The Ocean City High School field hockey team has sent many players into the collegiate ranks over the past two decades.
This year is a bit special because the powerful Red Raiders (6-0), ranked second in The Press Elite 11, have nine senior starters, and at least five of them will play in college next fall.
Julia Herrington, Rialee Allen, Nicholl Fenton, Alexis Paone and Phoebe Prettyman have chosen where they will continue their educations and athletic careers.
Allen will compete for La Salle University and Fenton for St. Joseph's University, both in Philadelphia. Paone will play for Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Herrington, who committed last year, will play for the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. All four schools are NCAA Division I. Prettyman will play for D-III Dickinson College, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
"It's incredible. I'm really proud of the girls to continue playing," said coach Cory Terry, a former Ocean City field hockey standout who played for Princeton University. "Their passion and drive makes them (want) to not only do well at this level but to continue in college. I'm happy that their hard work has paid off for them."
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Allen was The Press Field Hockey Player of the Year last year, and Herrington, Fenton and Paone were first-team Press All-Stars.
This year, the Red Raiders have 61 goals and have not been scored upon.
Herrington, a forward/midfielder, has eight goals this fall. The Press first reported her college commitment last year. North Carolina is 6-2 this season and ranked fifth in the nation.
Allen, who committed to La Salle in April, will receive a partial scholarship that is both athletic and academic. The forward tops the Red Raiders with 16 goals and 10 assists. She has 88 career goals and a school-record 75 career assists.
"I really liked that La Salle is in Philly, and I can see all my friends," said Allen, an 18-year-old resident of Petersburg in Upper Township. "I never felt more wanted than when I went there. The head coach (Michelle Marks Salmi) was friendly. The girls were great, and they said 'We want you to come here.' That's what did it for me."
La Salle is 3-5 this season, with four losses by one goal.
All but three of last year's starters return this fall for the Ocean City High School field …
Fenton, a midfielder, committed to St. Joseph's in July. She'll have a partial academic scholarship to start and likely will receive an athletic scholarship, too, starting next year. St. Joseph's is 5-3 this season. Fenton, a two-way player, has seven goals this fall.
"St. Joseph's is great, like its own town, and there's so much to do," said Fenton, 17, of Marmora in Upper Township. "I liked the fact that it's near home and my family can come see me play. I made a real connection with the coaches, just like the ones I have now. It's similar to Ocean City, a prestigious school and field hockey program."
Paone committed to Liberty in July and, like Fenton, will receive a partial academic scholarship initially and likely will receive an athletic scholarship starting next year. The Flames are 1-5 this year, with four losses by one goal. Paone, another two-way player, has two goals and an assist.
"It's a Christian school, and that's a huge draw for me," said Paone, 18, of Marmora. "My brother, Louis Paone, runs cross country and track there, so I've been there a few times. They have a great nursing program, and I hope to get into it. I attended a field hockey camp there in July and got to meet and play with the team. They were very nice."
The high school field hockey season begins Thursday.
Prettyman, a defender, committed to Dickinson in the spring. The Red Devils are 4-2. Prettyman has one goal for Ocean City in addition to her role on a defense that has not yet allowed a goal.
"I visited and really liked the atmosphere," said Prettyman, 17, an Ocean City resident. "It's a smaller school, and I liked their study-abroad program. I really fit in with the girls. It was everything I've been looking for."