Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 Field hockey preview: Hunterdon-Warren

Belvidere County Seaters

Coach: Beth Franceschino (first season of second stint)

2013 record: 6-10-3, 4-5-1 (fourth place Skyland Conference Valley Division)

Key returnees: F Erin Sassaman (6 goals, 8 assists), sr.; F Hannah Koch (7 goals, 3 assists), jr.; MF Elizabeth Dalrymple (5 goals), jr.; F Kara Tipton, so.; F Hannah Mackey, so.; GK Maddie Beaumont (.865 save percentage, 3 shutouts), jr.; D Haley Enslin, sr.; D Mackenzie Sera, jr.; MF-D Paige White, jr.; D Erin Bronico, so.

Key losses: MF Meghan Laubach (5 goals); MF Kaitlyn Robinson.

Top newcomers: D Rachel Dultz, so.; F Katie Spadaccini, jr.; D Rayna Harrison, jr.; MF Traci Kieffer, so.; F-MF Lauren Ostrzyzek, sr.

Outlook: The County Seaters are coming off a sub-.500 campaign in 2013, but there is a renewed optimism with the return of Franceschino, a former star player at the school and successful coach. In her last season in 2004, the program went 10-9-1 and also qualified for the state playoffs in 2003 for the first time since 1996. Sassaman and Koch are among 10 returning starters, with both leading the team on the offensive end a year ago. Beaumont was solid in the cage and will lead what could be a strong defensive unit. Expect this more experienced squad to be much improved from a year ago.

Delaware Valley Terriers

Coach: Stephanie Cirino (fourth season, 21-30-3)

2013 record: 9-10-1, 4-5-1 (fourth place Skyland Conference Raritan Division)

Key returnees: MF Caroline Vath, sr.; MF Alyssa Orrico, sr.; D Brianna Skripko (5 goals), sr.; MF Tina Crotty, sr.; F Katie Maddalena (4 goals), jr.; D Abbey Ferdinando, sr.; F Courtney Soper, jr.; GK Morgan Davies, jr.

Key losses: D-MF Kristen Brokaw; F Robyn Case (5 goals); D Gianna Crotty.

Top newcomers: F Kerrianne Blankenship, jr.; F Ann Bill, so.; MF-D Kat Schutta, so.; D Cassie Blankenship, jr.; D Jeanne Harabedian, so.; F Elizabeth Nugent, jr.; GK Ellis Stanton, fr.; F Riley Ferrera, so.

Outlook: After three straight 6-10-1 seasons, the Terriers jumped up to nine wins in 2013. Lack of offensive firepower has been a problem as last year's squad was shut out 10 times and scored a total of 22 goals -- including seven against an overmatched Notre Dame-East Stroudsburg (Pa.) squad. No other game produced more than two goals. Skirpko co-led the team in goals a year ago, while Maddalena followed with four. The move to the Valley Division should help a bit, thought state power Voorhees and Bernards will be tough opponents. A lot of this team's success will rely simply on being able to score.

Hackettstown Tigers

Coach: Stephen Speirs (fifth season, 35-38-2)

2013 record: 12-8, 8-6 (fourth place NJAC Freedom Division)

Key returnees: F Kelly Healy (8 goals, 3 assists), sr.; D Marissa Siconolfi, jr.; D Allana Fitzgerald, sr.; D Michaela Sass, jr.; F Samantha Strathern (5 goals), jr.; MF Kaitlyn Keiser, sr.; F Erica Salus, sr.; GK Rose Bishop (7 shutouts), jr.

Key losses: F Kalie Thies (13 goals, 12 assists); MF Nicole Andes (4 goals, 3 assists); F Sierramarie Fitzgerald (10 goals, 11 assists); F Michelle Carlson (11 goals); MF Nicole Felicetti.

Top newcomers: F Cayla Andrews, jr.; D Kristen Bulka, sr.; D Emily Burke, sr.; D Sarah Crawford, sr.; F Madison Kennedy, jr.; F Elizabeth Wolosin, sr.; F Kayli Yeisley, jr.; F Molly Gorczyca, so.

Outlook: Tigers rose above the .500 mark for the first time since 2009 a year ago, and made the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex title game, giving Warren Hills all it could handle in a 1-0 loss. The season ended five days later with a 2-0 loss to Voorhees in the North 1, Group 2 playoffs. After taking a major step forward, this group has the potential for another special season despite heavy graduation losses on the offensive side. The defense should be solid, as Bishop is coming off a solid campaign in her first season on the varsity level. With plenty of experienced players, you can expect this team to challenge for a division title.

Hunterdon Central Red Devils

Coach: Jenn Sponzo (16th season, 208-108-16)

2013 record: 18-7, 10-2 (second place Skyland Conference Delaware Division)

Key returnees: F Kendall Nickel (17 goals, 12 assists), sr.; F Taylor Barrett (15 goals, 10 assists), sr.; MF Kailey Dalgauer (5 goals), sr.; D Erin Vecchio, sr.; GK Hannah Cecchini (8 shutouts), sr.

