EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - Emily DeMarco scored the first goal for the St. Joseph High School field hockey team when she blasted a shot past the Maple Shade goalie in the first half Friday afternoon.
The ball hit the back of the cage with a thud that echoed around the field.
The goal and its sound propelled St. Joseph to its second state final in the past three years.
DeMarco scored all of St. Joe's goals as the Wildcats defeated Maple Shade 3-1 in a state semifinal at Egg Harbor Township.
"When you hear that bang on the backboard, that gives you some kind of push that you just want more and more and more," said St. Joe coach and Emily's father John DeMarco.
St. Joe (23-1) will play Oak Knoll for the state title at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township on Sunday at 10 a.m. Oak Knoll defeated St. Joe 8-2 in the 2010 final. Emily DeMarco started as a freshman on that team.
"It's great to be going to states again," she said. "When I was a freshman, I really didn't know much about what great girls are out there. Now we know what to expect when we go (to the state final) on Sunday."
The Wildcats controlled Friday's game from the start. St. Joe outshot Maple Shade 16-2. The Wildcats had 10 corners to just four for Maple Shade.
DeMarco's first goal came on a corner with 9 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first half.
Molly Mullee passed the ball into DeMarco, who didn't use a lot of finesse on her shot. She wound up and slapped the ball as hard as she could.
"It was the perfect setup," DeMarco said. "All my hits are hard, so that's what I do on corners."
DeMarco created her second goal herself. She dribbled through several Maple Shade defenders and then backhanded the ball into the cage with 5:37 left in the first half.
"Getting up 2-0 was a huge relief," DeMarco said. "I knew if they scored we would have to fight back, but having the insurance goal was just a great thing."
St. Joe maintained possession for the majority of the game behind DeMarco and senior forward Gina Smith, who was playing her second game after being out since early October with a knee injury. Demarco's third goal (a blast from 12 yards out with 17:16 left in the game) gave the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
Maple Shade (16-5) staged a mini-rally. April Fisher scored for Maple Shade off a scramble in front of the cage with 9:05 left in the game.
But Gabby Dudo led a St. Joe defense that didn't allow another scoring chance the rest of the game.
Oak Knoll (Union County) beat Montclair Kimberley 3-2 in Friday's other semifinal. Oak Knoll (23-0) is one of the state's top programs. St. Joe wasn't quite ready to focus on Oak Knoll after Friday's win. The Wildcats wanted to soak in the Maple Shade victory.
"We know what Oak Knoll is," John DeMarco said. "But ( Friday's win) is what it's about, making it to a state final for the second time in school history."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Maple Shade 0 1 - 1
St. Joseph 2 1 - 3
Goals-DeMarco (3) SJ. Fisher MS.
Goalies-Boffo (1) SJ. Bennett (13)
Records-Maple Shade 16-5; St. Joseph 23-1.