Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NJSIAA field hockey: To play or not play?

The effects of Sandy are still being felt across the Garden State as the NJSIAA scrambles to resume playing dates for its field hockey tournaments.

The NJSIAA stated on Wednesday that games are to resume on Monday, Nov. 5 or earlier if possible. Question is, with no power at a lot of high schools and no practice time, is this even feasible?

It's hard to believe that the Shore area will play anytime soon. Furthermore, playing games is the last thing on the minds of those who sustained severe devastation in that area.

Up north, we press on in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area despite the fact that many of us are still without power. I understand these games need to be played, but it doesn't seem that important given the events of the last several days.

Here are the sectional quarterfinal games involving HWS teams:

North 1, Group 2

5-High Point at 4-Ramsey

6-Wallkill Valley at 3-West Essex

7-Pope John at 2-Parsippany

North 1, Group 1

6-Belvidere at 3-Mountain Lakes

North 2, Group 4

5-Hunterdon Central at 4-West Windsor-South

North 2, Group 3

9-Ocean Township at 1-Warren Hills

North 2, Group 2

5-Johnson at 4-Voorhees

North 2, Group 1

5-South Hunterdon at 4-Keyport

Here is a tentative schedule for next week:

Quarterfinals: Groups 3 and 4 to be played by Wednesday, Nov. 7. Groups 2 and 1 by Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Semifinals: Groups 3 and 4 to be played by Wednesday, Nov. 7. Groups 1 and 2 by Thursday, Nov. 8.

Finals: All Groups to be played by Saturday, Nov. 10.

Group semifinals: Monday, Nov. 12 at the site of the North 2 higher seed or South Jersey higher seed if the field is playable. Otherwise, North 1 or Central Jersey will serve as the site.

Group finals: Wednesday, Nov. 14 at two neutral sites to be determined. Times will be 4 and 6 p.m.

Tournament of Champions semifinals: Friday, Nov. 16 at Robbinsville High School.

T-of-C final: Sunday, Nov. 18 at The College of New Jersey.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex titles by school

Here is a list of the team championships won by each school in the four-year history of the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex tournaments.

Hunterdon-Warren schools have produced a combined total of 54 titles, while Sussex has amassed 21.

Fall sports: Cheerleading; Cross country boys/girls; Field hockey; Soccer boys/girls; Girls volleyball; Girls tennis.

Winter sports: Basketball boys/girls; Bowling boys; Swimming boys/girls; Wrestling.

Spring sports: Baseball; Golf boys/girls; Track and Field boys/girls; Lacrosse boys/girls; Tennis boys; Softball.

Through the fall season:

Hunterdon Central
North Hunterdon
Pope John
High Point
Warren Hills
Delaware Valley
Sussex Tech
Wallkill Valley
Lenape Valley
North Warren
South Hunterdon

Saturday, October 27, 2012

NJSIAA field hockey: Rangers win playoff opener

Junior forward Barbara Hannan connected for a goal off a feed from junior forward Casey Pustelniak and talented senior goalkeeper Emily Stukenborg made it stand with nine saves, as No. 6 seed Wallkill Valley posted a 1-0 win over No. 11 Westwood on Saturday in the North 1, Group 2 playoffs.

Wallkill Valley (13-5-2), which has won six in a row and seven of its last eight, advances to meet No. 3 seed and defending champion West Essex, winner of a state record 30 sectional titles, in Thursday's quarterfinals. The Rangers have won nine games this season by 1-0 scores.

Stukenborg, one of the top goalies in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area, now has 12 shutouts and three straight, including Friday night's 1-0 win at High Point. Hannan has three goals -- all in the last six games.

In other action:

Jefferson 4, Newton 1 -- Lindsay Brown scored a pair of goals as No. 9 Jefferson knocked off the No. 8 seed in Newton -- avenging a 3-1 regular-season loss just three days ago -- in the North 1, Group 2 playoffs. Jefferson (11-6), which advances to meet No. 1 Lakeland in the quarters, won the first regular-season meeting, 2-1, in an NJAC Freedom Division clash. The Braves, who failed to advance at least one round in the state playoffs for the first time since 2006, finish the season 10-8.