Key losses: MF Allison Baligian (10 assists); MF Jane Higley (9 goals, 4 assists); D Annie Hosler; MF Morgan Lojek; D Hailey Kohler; F Sarah Pulkowski (13 goals); F Julie Hyland; F Veronica Fostik.

Top newcomers: F Maddie Freeman, jr.; MF Nikki Freeman, so.; MF Amanda Whitlock, jr.; MF Adrianna Ruggieri, jr.

Outlook: The Red Devils are coming off back-to-back North 2, Group 4 sectional championships, winning their seventh last year under Sponzo, who is the school's all-time coaching wins leader. This program is among the area's elite and you can expect a challenge for a third straight sectional title, though nemesis Bridgewater-Raritan is back in North 2. Offensively, Central has gone from 11 goals in 2010 to 48 in '11 to 51 in '12 to 69 in '13. That's been the key to its resurgence. Nickel and Barrett form a potent 1-2 punch. Defense, which is a hallmark of Sponzo's teams, is a bit of a question mark, though Cecchini did a nice job in the cage in her first varsity season a year ago.

North Hunterdon Lions

Coach: Suzanne Toke (second season, 2-15-1).

2013 record: 2-15-1, 1-10-1 (seventh place Skyland Conference Delaware Division)

Key returnees: MF Grace Plassche, sr.; F Jamie Ruggiero, sr.; MF Caroline Coleman, sr.; F Molly Walsh (4 goals), sr.; D Sarah VanDuynhoven, sr. D Alyssa Bennett, sr.; GK Liz Rotolo, jr.

Key losses: F Madison Martino; MF-D Amanda Lambert; MF Emily Baldwin.

Top newcomers: D Kim Faust, sr.; F Taylor Cole, sr.; MF-D Corryn Fiorella, sr.; F Emily Fiorelli, sr.; MF Jaclyn Fleming, sr.; MF Jenna Macri, jr.; F Christina Chamberlin, jr.; F-MF Amy Sroka, jr.; MF Alara Murphy, jr.; D Natalie Thompson, jr.; D Taylor Danson, jr.; D Catrina Nelson, jr..

Outlook: The good news for the Lions is that numbers are up and with 11 seniors (10 returning with varsity experience) it seems the program is back on track after hitting rock bottom with a winless campaign in 2012. In 2013, North won two games under first-year coach Toke, who inherited a program that went 34-75-3 the previous five seasons, including a a state playoff appearance in 2010. Scoring goals will be key to a turnaround as last year's squad produced just nine in 18 games, up from seven in 2012. Walsh was the leading scorer with four goals, while Ruggiero and Plassche are also solid players. The Lions return their goalie in Rotolo, so keeping opposing offenses out of the cage also will be critical to any success.

North Warren Patriots

Coach: Laura Kasa (fifth season, 12-61-3)

2013 record: 4-14-2, 1-11-2 (eighth place NJAC Freedom Division)

Key returnees: F-MF Jessica Towey (9 goals), sr.; F Megan Stevens (5 goals), sr.; GK Jenna Sagan, so.; MF-D Gianna Lorusso, jr.; MF Kelsy Conlon, jr.; MF Elena Benson (5 goals), sr.; MF Kaitlin Bertholf, sr.; D Amanda Konecnik, sr.

Key losses: D Kathleen Wadiak; F Rebecca Hendershot; MF Laura Gessler; MF Lauren Miano (6 goals, 6 assists).

Top newcomers: F Claudia Wetzel, jr.; MF Sydney MacDonough, so.; D Elinor Dowd, so.

Outlook: After a combined 13 wins the last three seasons, the Patriots are striving for more consistency in 2014. Towey, a four-year starter who had back-to-back six-goal seasons before popping in nine a year ago, will be counted on again to lead an offense that produced 28 goals last season, up from 16 in 2012.. The defense needs to be improved after yielding 61 goals last fall. Having a returning goalie with varsity experience in Sagan will help. Kasa says after teaching the basics the last couple of seasons, this group will be a tough matchup for any team in the new Colonial Division.

Phillipsburg Stateliners

Coach: Jennifer Paulus (fourth season, 22-34-2)

2013 record: 2-13-2, 1-7-2 (sixth place Skyland Conference Raritan Division)

Key returnees: F Kylie Marhold (3 goals), jr.; MF Emily DiMarco, sr.; D Lacey O'Dowd, jr.; GK Rachael Horun, sr.; F-MF Ellie Zgoda, jr.; MF Viktoria Schultz, sr.; F-MF Kerianne Vianden, sr.

Key losses: F Marissa Perino (4 goals); MF Gabby Jackson; F Janelle Jackson.

Top newcomers: F Abby Evans, fr.

