St. Joseph High School's Emily DeMarco spent the 2012 field hockey season dodging defenders and firing her hard shot.

The strategy worked pretty well.

DeMarco led the team offensively in nearly every game as St. Joe won the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference, the South Jersey Group I title and advanced to the state Group I final. The Wildcats were 23-2 and ended up ranked seventh in The Press Elite 11.

The junior midfielder overcame double- and triple-team defenses to score an area-best 43 goals, and also added 29 assists.

DeMarco is The Press Field Hockey Player of the Year.

"It's a big honor just to be thought about for Player of the Year, since I'm only a junior," said DeMarco, a 16-year-old Hammonton resident. "I'm really happy to be chosen. There are so many other great athletes."

St. Joseph's coach is John DeMarco, Emily's father. John DeMarco has been the coach since 1996 and has led the Wildcats to their four South Jersey titles. The others were in 2003, 2005 and 2010.

"Emily is a fierce competitor and tries to do her best on and off the field," John DeMarco said. "But she says she couldn't do it without the others on the team. She understands that one person doesn't make a team, and that made me proud."

St. Joseph's season was remarkably similar to 2010 when the team also won CAL National and lost to Oak Knoll 8-2 in the state Group I championship game. DeMarco, then a freshman, was a key player as older sister Megan DeMarco led St. Joseph with 45 goals and was named The Press Female Athlete of the Fall. Megan now plays for Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

"This year is a lot like my freshman year because we made it so far," Emily DeMarco said. "I was the leader this year because we only had a few seniors. I felt I had to step up. The team did a phenomenal job. "

Emily DeMarco saved her best for big games as she scored 10 of her goals in the five state playoff games. She had a goal and two assists in the Wilccats' 3-0 win over Glassboro in the South Jersey Group I title game on Nov. 14. Two days later DeMarco scored all three goals in a 3-0 state semifinal win over Maple Shade.

St. Joseph lost to powerful Oak Knoll 7-1 in the state Group I championship game at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township on Nov. 18. DeMarco scored early in the second half.

She also scored the winning goal with under two minutes left in a 2-1 over Holy Spirit. She scored all five goals in a 5-0 win over Audubon, a team which finished 13-6-1.

"There weren't many games when she wasn't doubled or triple-teamed," John DeMarco said. "She had to overcome a lot of obstacles every game, and the other teams tried to take her out of her composure. She controlled every game and set the tempo fur us.

"The only thing she could do to avoid defenses was change positions to halback or the forward line, and move around the field. She can play every position except goalie, and did even did that from kindergarten to the fourth grade, so I think she can do that too."

Emily DeMarco gave a lot of credit to her teammates.

"The defenses didn't affect us or stop us," Emily DeMarco said. "We had 10 other strong players. A lot of it was mental. The other teams tried to get me out of mode and focus, but our other girls helped me with my game.

"When I was doubled or tripled, Ryan (Quicksill) and Grace (Petrongolo) were the other mids on either side of me, would get the ball and pass to the forward line, and we'd score. Molly Mullee, the insert on corners, would get the get the ball to me in just the right amount of time to get the shot off."

John DeMarco emphasized that he's the coach and not dad on the field.

"Just one time I'd like to scream out, 'That's my daughter!' But I have to hold that back," he said. "But she has made me so proud."

Contact Guy Gargan:

609-272-7210