It took an entire half for the Gloucester High School field hockey team to adjust to wet and rainy field conditions, but once it did, the No. 8 Lions unleashed three goals in the last 20 minutes of play to send it past No. 9 Burlington City, 3-0, on Friday in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group I tournament.
Emily Bucher led the Lions with two goals and an assist. The freshman scored the game-winner when center midfielder Jackie Leafy sent a ball into the circle and Bucher deflected it over the goalkeeper's head for the score.
Emily Reinhart added an insurance with another deflected shot off the post, and Bucher picked up the third goal when she one-timed a shot in the cage off a crossed ball.
"We dominated in the first half, but we just couldn't get it in," said Bucher. "At halftime, coach (Erin) Small got us really pumped up. She said how important it was for us to get in there and score.
"When I went back in, I made sure my feet were facing the cage when I was on pads and the middies were backing us up and keeping the ball in the circle."
This is the first year Gloucester has been bumped over to Central Jersey Group I as opposed to South Jersey. Of the 10 teams competing, the Lions have only faced one this season No. 7 Audubon which it beat on Wednesday, 5-0.
In previous years, when Gloucester played against teams in its conference twice a season, it could still say after the second time around, "We'll see them in playoffs," but not so this year.
"Traditionally, we would have been able to see Salem or even Glassboro again," said Small. "That would have been a great game (with Salem). We tied once and lost once we would have liked to have seen them again."
With the win over Burlington, Gloucester advances to play No. 1 Holy Cross on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
"It makes it a little more difficult," added Small. "We're not familiar with the teams (in Central Jersey) or the competition they faced during the season, but we're just going to try the best we can. We're coming off a good week, so I'm hoping it will give us momentum going into the next game."
Holy Cross went undefeated for most of the season until recently when it suffered its first loss to Moorestown.
"We're obviously the underdog," admitted Small. "But we like that; we don't feel the pressure as much. If we keep playing with the intensity that we have been, it should be a good game."