Jaguars’ field hockey season ends in state quarterfinals



The season was just over for Jackson Memorial High School’s field hockey team after a 3-1 loss to Rancocas Valley Regional High School in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournament, which concluded one of the best seasons ever for the Jaguars at 16-5.

But coach Jenna Blondina had some more tough decisions to make.

She was putting together plans for the team’s awards dinner, which involved selecting individual award honors for the team. She sounded like it was as challenging as leading the Jaguars through a season and tournament game that surpassed the 11-9-1 showing last fall.

“We had difficulty putting the ball in the cage,” Blondina said after the loss.

Rancocas Valley did through two overtimes as well against Morgan Novak, a sophomore who notched 11 shutouts but is one of only two returning starters from the senior-laden lineup. Kayla Skodmin, another sophomore who led the team with 18 goals, is the other returning starter to the team that also qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament, losing in the second round, 4-1, to Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.

“I thought it was a great season,” Blondina said. “It started from the end of last season, when we did fundraising for our trip.”

That successful sojourn to the KSA Events Preseason Field Hockey Invitational at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., where it swept all three games in late-August, laid the foundation for Jackson Memorial’s memorable season. It included a second-place finish in Shore Conference A South, which was made possible with a great blend of scoring, defense and fine play by the midfield, highlighted by a superb passing attack. In fact, the Jaguars were in the running for the top spot until late in the season when it lost to Southern Regional High School, one of three teams that avenged early-season losses to the Jaguars down the stretch. A year earlier, Jackson Memorial finished third in A South.

“There are going to be big shoes to fill losing nine starters,” Blondina said. “I just hope a lot of the younger kids rise to the occasion. We have a talented group of sophomores we’ll have to break in.”

There will be freshmen next fall coming in from Goetz Middle School, which had a superb 15-0 season under coach Scott Levine Two reserve midfielders who saw noteworthy playing time — junior Alana Coleman and sophomore Jenny McNamara — may get increased roles.

They’ll look to help fill the huge void left by a hearty band led by midfielders Kayla Molnar, Sarah Vallee and Courtney Jablonski; forwards Teresa Carr, Lindsey Reist and Kara Molnar; and defenders Brooke Weinstein, Rianna Jackson and Kelsey Leibner.

Blondina said three of them are expected to continue playing field hockey in college, with Leibner leaning toward Fairleigh Dickinson University and Carr and Jackson looking closely at Kean University.

For now, they are savoring the rewards of a season that will be hard to match for the Allentown teams that follow.