Shutouts have become the norm for the West Deptford High School field hockey team this season.
Entering Wednesday’s game with Lindenwold, the Eagles had recorded 10 clean sheets on the season, including three in a row. Those results speak highly of senior goalie Dahlia VanDorick and the defense that plays in front of her. But as head coach Linda Decker is quick to point out, team defense doesn’t exist in just one area of the field.
“I think all over the field we are playing good defense,” said Decker of her 14-2 Eagles. “Everyone plays defense and everyone plays attack and that has helped us get here.”
The Eagles have overwhelmed the majority of their opponents this season, allowing more than one goal in just two games. Over its last four victories, West Deptford has outscored Gateway, Sterling, Paulsboro and Haddon Heights, a combined 27-1.
VanDorick has had few issues over the course of the last two weeks, but has also had little action. In fact, her greatest challengers can be seen on the practice field where she gets to face some of West Deptford’s lethal attackers.
“(VanDorick’s) played well,” Decker said. “Of coarse she gets tested more in practice than in games. In way that’s a good thing and in way it’s bad, because she can go a whole game without being tested and then suddenly it’s a breakaway and a shot she has to face. It’s a tough way to be a goalie.”
Decker said there is only so much that can be done on a practice field to have a goalie prepared, but that VanDorick has taken advantage of all the work she can get in.
“Preparing her for (tougher teams) is difficult because in a lot of games she gets three shots,” Decker said. “She gets a lot of hits in practice, but there is really no way to prepare her for that.”
With two weeks to go before the Group 2 playoffs begin, the Eagles appear to be playing at their best. In season’s past, West Deptford has had stretches where it struggles to put teams away, but there has been no such drama over the past two months.
“It’s been a surprise,” Decker said. “Usually I’m on the edge of the seat, but I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of success we have had.”
The only roadblock this season has been Collingswood, which owns 4-1 and 4-0 victories over West Deptford. The Panthers are undefeated in Colonial Conference play and well on their way to claiming the title. A change in the playoff groupings also means the Eagles and Panthers could run into each other in the Group 2 playoffs. Last season, Collingswood was placed in the Central Jersey bracket, but this season they were moved to South Jersey.
The Eagles have been competitive with the Panthers during stretches of the two games, but a breakdown here and there has led to the contests getting away from them. Decker said to have a chance the third time around, the team will need to play at its best for a complete game.
“If we run into them, which we probably will, depending on the seedings, I think that we need to play a 60-minute game,” she said. “I think the first meeting we played 15 minutes hard and then dropped off and the second game we didn’t play as well as we should have.”
Even though the Eagles have been unbeaten in four games since their last loss against Collingwood—with the aforementioned 27-1 goal differential—Decker knows things will be much tougher once the playoffs begin.
“They are playing very well,” she said. “We will see what happens against really good competition.”