Friday, September 5, 2014

2014 Field Hockey preview: Sussex

High Point Wildcats

Coach: Bev Keur (24th season, 345-119-18 over three stints)

2013 record: 16-2-3, 13-0-1 (first place NJAC American Division)

Key returnees: F Rachel Orr (5 goals, 7 assists), sr.; MF Kristen English, sr.; F Victoria Hennion, sr.; D Danielle Price, sr.; GK Autumn Smith (14 shutouts), sr.; D Lexa Sabo, sr.; MF Cassie O'Hern, so.; F Kayla Halloran, jr.; F Nicole Chirico, sr.

Key losses: F Carly Satter (9 goals, 20 assists); F Brittany DeLima (16 goals); F Alexis Ambrosino (21 goals, 9 assists, transferred to Kittatinny), sr.; F Maddie Smith (5 goals, 11 assists, decided to concentrate on baseketball), jr.; MF Michaela O'Hern; MF Annelise Malgieri; D Caitlyn Slate; D Samantha Havens, sr.; F Tierney Clark, sr.

Top newcomers: F Kelsey Little, so.; F Lizzy Aroune, sr.; D Sarah Dwornikowski, sr.; F Lindsey Sumpman, sr.; MF Jordyn Martin, so.; GK Rebecca Morrison, so.; MF Marissa Sinacore, so.; MF Melissa Way, so.

Outlook: Wildcats lost a lot of offensive firepower from last year's squad that reached the North 1, Group 2 semifinals -- where an 8-0 loss to West Essex ended their season. They'll look to keep up an incredible run of dominance in the new Freedom Division after ending 2013 on a 54-game unbeaten streak in the American Division that sealed a fourth straight title. That division streak will be put to the test early in Friday's season opener against Lenape Valley. Keur's squad lost four starters for this season with Ambrosino (transfer to Kittatinny) and Maddie Smith the biggest blows. Gone are 51 of the team's 60 goals from 2013, so being able to score will be the top priority. That means Orr will have to take charge up front, and keep an eye on Little, a good athlete who saw varsity action as a freshman. Autumn Smith was solid in the cage last season and will anchor what it usually a strong defense. If this team can score, expect the 'Cats to be a tough out.

Kittatinny Cougars

Coach: Emily Murray (second season, 8-8-3).

2013 record: 8-8-3, 7-5-2 (third place NJAC Freedom Division)

Key returnees: D Dana Yanvary, sr.; MF Sunshine Karns (4 assists), sr.; F-MF Melissa Toye, sr.; F-MF Maureen Douglas (4 goals), jr.; MF Jenn Makarevich, sr.; GK Julia Pevarnik (8 shutouts), sr.; D Lindsay McKim, sr.

Key losses: D Madison Lacken.

Top newcomers: F Alexis Ambrosino (transfer from High Point, 21 goals, 9 assists), sr.; F-MF Holly Reznik, jr.; D Jenn Smalley, jr.; F Christina Chernati, jr.; F-MF Ashley Brown, jr.

Outlook: After going 22-39-6 in the previous five seasons, the Cougars enjoyed a marked turnaround a year ago in Murray's first year at the helm. Signs of their progress were evident in 0-0 ties against Lenape Valley and High Point, which are pegged as the top two teams in Sussex this season. Yanvary returns to anchor a defense that yielded 28 goals in 19 games, however 10 of those were in losses to powerhouse Parsippany and Warren Hills. But again, this team's success will hinge on offense as last year's squad produced just 14 goals and scored more than one in a game just three times. The addition of Ambrosino, a star at High Point, instantly improves the offense. This could be a breakout season if all of the pieces come together.

Lenape Valley Patriots

Coach: Lauren Fasano (first season)

2013 record: 15-6-1, 9-4-1 (second place NJAC Freedom Division)

Key returnees: MF Sally Olson (7 goals, 10 assists), sr.; F Alyssa Falleni (8 goals, 9 assists), sr.; F Kassidy Forik (15 goals), sr.; MF Isabelle Becker (5 assists), sr.; MF Julia Leyden, sr.; F Hollis Smith (3 goals, 6 assists), jr.; GK Kaylee Gentilucci (11 shutouts), so.; D Kristen Rafferty, so.; MF Autumn Davidson, sr.; MF Gianna Puco, jr.; D Julia Tomlinson, jr.

Key losses: D Alexa Tambasco.

Top newcomers: D Nicole Guisewhite, jr.; F Judy Defronzo, sr.; D Bianca Hernandez, sr.; MF Bridget Togno, so.; F Bailey Connery, so.

