Although their playoff run came to an end Saturday afternoon, the Timber Creek Regional High School field hockey team was able to leave the field with their heads held high, knowing they raised the bar for the program.
A program that had struggled to get wins for so many years had finally captured that elusive playoff win three days earlier, with a 4-1 triumph over Pinelands. It was that victory, along with a season of growth, that gives the Chargers such a bright outlook in the seasons that follow.
“Obviously, any win is a great win, but the girls just came into this game super-confident in themselves,” said Timber Creek coach Jackie Massara. “They have improved so much from the beginning of the preseason to where we are now, and they have so much heart. That’s something you just can’t teach, and I am glad they found that on their own.”
One of the game’s biggest performers was sophomore Nichole Melchiorre, who figures to be one of the centerpieces of the team in coming seasons. Melchiorre had just three goals during the regular season, but fired two goals into the back of the cage in helping the Chargers to the playoff victory.
Rather than bask in her breakout performance, Melchiorre instead was thrilled about how much the win meant to the seniors who had taught her so much.
“It’s really cool for the seniors because I know they are excited that TC won their first playoff game,” said Melchiorre, who credited both of her goals to the passing of senior Jessie Kinzler. “There are so many seniors on the team and it was revenge after losing to (Pinelands) 4-3 last year.”
Massara is used to seeing that type of team-first mentality from Melchiorre, whom she said is mature well beyond her years.
“Nicole started right off the bat as a freshman,” Massara said. “Even though she is young she is just such a great leader on the field and off the field. She is a great role model, even for the older kids. She’s very vocal on the field and very knowledgeable. She’s a playmaker and just has the package.”
Melchiorre is just one of several underclassmen who got vital playing time this season for the Chargers.
“I have a lot of young players out there who are developing into leaders even though they may not realize it now,” Massara said.
Timber Creek still finished the season under .500 and has a long way to go in terms of becoming a winning program, but the playoff win last week is a big step in the right direction. If the Chargers can take that momentum into the offseason and continue to develop, it may not belong before the field hockey program starts garnering some attention.
“It’s great getting ourselves out there so people can see and recognize who we are,” said Massara.
Melchiorre is excited about what the future will hold, even if she didn’t want this season to end.
“It has been so much fun,” said Melchiorre. “I have two more years to look forward to, but this season has just been really good. Being young, I know I still have a lot more to learn.”