a 2-1 overtime upset winner over No. 2 East Brunswick on two Olivia Harpel goals and eight saves from Christina Hayduchok, or No. 6 Montgomery, a 3-0 upset winner over No. 3 South Brunswick behind two goals from Lizzy Finnegan, a goal from Allison Mannheimer and an assist apiece by Jill Farley and Philly Lumsden. Kiran Sunduram made six saves for the shutout. The sectional final is Tuesday.