Monday, November 12, 2012

Field hockey: Streaks, 'Cats advance to title games

As a freshman, Niki Miller and the 2009 Warren Hills field hockey team reached the Group 3 state final-- with the promise of many more titles to come down the road.

It's been three long years since the Blue Streaks celebrated a sectional championship. But Miller, now a senior captain, and the Warren County school are on the brink once again as the top seeds posted a 6-3 win over No. 4 Chatham in the NJSIAA North 2, Group 3 semifinals on Monday in Washington.

Warren Hills (20-2), which has won four in a row and is 56-36 in its postseason history, hosts No. 2 South Plainfield in the title game at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. South Plainfield (21-1-1) needed overtime to advance -- beating two-time defending champion and No. 3 seed Freehold Borough in the other semifinal.

The Streaks, who have won nine sectional crowns, are 4-0 all time against the Tigers in the postseason -- including back-to-back wins in the sectional final in 2001 and '02. Warren Hills also won meetings in '03 and '08.

Needless to say, Miller and her teammates are excited for a return trip to the finals -- their third in four years and the program's 14th title game appearance overall since its first in 1976. Miller also is glad for the chance to play South Plainfield, rather than nemesis Freehold.

"I am glad we are not playing Freehold Borough again," said Miller, who scored a goal and added three assists in Monday's win. "South Plainfield refused to play us [in the regular season] and now we get a chance at them. It's nice to play different teams. The past few years we couldn't get past Hopewell Valley [lost on strokes in the 2010 semis] or Freehold [3-2 loss in last year's final]. That's why it was nice playing Chatham [first postseason meeting with the Morris County school]."

Miller and the offense rallied back twice from deficits -- 2-0 and 3-2 -- against Chatham (15-5). Miller, the school's all-time and single-season assists leader, added another school record to her impressive resume with 72 single-season points (24 goals and 26 assists) -- surpassing Lindsey Schott's total of 70 in 2011. Miller is second on the school's list with 60 career goals and is just three shy from matching Schott's single-season record of 27 in 2011. Miller's career total of 174 points trails only Schott's mark of 198 (2008-11).

"I didn't even know [about the single-season points record]," said Miller, a Division I recruit who gave a verbal commitment to UMass. "It's been really cool playing on varsity since my freshman year. Now that I'm a senior and captain I'm not really noticing [the records]. I think our offense is amazing. We work really well together."

Miller plays on a forward line that includes talented sophomores Sydney Muntone and Nikki Profita. Muntone scored once on Monday to give her 17 goals this season, second on the team, while Profita notched her 14th assist, which ranks second. Sophomore Jessica Nissen scored three goals in the victory.

High Point upsets No. 1 Lakeland

High Point's field hockey team, the No. 5 seed, continued its Cinderella run through the North 1, Group 2 bracket with a thrilling 2-1 win in double-overtime against top-seeded and previously-unbeaten Lakeland on Monday in Wanaque.

The Wildcats (18-3-1) now have the daunting task of traveling to No. 3 West Essex -- an 8-2 winner over No. 2 Parsippany -- for the sectional final at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. The Knights, coached by Jill Cosse, have won a state record 30 sectional titles in their illustrious history, including two straight. The Essex County power has missed just three times since 2000.

Senior Darby Smith -- High Point's leading scorer and all-time point leader -- notched the winning goal off a reverse stick shot to the upper left side of the cage with 6:45 left in OT. It was Smith's team-leading 27th goal of the season. Fellow senior Maureen Gill also scored for the 'Cats -- her fourth of the year and first in a span of 10 games dating to her last on Oct. 9. Gill's goal off a feed from Alexis Ambrosino gave High Point a 1-0 lead before Lakeland (17-1-1) tied it with 18:41 left in the first half.

High Point advances to its third straight sectional final after losses in the North 1, Group 3 title games the previous two seasons. The 'Cats are seeking their first sectional crown since 2002 and sixth overall. No Sussex County school has won a title since the 2006 Wallkill Valley Rangers.

Voorhees, South Hunterdon fall in semis

Freshman sensation Kathryn Roncoroni notched her team-leading 12th goal of the season, but it wasn't enough as fourth-seeded Voorhees dropped a 2-1 decision to No. 1 Rumson in the North 2, Group 2 semifinals on Monday in Rumson.

Rumson (19-2), which jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes, advances to meet No. 2 Madison, winner of 12 titles, in the sectional final.

Voorhees' season ends at 13-5-1 as the Hunterdon County school was bidding for its first trip to the finals since 2010. The Vikings have won six sectional titles, but none since 2006. Second-year coach Taylor Webb's team won the school's second Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex championship this season, upsetting Warren Hills in the semis and beating High Point in the title game.

South Hunterdon's run in the rugged North 2, Group 1 draw came to an end on Monday with a 7-0 loss to top-seeded Oak Knoll (21-0) in the semifinals. The Eagles, who have won 14 sectional titles and none since 2002, finish up at 15-6-1 and shared the Skyland Conference Valley Division title with Bernards.

Forward Kaycee Zelkovsky (29 goals) was kept off the board for only the sixth time this season, while goalie Samantha Soscia stopped 35 shots for the Eagles.

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