Summit 2, Delaware Valley 1 OT2 -- Sydney Cavallero scored for the third straight game, but it wasn't enough for No. 10 seed Del Val (6-10-1) in the North 2, Group 2 playoffs.

Parsippany 5, North Warren 0 -- Krysten Mayers scored three goals as NJAC Freedom Division champion Parsippany (18-1, 13-0 division) rolled to a victory. The Patriots finish the season 3-16 overall and 2-12 in the division. Parsippany can run the table in the division with a win at home on Monday against Jefferson.

Perfect 10: Voorhees blanks High Point for HWS title

County lines aren't blurred where Voorhees High School's field hockey team is concerned. The championship road clearly still runs through Lebanon Township.

A tenacious defense, led my midfielder Tori Crans and back Michelle Gaykowski, made Sara Diacik's second-half goal stand as the Vikings rolled to their second Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex title in two years with Saturday's 1-0 win over High Point at Hackettstown's Morrison Field.

Voorhees (12-4-1) claims its 10th county title overall, having won a record eight in the former Hunterdon-Warren Tournament. The 2010 team captured the program's first HWS title in the second year of the tri-county event. Overall, the Vikes have played in 17 of a possible 28 county finals and are now 9-2-1 all-time against Sussex opponents.

Voorhees has won 10 county titles in field hockey -- two in HWS.
"I have high expectations [for this team] so they definitely met them," said second-year Voorhees coach Taylor Webb, whose team avenged a pair of losses to Warren Hills in the semifinals and a loss in last year's quarters to Wallkill Valley en route to the title game. "Our best defense is offense -- stepping into the ball and not letting people play with it."

Crans, who earned the tournament finals Most Valuable Player Award, was one of the key figures on a championship defense that helped deny High Point (16-3-1) and star midfielder Darby Smith in their return to the finals. Assigned to shadow the UConn recruit, Crans and her teammates clog the middle of the field and held Smith without a goal or an assist for only the fifth time this season. Late in the game, Smith was visibly rattled, throwing up her arms in the air in frustration on several occasions.

"We knew we'd have to play strong defense," said Crans, who was shocked by the MVP nod. "She's an amazing player and it was my main goal -- to mark and keep her away from the [cage]. We have a great team this year and this feels great."

High Point (16-3-1) sustained its second straight loss following an 11-game win streak that ended with Friday night's 1-0 loss at home to Wallkill Valley. Playing four games in six days, the Wildcats appeared to run out of gas late in the second half.

Nonetheless, veteran coach Bev Keur was pleased with her team's effort in the program's second straight appearance in the finals. The 'Cats lost to Warren Hills, 3-1, in the 2011 title game.

"We played great today," said Keur, whose teams are now 0-2 all time against Voorhees and 9-4 in HWS games. "We don't like to lose, but as long as you put everything out on the field and do the best you can I'm proud of them."

Diacik snapped a scoreless tie with her fifth goal of the season -- coming off Voorhees' fourth corner of the game. It was a broken play, saved by senior forward Kelsey Fischer, who took the ball off the goal line and sent it back up the middle to Diacik. The shot sailed past High Point goalie Autumn Smith, who was outstanding in her first start with 12 saves.

"[The goal] boosted our confidence and really tipped the balance in our favor," Crans said.

Keur called a timeout with 15 seconds left -- she wanted it at 30 but the officials didn't grant it -- as High Point tried to mount one last push into the Voorhees circle. But a pass from about the 35 found another Voorhees stick as time expired -- setting off a wild celebration by the Vikes.

Voorhees goalies Lauren Pianucci (first half) and Kathryn Boyce, who closed out the second half, were equally outstanding and critical to the win. Pianucci, whose older sister, Kimmie, was the winning goalie in the 2010 title game, made a big-time save to keep it scoreless in the first half.

