Twin sisters Eleanor Ragan (left) and Colleen Ragan have been the backbone of an undefeated St. Rose of Belmar field hockey team.
Twin sisters Eleanor Ragan (left) and Colleen Ragan have been the backbone of an undefeated St. Rose of Belmar field hockey team.

When Danielle Bauter had to sit out this season as field hockey coach in St. Rose High School, Belmar, due to maternity leave, she contacted former player Emily DeFalco to watch the store in her absence.

The way things have gone in the season’s first month, Bauter could not have made a better choice.

The Purple Roses carry a 9-0 record into their Sep. 30 contest with Donovan Catholic, Toms River, and have outscored their opponents 38-2. They have recorded six straight shutouts and have seven for the season.

But DeFalco is keeping a level head about things.

“I’m taking it one game at a time,” she said. “I don’t know if we can beat teams like (Shore Conference powers) Shore, or Point Pleasant Boro, or Wall. But I also wasn’t sure if we were able to beat Freehold Township and Middletown North, but we did. It’s one of those things where we just take it one step at a time and keep growing.”

DeFalco played for the Purple Roses from 2015-17 before graduating in 2018 and playing at Kean University. Bauter, who has built St. Rose into a winning program, was Emily’s coach during her senior year. When DeFalco heard about the maternity leave, she had a suspicion her old mentor may be calling.

“I thought she would want me to help out,” DeFalco said. “When she texted (last spring) and asked if I wanted to be head coach I was like ‘Oh Geez.’ I was nervous it would be a lot for me, but it was kind of a no-brainer. I knew I wanted to do it.”

DeFalco had actually helped out a few times in years past, but coming into this season she had little knowledge of the team she was inheriting.

“I kind of just came in and took it and ran with it,” DeFalco said. “When I played at St. Rose it was almost like a family aspect; we always had a close team, it was very positive. And that was something I wanted to bring to the team as a new head coach. I feel like having good team bonding and not having any drama or problems is something that’s really good for a team dynamic. I’ve seen teams that have a lot of negative energy, and there’s never really any good outcome.”

Using a mixture of talented freshmen and experienced upperclassmen, St. Rose has formed a pretty darn good dynamic.  

Starters up front include freshman left forward Sophia Scrofine, (4 goals, 2 assists), senior center-forward/captain Cecilia Cosenza (3 goals, 8 assists), who had the winning goal in a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory against Middletown North, and senior right forward Lola Torres (5 goals).

The team’s strength is at midfield, where junior twin sisters Colleen and Ellie Ragan “give me everything – defense, offense, everything. They’re powerhouses, they kind of carry the team on their back,” said DeFalco. Colleen has 13 goals and two assists while Ellie has nine goals and 10 assists.  

Joining them at midfield is junior Meghan DeLuca (1 goal, 4 assists).

And then there is a defense that has been nearly impenetrable, having allowed a meager 16 shots – an average of 1.7 per game – on goalie Shannon White.

“Our defense is a really big part of why we win a lot,” DeFalco said. “Our goalie hasn’t had many saves because the ball hasn’t gotten to her.”

On the left side of the defensive line is senior Rachel Alesso, while freshman Bridget Gloster is in the center spot after switching positions.  

“She actually came in as an offensive player, but I saw potential with her on defense,” DeFalco said. “She was open to it and is probably one of the best defensive players I have, which is actually kind of crazy because she’s never played defense before.”

Rounding out the back line is freshman Lucy Houston, who remains in the game with Gloster if games go into overtime and the number of players on the field is reduced to seven. The sweeper is senior captain Gianna Doran.

It is a group that is confident, while also relying on faith.

“We pray before every game,” DeFalco said. “One of the teachers told me our girls always use the team as special intention for prayers. We also have a cross we keep with us that one of the girls found a few years ago, and we bring it to every game.”

For the most part, St. Rose is making its own luck with a talented cast that has quickly learned how to adapt to its new coach, and vice versa.

“As the season has gone along, I told them, ‘I have a lot of confidence in you so you should have confidence in me,’” DeFalco said. “There’s been a lot of times, especially early in the season, where they were kind of almost questioning me… But once the things I was telling them started working, they were like ‘OK, she knows what’s up.’”