Outlook: Stateliners may be primed for a breakout campaign coming off a tough two-win season, the program's second-lowest total since going winless in its inaugural year in 1962. A turnaround will start on the offensive side as last year's team scored a total of just eight goals in 17 games and was shut out 12 times, including a 4-0 loss at Randolph in the North 1, Group 4 playoffs. Marhold will be counted on up front, while the midfield group will be anchored by DiMarco and Schultz. Horun returns in the cage which is a bonus for the defense, while O'Dowd is a solid back. Another plus is the addition of Toni Popinko, a former star player at Warren Hills, on the coaching staff. Expect big improvement from this group in 2014.

South Hunterdon Eagles

Coach: Stephanie Davis (first season)

2013 record: 16-5, 9-1 (second place Skyland Conference Valley Division)

Key returnees: F Ashley Eick (14 goals), jr.; MF Natalie Muscatell, sr.;  F Kate Shaffer, so.

Key losses: MF Amber Dey (14 goals, 16 assists); F Kaycee Zelkovsky (36 goals, 11 assists); F Brett Lelie (5 goals, 7 assists); GK Samantha Soscia (12 shutouts).

Top newcomers: GK Giovanna Rubino, so.; D Kendall Storicella, so.

Outlook: The Eagles lost eight starters from last year's 16-win team, a marked turnaround for a proud program and once state powerhouse in Group 1 that had fallen on hard times in recent seasons. Davis takes over the head coaching duties and will count on Eick to help lead a young squad on offense. Scoring goals will be a challenge after the graduation of Dey and Zelkovsky, who combined for 50 of the team's 72 goals in 2013. Defense also will be a question mark with a new goalie. Expect this to be a rebuilding season for the Hunterdon County school.

Voorhees Vikings

Coach: Taylor Webb (fourth season, 43-14-1)

2013 record: 16-5, 9-1 (T-first place Skyland Conference Raritan Division)

Key returnees: F Hannah Ryan, sr.; F Kathryn Roncoroni (33 goals, 6 assists), jr.; MF Hannah Schiavo, so.; GK Lauren Pianucci (9 shutouts), sr.; F Abby Flagler (4 goals, 4 assists), sr.; MF Isabelle Houser (4 assists), jr.; D Lexi Crans, jr.; D Morgan McCord, jr.

Key losses: MF Tori Crans (11 assists); F Ashley Kerekgyarto (10 goals, 7 assists); GK Kathryn Boyce; D Maggie Freibergs; D Haley Irving; MF Emily Scheier.

Top newcomers: MF Sam Nicol, jr.; D Hannah Parnham, jr.; D Gillian Panreck, jr.; GK Charlee Wood, sr.

Outlook: Vikings are making the move from the Raritan to the Valley Division, ending, at least for the time being, their annual league rivalry with archrival Warren Hills. It also makes Webb's team a clear favorite for a division title after sharing it a year ago. Roncoroni is one of the area's most prolific and talented offensive players, as she matched the school's single-season goals record as a sophomore. She could shatter it this season. Plenty of talent surrounds her, including Schiavo who burst onto the scene last year as a freshman. Always tough on defense, the group will be anchored by senior goalie Pianucci, who shared the job before Boyce's season-ending leg injury in the team's 11th game in '13. This team is solid and well-coached, and is expected to make a title run in the county tournament and state playoffs after moving back to North 2.

Warren Hills Blue Streaks

Coach: Laurie Kerr (15th season, 241-67-12)

2013 record: 22-4-1, 9-1 (T-first place Skyland Conference Raritan Division)

Key returnees: F Sydney Muntone (23 goals, 12 assists), sr.; MF Nikki Profita (19 goals, 13 assists), sr.; F Dani Profita (16 goals, 10 assists), so.; F Jessica Nissen (13 goals), sr.; D Amanda Crampton (5 goals, 10 assists), sr.; D Allie Brouhard, sr.; MF Katie Thompson, jr.; D Amanda Oberly, sr.; D Rachel Phillips, jr.

Key losses: MF Nikki Schott (8 goals, 11 assists); D Melanie Loth.

Top newcomers: F Megan Thompson, jr.; MF Julie DeSanto, jr.; MF Tali Popinko, fr.; F Caroline Cotte, so.; D Brie Schwab, so.; D Mikayla Dugan, fr.; GK Jackie de Raismes, so.

Outlook: Blue Streaks are annually in the championship discussion. After coming off their third straight division title and a another run to a Group 3 state title game, this loaded group is ready to end the program's 0-8 mark in state finals. This year's squad is once again loaded with talent. The forward line is full of star players, as Muntone and Nikki Profita have combined for 38 and 42 goals the last two years. Nissen also chipped in with 16 and 13 in 2012 and '13, respectively. Dani Profita is coming off ACL surgery, but she provided a glimpse of her star power with 16 goals as a freshman. As good as the offense is, the defense is exceptional with Crampton as one of the best backs in the area and state. During a 19-game win streak a year ago, the Streaks allowed just five goals. Junior Taylor Austin (18 shutouts) was solid in the cage last season, but she has decided to concentrate on softball. A killer independent schedule includes Madison on Saturday and state powerhouse Eastern later in the season down in South Jersey.

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