Smith had a point-blank shot in front of the cage, sweeping the ball low as Pianucci guessed right and went down to make the save.

"I saw she was wide-open and I knew she was going to make a good shot," Pianucci said. "I figured it was going to be low. Voorhees has a strong tradition and we have a lot to live up to every time we play. [My sister] has really inspired me to get better."

Webb holds her goalies -- who didn't allow a goal in four HWS games -- in high regard.

"Our goalkeepers are really good and I don't think they get as much credit since they split halves," said the coach, who now has three county titles -- two as a star midfielder for the Vikes in 2001 and '02. "Kathryn comes in and calms the defense down. She has a lot of experience."

High Point could only wonder how the game might have played out if Smith was able to cash in late in the first half.

"Maybe that changes the momentum," Keur offered. "[Voorhees'] defense really did bottle up the middle of the field. The last 10 minutes, I think we ran out of steam."

Keur also lauded her defense and goalie, which hung tough despite facing 13 shots. The High Point offense managed just two shots-on-goal -- none in the second half.

"Autumn was awesome," said Keur, who decided in warmups to make the switch from regular starter Erica Williams. "Voorhees is more experienced. They had a lot of flurries and I thought our defense played great."

Both teams will next be in action in the state playoffs.

High Point, the No. 5 seed, travels to No. 4 Ramsey in the North 1, Group 2 playoffs. Fourth-seeded Voorhees will host No. 5 Johnson in the North 2, Group 2 draw. Both games are set for Thursday.

Voorhees (12-4-1)                0                   1             --   1
High Point (16-3-1)               0                   0             --   0


Second half -- V, Sara Diacik, 5th, (Kelsey Fischer), 22:31.

Shots -- Voorhees 13; High Point 2.

Saves -- Lauren Pianucci 1, Kathryn Boyce 0, Michelle Gaykowski 1 (defensive) (V); Autumn Smith 12 (HP).

Penalty corners -- Voorhees 7; High Point 6.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Field hockey: Wallkill ends HP streak, PJ wins

It was a long time in the making, but Wallkill Valley's field hockey team extended its win streak against Sussex County rival High Point with Friday night's 1-0 win in the annual Play Pink game under the lights at Arthur Smith Stadium in Wantage.

Wallkill Valley (12-5-2) has won the last two meetings in the series, including a 2-1 win at High Point in the previous matchup on Sept. 25, 2009. The Wildcats (16-2-1) saw their 11-game win streak snapped with the loss -- their first this month and first since a 4-0 setback against Pingry on Sept. 22.

The two schools met annually as members of the former Sussex County Interscholastic League. The SCIL folded after the 2008 season, and both schools joined the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference for 2009.

The 'Cats won the last SCIL contest, 1-0, on Nov. 4, 2008. High Point also earned a 3-2 win in the first meeting that season.

Olivia Ganz popped in the decisive goal in the first half off a feed from Emma Chick, and stalwart Rangers goalie Emily Stukenborg made 20 saves for her 11th shutout this season.

'Cats senior Darby Smith was held without a goal or an assist for just the fourth time in 19 games.

High Point must regroup in a hurry as it takes on Voorhees in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament championship game on Saturday. Game time is 4 p.m. at Hackettstown High School.

No. 6 seed Wallkill Valley hosts No. 11 Westwood in the North 1, Group 2 playoffs on Saturday.

In state playoff action on Friday:

Pope John 3, River Dell 0 -- Senior forward Rachel Spetz scored a goal and assisted on another as the No. 7 seed Lions (11-5-2) ran their win streak to four in a row in the opening round of the North 1, Group 2 playoffs. Senior forward Lydia Hoff scored two goals and goalie Sam Scalabrini recorded her seventh shutout and third in a row. First-year coach Gina DiMaio guided PJ, which has won seven of its last eight, to its first state win since the school's 6-0 win over River Dell in 2009. That Lions team eventually lost to West Essex in the semifinals. Pope John will travel to No. 2 seed Parsippany for a quarterfinal matchup on Thursday.

