Bulldawgs Blitz: Haddonfield rolls to fifth straight sectional championship

Haddonfield players making “five” signs to signify the team’s fifth straight sectional championship following a 6-1 win over Collingswood on Thursday. (RYAN LAWRENCE/South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Maybe it was because they were in a rush to get out to trick-or-treating. Or perhaps the adrenaline rush of playing in spring-like temperatures on the final day of October.

The reality was probably this: Haddonfield is in the midst of another stellar season and the Bulldawgs field hockey team is playing their best at just the right time. Haddonfield scored three goals in each half to roll to a 6-1 win over Collingswood in the Central Jersey Group 1 championship game on Halloween afternoon.

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It was the third meeting in 2019 between the Colonial Conference foes. Although Haddonfield won both of those, too, the results in the first two (1-0 in the season opener and 2-0 in early October) were much closer.

“I think we always have a big target and it makes us go up another level and step up for these types of games,” said senior captain Abby Marthins, who scored two goals. “We really want to go in strong and set the tone from the beginning.”

Katie Kehner celebrates a first half goal with Bridget McCormick. (RYAN LAWRENCE/South Jersey Sports Weekly)

Haddonfield is often the hunted and not the hunter because of the program’s illustrious history. When the Bulldawgs raised their trophy last week, it marked the field hockey team’s 23rd sectional championship since 1975 and fifth in a row.

“I think every single year we have a huge target on our backs, whether we’re winning or not winning, we always have a target,” said fellow senior captain Bridget McCormick, who scored on a penalty stroke. “But every single year we’re willing to step up into new positions and fill them so we can get back to where we are.”

After the celebration was over on Halloween, Haddonfield set its sights on a chance to collect the program’s 10th state championship. Only six New Jersey schools have more titles. One of those schools is Eastern Regional, which was 22.

Haddonfield head coach Lindsay Kocher, a Collingswood graduate who starred at Syracuse University, came to the Bulldawgs program after working as an assistant coach at Eastern. Upon arrival to Haddonfield in 2008, Kocher met with parents from around town and helped put a productive feeder program in place.

“The opportunity to take over the program was awesome in itself,” Kocher said. “We used to only have the middle school now we have a youth league that’s been established for quite a while there. So now they’re starting a little younger and all of the terminology they learn is what we use at this level, so by the time they’re getting to me, it’s just fine-tuning a lot of things.”

Haddonfield’s Abby Marthins looks for an open teammate and she brings the ball upfield. (RYAN LAWRENCE/South Jersey Sports Weekly)

To say that Kocher’s plan has been a success would be a gross understatement. The proof is in the school’s trophy case.

Haddonfield has won two state titles and eight sectional championships since Kocher arrived in 2008. The players that dominate her roster now were 6 and 7-year-olds learning the game in town when she took over the program.

For those players, suiting up for a high school with such rich history is an honor they don’t take lightly. Following the sectional championship win, the current seniors realized they were two wins away from a third state title in four years.

“I think we have the capability (to win states),” Marthins said. “There really is a sense of pride (here). Just wearing (the uniform) with all of the other girls on the team, I’m so proud of them and what we’ve accomplished. It just feels so good to be wearing this uniform.”

Ryan is a veteran journalist of 20 years. He’s worked at the Courier-Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Delaware County Daily Times, primarily as a sportswriter, and is currently a sports editor at Newspaper Media Group and an adjunct journalism instructor at Rowan University.
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