HAMMONTON - Jill DiBlasi and Brigette Alessandrini would prefer to not do post-game interviews.

The Hammonton High School girls soccer players are out of their comfort zone when standing in front of reporters asking them questions.

But on the field it's a completely different story.

DiBlasi and Alessandrini ooze with confidence between the lines - and for good reason.

DiBlasi scored the game's only goal and Alessandrini came up with one big save after another as the Blue Devils beat Holy Cross 1-0 in a South Jersey Coaches Tournament first-round game Thursday.

Hammonton, No. 8 in The Press Elite 11 and seeded eighth in the tournament, was making its first appearance in the prestigious 16-team tournament. Holy Cross is No. 10 in The Elite 11 and seeded ninth.

The Blue Devils improved to 13-1 this season, which is the second-best start in school history and the best since 1997.

"I wasn't expecting this at all," DiBlasi said. "We've come so far."

DiBlasi turned out to be all the offense Hammonton would need.

Holy Cross spent nearly the entire game in an offside trap and caught Hammonton in behind their last defender three times in the first 30 minutes of Thursday's game.

DiBlasi gained possession deep in Holy Cross territory, poked the ball past a defender and found herself in all alone on goalkeeper Alexandra Rucci.

Rucci came up with a big save but could not control the rebound.

DiBlasi regained possession and dribbled the ball across the goal line.

"It was all so fast," DiBlasi said. "I shot it right at the goalie, which is embarrassing, but I followed my shot and walked it in."

Meanwhile, Hammonton's defense has started to make a name for itself.

Lizzy Thackston and Taylor Downey play left and right fullback, respectively. Stopper Andrea Olsen and sweeper Maryann Nowlan are two of the best in the area.

Alessandrini is their biggest fan.

"I love them more than anything," the senior keeper said with a smile. "They honestly save me so many times a game."

Alessandrini turned away three blasts from within 10 yards and finished the game with 12 saves.

She doesn't hesitate to put herself in harm's way if it means coming up with a big save.

"It's nervous but as soon as they get the shot off it's total adrenaline," Alessandrini said. "If I get hurt I don't feel it until the ball is punted out."

Hammonton and Holy Cross met in the preseason with the Crusaders winning 7-1. Neither team put much stock in that result coming into Thursday's game.

"They were a good team when we scrimmaged them," Holy Cross coach Sergio Torres said. "We knew that. That was just one of those days we just kicked the ball on net and it went in. I could tell that they were a good team. Preseason is preseason. They were a good team and they showed it today."

Hammonton advances to the second round to face top-seeded Eastern. The date and time of that game have yet to be determined.

Contact John O'Kane:


Holy Cross 0 0-0

Hammonton 1 0-1

Goals-DiBlasi H.

Goalies-Rucci (5) HC; Alessandrini (12) H.

Records-Holy Cross 10-2; Hammonton 13-1.