South Hunterdon 2, Koinonia 0 -- Kaycee Zelkovsky scored both goals -- raising her HWS leading total to 29 -- as the fourth-seeded Eagles (14-5-1) advanced to the North 2, Group 1 quarterfinals to face No. 4 Keyport on Wednesday.

Morristown-Beard 4, North Warren 0 -- Jessica Wright scored a pair of goals for No. 7 Mo-Beard as No. 10 North Warren (3-15) dropped its first-round game in North 1, Group 1.

HWS field hockey: Title game could be battle of Ds

It's hard not to think of Voorhees' field hockey program when it comes to county championships.

The Vikings won a record eight in the former Hunterdon-Warren tournament -- adding a ninth title two years ago when Sussex County joined the party to make it a tri-county affair.

High Point will be seeking its first championship while trying to deny the Hunterdon County school its 10th prize, when the two teams square off in the HWS title game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hackettstown High School.

Voorhees (11-4-1) has been idle since a stunning 2-0 victory over tournament favorite and 2011 champion Warren Hills in last Saturday's semifinal. Second-year coach Taylor Webb, who won two county crowns as a star midfielder for the Vikes, is excited for her team's opportunity to reclaim county gold.

"I'm very proud of them. It was a huge feat to be where we are now," said Webb, whose team avenged two regular-season losses to Warren Hills. "This is the fun part of the season. We had a great week of practice and the girls are looking forward to it."

High Point (16-1-1) is the hottest team in the tournament having won 11 in a row -- going unbeaten in October -- since a 4-0 loss to Pingry on Sept. 22. The Wildcats, who play Wallkill Valley Friday night in a tuneup game, pulled off a stunner of their own with a 1-0 win over Hunterdon Central in the other semifinal on Monday. Coach Bev Keur's team is pleased to be back in the final for the second straight season, falling 3-1 to Warren Hills in last year's title game.

"After two years of coming up short [High Point lost 1-0 to Voorhees in the 2010 semis], we are planning to take this championship," said High Point senior star Darby Smith, who leads the team in scoring with 26 goals. "Last year left a bitter taste. I hate losing to Warren Hills. But I'm glad we have a second chance at Voorhees."

Defense figures to be the name of the game in this year's final.

High Point's unit has yielded a total of 10 goals this season and have recorded four straight shutouts during their current win streak. Backs Michaela Macken, Annelise Malgieri, Kristen English and Michaela O'Hern were stalwarts in the win over Hunterdon Central. Goalie Erin Williams also has come up big during three straight HWS wins.

"I'm really looking forward to playing Voorhees," said veteran 'Cats coach Bev Keur, whose team has won three straight NJAC American Division titles with 40 straight wins in division play. "We know we're going to be up against it. The Hunterdon-Warren programs are excellent and play a lot of top-class teams. I don't like to call us a "Cinderella." Maybe we're the underdogs that aren't expected to do anything. That's a nice switch in gears, too."

Smith, the UConn recruit and the Sussex County school's all-time leader in goals (74) and points (172), along with junior forward Carly Satter lead a High Point offense that will need to more opportunistic against a quality opponent. Satter leads the team with 12 assists and her speed could be a factor on the turf.

"We played one of our best games ever [against Hunterdon Central]," Satter said after Monday's win. "We did lose a lot of girls [to graduation] and some people doubted us as a young team. Defense definitely wins championships and it's a big part of our team. We're so excited to play [Voorhees for the title]."

Voorhees' defense has recorded nine shutouts this season and hasn't allowed a goal in three HWS victories -- 2-0 over Kittatinny, 3-0 over Wallkill Valley and 2-0 over Warren Hills. It's been a trademark of Viking teams over the years.

"We've stayed focus on team defense -- working on techniques and team concepts," Webb said. "Smith is on our radar and we're aware of her. [Warren Hills star] Niki Miller has been held [without a goal or an assist] three times this year and we were one of them. We've done well in tournament [games]."

