By TOM WILLIAMS
In Ocean City High School’s last varsity game, Abbey Fenton scored 17 points, Delaney Lappin added 12, Lauren Mirsky contributed 11 points and Emma Finnegan had 10 rebounds, five blocks and seven assists in a 50-38 win over Westampton Tech at Deptford Township High School.
It was a girls basketball state semi-final on March 12th.
That was 199 days ago.
This afternoon (Sept. 28) that drought of varsity sports ended when the Raiders girls tennis team defeated Wildwood Catholic, 5-0, on the tennis courts across Atlantic Avenue from the high school. Junior Charis Holmes, senior Emily Tumelty and freshman Alexis Allegretto won singles matches. The doubles teams of Ciera Howard-Noelle Graham and Paige Brown-Zoe Bourgeois – all juniors – also won.
It marked the first of seven games scheduled for this week, the first week of competition permitted by the NJSIAA in this COVID-19 dominated 2020-21 school year. Tennis started today, all other sports on Thursday, except football, which kicks off on Friday.
Ten New Jersey schools have cancelled all fall sports, including Burlington City, Medford Tech and Westampton Tech in South Jersey. St. Augustine Prep recently announced it would not play its first two football games with Vineland and Millville. Other schools – including Lenape, Delran and Washington Township – have postponed or paused their fall sports.
Ocean City, which educates its students so far this fall with a hybrid system that has students in the building two days and studying virtually the other three days, is moving ahead with its fall sports.
The biggest change in this fall season, aside from the late start and less games, are the Ocean City opponents. The Cape-Atlantic League and West Jersey Football League have created temporary divisions based largely on geography. There will be division champions in the CAL but not in the WJFL.
The girls tennis team, coached by Samantha DiMatteo (145-65 in 11 seasons), will play only two tennis teams during the regular season that are not from Cape May County – Atlantic City and Mainland. The complete girls tennis schedule is here.
On Friday, Kelsey Mitchell (49-18-1 in three seasons) will lead the field hockey team against Holy Spirit in Absecon. Her Raiders will play their home opener on Oct. 7 against Atlantic City. All home games are scheduled to be played at Carey Stadium and the non-league schedule includes Haddonfield and Bishop Eustace. The field hockey schedule is here.
The football team will also open on Friday, hosting Absegami at Carey Stadium. Kevin Smith (42-50 in nine seasons) has a veteran team that has qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs three straight years, reaching the South Jersey final last season. The football schedule is here.
Both soccer teams will start on Saturday against Wildwood Catholic – the girls at Carey Stadium and the boys on the road. Aaron Bogushefsky (144-70-16 in 11 seasons) has a schedule that includes Cape May County teams plus Mainland, St. Augustine and Oakcrest. The boys schedule is here.
The team that might have been hurt the most by the limited schedule in the girls soccer team, defending state Group 3 champions with two of the greatest scorers in school history returning and ranked among the Top 25 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. Kelly Halliday (104-34-7 in seven seasons) stepped down as coach – she was selected New Jersey Coach of the Year in 2019 – and assistant Lisa Cuneo has taken over. These girls also play a Cape May County schedule, plus Mainland and Our Lady of Mercy, but have no opportunity to play the prestige teams in South Jersey. The girls soccer schedule is here.
The cross country teams, both two-time defending South Jersey champions, will start next Monday against Wildwood Catholic in a combined meet that finishes at Carey Stadium. Matt Purdue (109-2 in 12 seasons) will be seeking his 11th undefeated season with a schedule that includes Cape May County teams, Vineland and Mainland. Trish Henry (138-7 in 17 seasons) will be seeking a fourth straight South Jersey title with the same schedule. The boys schedule is here and the girls here.
One thing is certain – Ocean City is facing Wildwood Catholic more often in the first month of these new schedules, for example, than in the last five years.
There will be NJSIAA South Jersey champions determined in every fall sport except football. But there will be no CAL cross country meet or CAL soccer tournaments this year. The South Jersey Invitational Soccer tournaments have also been cancelled.
The Raider Diary, which includes all schedules and results for this year and nearly the last two decades, is here. Be sure to check it out regularly.
And also be sure to wear a mask, stay 6-10 feet apart and follow the other guidelines to help the country control the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and allow all the scholar-athletes to play.