Backs Alex Barish and Michelle Gaykowski spearhead a unit that features two excellent goalies in Lauren Pianucci and Kathryn Boyce.

If the goalies' last names seem familiar it's because they are. Pianucci's older sister, Kimmie, was an excellent goalie for the Vikes, while Boyce's older sister, Colleen, was one of the best players ever to come out of Voorhees. She is now playing on the Division I level at Princeton University.

Webb has rotated both of her keepers all season -- Pianucci in the first half and Boyce in the second -- and it's been an huge success.

"They've been aggressive and knowing their roles," Webb said. "Playing in the first half and in the second half are very different. Lauren is very verbal and has a lot of energy. Kathryn is poised and very experienced. They complement each other well."

Freshman midfielder Kathryn Roncoroni has been a pleasant surprise on the offensive end with a team-high 11 goals -- including both scores in the win over Warren Hills. Sophomore forward Hannah Ryan is the top option off the bench with five goals this season.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

HWS field hockey: 'Cats, Vikes set for title clash

Who: High Point Wildcats vs. Voorhees Vikings.

What: Fourth annual Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament.

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Where: Hackettstown High School.

TV: Service Electric Cable (Sparta) Channel 10 (tape delayed).

Records: High Point 16-1-1; Voorhees 11-4-1.

Coaches: Bev Keur (22nd season, 327-114-5 in three stints); Taylor Webb (2nd season, 25-8-1).

Series history: Voorhees posted a 1-0 victory in the only meeting between the schools in the 2010 Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex semifinals.

Previous Champions: Newton/Warren Hills co-champs in 2009 (final was never played); Voorhees in 2010; Warren Hills in 2011.

Note: Here's a closer look at both teams with probable starting lineups:

High Point Wildcats

How they got here: Beat Belvidere, 1-0, in first round; South Hunterdon, 2-1, in quarterfinals; Hunterdon Central, 1-0, in semifinals.

Previous tournament history: Beat Hunterdon Central, 2-1, in 2009 first round, Lost to Warren Hills, 4-0 in 2009 quarterfinals;  Beat South Hunterdon, 5-0, in 2010 first round, Beat Phillipsburg, 3-0, in 2010 quarterfinals, Lost to Voorhees, 1-0, in 2010 semifinals; Beat North Hunterdon, 3-1, in 2011 first round, Beat South Hunterdon, 2-0, in 2011 quarterfinals, Beat Belvidere, 5-1, in 2011 semifinals, Lost to Warren Hills, 3-1, in 2011 championship game. Overall HWS record: 9-3.

Probable starting lineup: Sr. F Darby Smith (26 goals-11 assists-63 points); So. F Alexis Ambrosino (11-4-26); Jr. F Carly Satter (4-10-18); Sr. F Maureen Gill (3-6-12); Jr. MF Brittany DeLima (9-2-20); So. MF Rachel Orr (3-6-12); Sr. D Michaela Macken (0-0-0); So. D Kristen English (0-0-0); Jr. D Annelise Malgieri (0-0-0); Jr. D Michaela O'Hern (0-0-0); Sr. GK Erin Williams (68 saves, 10 1/2 shutouts, .872 save percentage, 0.56 goals against).

Voorhees Vikings

How they got here: Beat Kittatinny, 2-0, in first round; Wallkill Valley, 3-0, in quarterfinals; Warren Hills, 2-0, in semifinals.

Previous tournament history: Beat Kittatinny, 3-0, in 2009 first round, Beat Hackettstown, 3-0, in 2009 quarterfinals, Lost to Newton, 2-1 in double OT in 2009 semifinals; Beat Delaware Valley, 3-0, in 2010 first round, Beat North Hunterdon, 1-0, in 2010 quarterfinals, Beat High Point, 1-0, in 2010 semifinals, Beat Warren Hills, 1-0, in 2010 championship game; Beat Kittatinny, 2-0, in 2011 first round, Lost to Wallkill Valley, 1-0, in 2011 quarterfinals. Overall HWS record: 10-2.

Probable starting lineup: Jr. F Ashley Kerekgyarto (7 goals-1 assist-15 points); Sr. F Sara Diacik (4-4-12); Sr. F Rachel Lewis (1-4-6); Jr. F Tori Crans (2-2-6); Sr. F Kelsey Fischer (0-1-1); Fr. MF Kathryn Roncoroni (11-3-25); Jr. D Alex Barish (0-0-0); Sr. D Angie D'Armiento (0-0-0); Sr. D Anna McLees (0-0-0); Sr. D Michelle Gaykowski (0-1-1); So. GK Lauren Pianucci (30 saves, 4 1/2 shutouts, .811 save percentage, 0.44 goals against); Jr. GK Kathryn Boyce (32 saves, 4 1/2 shutouts, .821 save percentage, 0.44 goals against).

Analysis: Two teams that play tough defense and rely on timely offense to win games. Voorhees is coming off the upset of tournament favorite Warren Hills and is playing with a lot of momentum right now. Roncoroni has boosted the offense, which has struggled at time this season. Diacik and Barish are solid players, and the two-headed goalie system has worked nicely with two very talented keepers. High Point leans on Smith, who has the talent to take over a game like she did in the semifinals. Satter's speed will also be a weapon on the turf. Figure this one to be a relatively low-scoring affair.

Pick: Voorhees 2, High Point 1

Field hockey: High Point set for annual Pink clash

One of the great field hockey traditions in our area continues Friday night at High Point Regional High School, when the Wildcats host Sussex County rival Wallkill Valley in the annual Play Pink game at 6 p.m. under the lights at Arthur Smith Stadium.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Cecilia's Angels Fund to benefit cancer patients at Chilton Memorial Hospital and the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research. Last year, High Point earned a 2-1 win over Vernon in the Pink clash.

Wallkill Valley coach Irene Chernati (far left) and High Point coach Bev Keur flank their players who are holding the jerseys they will wear on Friday.
High Point senior forward Darby Smith is continuing the tradition started by her older sister, Taylor, who played in the first event a few years ago.

"It means a lot to me and my family," Smith said after scoring the decisive goal in Monday's 1-0 win against Hunterdon Central in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex semifinals. "I lost an aunt to breast cancer. This is a huge game. It's getting to the point where it's a really big event."

All proceeds from the event ticket sales, donations from local sponsors, concessions, T-shirt sales and 50-50 raffle will go directly to the cancer charities. Last year's game raised over $12,000.

The game features two of the most successful coaches ever to grace the Sussex County sidelines.

High Point's Bev Keur, who waged and won her own battle against cancer, is in her 22nd season overall and is 327-114-5 in three stints at the Wantage school. Longtime Wallkill Valley coach Irene Chernati's teams are 345-171-7 in her 27 seasons with the Rangers.

High Point (16-1-1), which has won 11 straight and 40 in a row in American Division play, hasn't faced Wallkill Valley (11-5-2), which plays in the Freedom Division, since 2009 -- a 2-1 road win for the Rangers on Sept. 25. The two schools met annually as members of the former Sussex County Interscholastic League. The SCIL folded after the 2008 season, and both schools joined the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference for 2009.

The 'Cats won the last SCIL contest, 1-0, on Nov. 4, 2008. High Point also earned a 3-2 win in the first meeting that season. Wallkill Valley swept both meetings in 2007 -- 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 26 and 2-0 on Oct. 25.

"It's exciting to have the chance to play against Wallkill Valley," Smith said.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NJSIAA Field Hockey Sectional titles (HWS)

1976, '79, '81, '82, '83, '84, '85, '86
1980, '88, '89, '90, '91, '93, '95, '96
Wallkill Valley
1982, '83, '84, '88, '91, '92, '06
High Point
1988, '96, '97, '00, '02
1978, '79, '94, '95
1977, '80, '81
Lenape Valley
1978, '90
Pope John
South Hunt.
1975, '76, '80, '81, '82, '84, '85, '86, '87, '88, '89, '90, '91, '02
Hunterdon Cent.
1992, '93, '94, '96, '97, '98, '01, '02, '03, '04, '07, '11
1993, '96, '99, '00, '02, '06
North Hunt.
1986, '93
Delaware Valley
Warren Hills
1984, '96, '97, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '09
1982, '88, '89, '90, '91, '92, '96
1972, '77, '98, '99
P'burg Catholic
North Warren

Monday, October 22, 2012

Field hockey: NJSIAA pairings, seeds (HWS teams)

North 1, Group 4

9-Millburn at 8-Watchung Hills, winner to meet 1-Montclair

12-North Hunterdon at 5-Wayne Valley

13-Hackensack at 4-Morris Knolls

11-Livingston at 6-Ridge, winner to meet 3-Phillipsburg

10-Columbia at 7-Westfield, winner to meet 2-Randolph

North 1, Group 3

9-Vernon at 8-Roxbury, winner to meet 1-Morristown

12-Parsippany Hills at 5-West Milford, winner to meet 4-West Morris

11-Demarest at 6-Montville, winner to meet 3-Northern Highlands

10-Sparta at 7-Passaic Valley, winner to meet 2-Wayne Hills

North 1, Group 2

9-Jefferson at 8-Newton, winner to meet 1-Lakeland

5-High Point at 4-Ramsey

11-Westwood at 6-Wallkill Valley, winner to meet 3-West Essex

10-River Dell at 7-Pope John, winner to meet 2-Parsippany

North 1, Group 1

9-Butler at 8-Glen Ridge, winner to meet 1-Montclair Kimberley

5-Pequannock at 4-Whippany Park

6-Belvidere at 3-Mountain Lakes

10-North Warren at 7-Morristown Beard, winner to meet 2-Boonton

North 2, Group 4

9-Hillsborough at 8-Monroe, winner to meet 1-Bridgewater-Raritan

12-Manalapan at 5-Hunterdon Central

13-Piscataway at 4-West Windsor-South

11-Franklin at 6-South Brunswick, winner to meet 3-Montgomery

10-Old Bridge at 7-West Windsor-North, winner to meet 2-East Brunswick

North 2, Group 3

9-Ocean Township at 8-Cranford, winner to meet 1-Warren Hills

12-Somerville at 5-Hopewell Valley, winner to meet 4-Chatham

11-Middletown South at 6-Princeton, winner to meet 3-Freehold Borough

10-Middletown North at 7-Mendham, winner to meet 2-South Plainfield

North 2, Group 2

9-Holmdel at 8-Hackettstown, winner to meet 1-Rumson

12-Governor Livingston at 5-Johnson, winner to meet 4-Voorhees

11-Matawan at 6-Bernards, winner to meet 3-St. John Vianney

10-Delaware Valley at 7-Summit, winner to meet 2-Madison

North 2, Group 1

9-Newark Academy at 8-St. Rose, winner to meet 1-Oak Knoll

12-Koinonia at 5-South Hunterdon

13-Mount St. Mary at 4-Keyport

11-Kent Place at 6-Bordentown, winner to meet 3-Shore

10-Ranney at 7-Metuchen, winner to meet 2-Pingry

HWS field hockey: 'Cats top Red Devils in semifinals

High Point's field hockey team has been viewed as the underdog in this year's Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament. As long as they keep advancing, the Wildcats will gladly accept that label.

Senior forward Darby Smith blasted in the only goal of the game early in the second half, as High Point sent Hunterdon Central packing with a 1-0 victory in an HWS semifinal clash on Monday in Wantage.

High Point (15-1-1), the No. 1 seed in the Sussex draw, advances to its second straight county final with its 10th straight victory. The 'Cats, who lost 3-1 to Warren Hills in last year's final, were largely considered an underdog with most of last year's team lost to graduation.

Coach Bev Keur's team, which recently clinched its third straight NJAC American Division title, advances to meet Voorhees in Saturday's championship game at Hackettstown High School. Start time is set for 3 p.m. High Point is seeking its first HWS title, while Voorhees captured the championship in 2010.

"[This was a] big win," said Keur, now 9-3 overall in the four-year history of the HWS tourney, including a 2-1 win over Central in '09. "I'm so impressed with how the girls played. They've made such tremendous improvement since the beginning of the season. We're really jelling as a team ... which is nice to see."

Hunterdon Central (10-8), despite its record and having faced superior competition, couldn't get anything going against a staunch High Point defense. Coach Jen Sponzo's team, the No. 2 seed in the Hunterdon-Warren draw, was making the program's first appearance in an HWS semifinal and its first in a county semi overall since 2008.

"From start to finish we just didn't play our game," said Sponzo, whose teams are 2-4 overall in HWS play. "I don't know if we couldn't adjust to the grass [on High Point's field] or the long-ball game they play. This definitely wasn't out best performance."

After an evenly played first half, High Point grabbed some early momentum and the lead when Smith cashed in on High Point's fifth penalty corner of the game. Sophomore Alexis Ambrosino sent the insert pass in to Smith, who dribbled and fired a laser high at the right corner of the cage. Hunterdon Central goalie Fran Orella swatted at the ball, but to no avail as Smith logged her 25th goal -- second-most among HWS scorers this season.

"Hunterdon Central is a good team and we came out here really excited to play," said Smith, the Sussex County school's all-time points leader who has at least one goal or one assist in all but three games this season. "Alexis inserted the ball and I just flicked it toward the cage hoping it would go in. Our defense rally stepped it up today."

The High Point defense certainly did the job -- holding Central to just one shot on goal and only two corners. Backs Michala Macken, Kristen English, Michaela O'Hern and Annelise Malgieri were stalwart in front of goalie Erin Williams, who preserved the team's 11th shutout with a key save in the first half.

Central's capable front line, led by forwards Kendall Nickel and Nicole Barrett, barely touched the ball the entire game. Midfielders Ally Baligian and Chloe Maurice were outstanding, as Maurice sustained a bruised ankle off a hard-hit ball by Smith midway through the first half and was forced to leave. Maurice returned in the second half, but her time off the field was costly for Central.

"She was a star for us last year [in Central's run to the North 2, Group 4 title] and a driving force for our defense," said Sponzo, whose team was held scoreless for the fourth time this season.

High Point senior captain Maureen Gill was a real unsung hero in the middle of the field, as she helped on both ends to ensure the 'Cats would play for a county title in back-to-back seasons. Junior forward Carly Satter was all over the field and her speed was a big factor in the win.

"Defense definitely wins championships and it's a huge part of our team," said Satter, a key player on the school's Group 3 champion softball team last spring, scoring the winning run against Kingsway in the title game.

"I'm so proud of our team," Gill said. "We graduated so many girls [from the 2011 team]. I'm really excited that we're going to the finals. We don't want the season to end anytime soon and we have a lot of big games left. We just have to take them one at a time."

Hunterdon Central (10-8)        0                   0             --   0
High Point (15-1-1)                  0                   1             --   1


Second half -- HP, Darby Smith, 25th, 23:13.

Shots -- Hunterdon Central 1; High Point 6.

Saves -- Fran Orella 4, Taylor Barrett 1 (goal line) (HC); Erin Williams 1 (HP).

Penalty corners -- Hunterdon Central 2; High Point 9.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Field hockey: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex standings

Through Oct. 20

Skyland Conference
Delaware Division
Hunterdon Central
Watchung Hills
North Hunterdon
Raritan Division
x-Warren Hills
Delaware Valley
Valley Division
South Hunterdon
Mount Saint Mary
North Plainfield
Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Freedom Division
Wallkill Valley
North Warren
Lenape Valley
American Division
x-High Point
Pope John
Morris Knolls
Morris Hills
Mount Olive
x-Division champion