Outlook: In a surprise move, Kate Rothman is not returning as head coach after going 20-34-3 the last three seasons. The Patriots took their lumps in Rothman's first two seasons at the helm and enjoyed a breakout season a year ago with 15 wins and run to the North 1, Group 1 semifinals, where they lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to eventual champ Mountain Lakes. With the bulk of that team back, new coach Fasano, a former star athlete at High Point, inherits a dynamite group. Offensively is where last year's turnaround began as the Pats scored 38 goals, which was a huge improvement over the six goals in 18 games in 2012. Olson, Forik and Falleni all are coming off stellar years. Defensively, Gentilucci was solid in her rookie season in the cage. This should be the team to beat in Sussex County and it will get a chance to prove it right out of the gate in Friday's season opener against High Point. Pats also rate as the favorites in the North 1, Group 1 section.

Newton Braves

Coach: Lisa Bechtel (25th season, 348-125-11)

2013 record: 8-13-1, 4-9-1 (sixth place NJAC Freedom Division)

Key returnees: MF Hannah Ervey, jr.; GK Jenna Zawislak, sr.; MF Jordan Coiro, jr.; F Brittany Schumann (3 goals, 3 assists), so.; MF Natalie Rivas, so.; MF-D Sara Smith, sr.; F Sarah Parks (4 goals, 4 assists), sr.; F Emily Weiss (4 goals), jr.; F Kate Barbato (3 goals), so.

Key losses: F Katherine Kellenberger (13 goals, 8 assists); F Melissa Bencivenga (14 assists); D Paige Zawislak; MF Christine Miserindino.

Top newcomers: MF Brianna Monahos, jr.; MF Anne Paglia, sr.; MF Allison Smith, sr.; MF Ella Wermuth, sr.; GK Amanda Alessandra, jr.; MF Taylor Boyer, so.; MF Lily Estevez, jr.; MF Caitlyn McAdams, jr.; MF Emma Orabone, so.; MF Samantha Owens, jr.; MF-D Jordan Pavlishin, jr.; MF Becky Powers, so.; MF Lisa Qarmout, so.; F Nikki Rizzo, so.; F Olivia Weiss, jr.

Outlook: Braves are coming off a rare sub-.500 season, but they did make a surprising run to the North 1, Group 1 semifinals. This year's squad will need to overcome some tough graduation losses, including offensive leaders Kellenberger (Rhode Island) and Bencivenga. Scoring will be a priority if the program is to get back on track. On defense, Jenna Zawislak did a nice job in her first varsity season a year ago and will be counted on to anchor this group. A .500 season or better is not out of the question, but the Braves, who will be in the new Colonial Division with Kittatinny and Wallkill Valley, will likely struggle against some of the better teams on the schedule.

Pope John Lions

Coach: Gina DiMaio (third season, 12-23-2; 135-93-17 overall in 11 seasons with stints at Hackettstown and Newark Academy)

2013 record: 1-17, 1-13 (eighth place NJAC American Division)

Key returnees: MF Sarah Bramley, sr.; F Molly Romania, sr.; D Baylee Vozza (4 assists), sr.; D Sarah Gonzalez, sr.; GK Sam Scalabrini (7 shutouts), sr.; F Taylor Ross, so.; MF Taylor Bailey, sr.; MF Danielle Grello, so.; GK Kelsey Sullivan (injured), sr.

Top newcomers: MF Carleen O'Connell (transfer from Madison), sr.; F Maddie Jordan, fr.; Cameron Sacco, fr.; GK Erin Johnson, jr.

Outlook: Lions took a step back a year ago after a nice rebound season in 2012. Chalk up the lack of offense for the regression as they scored just seven goals in 18 games, including just one goal in three overtime losses. This fall could be another challenging season, but there is quite a bit of varsity experience returning, so that's a plus. Scalabrini returns to help anchor the defense, along with Vozza. DiMaio has a fine staff with two of her former players at Hackettstown, Sierra DiMaio (daughter) and Heather Kozimor, as assistants, so this team will be well coached. If it can score, this squad should show marked improvement in the wins column.

Sparta Spartans

Coach: Kristin Lindsley (third season, 16-19-1)

2013 record: 11-8-1, 9-4-1 (third place NJAC American Division)

Key returnees: MF Gretchen Bowie (9 goals, 6 assists), jr.; F Rhett Curran (16 goals, 6 assists), jr.; MF Julia Silvestri (3 assists), sr.; F Abby Tracey (4 assists), sr.; MF-D Alex Curran, jr.; MF Kelly Nam, sr.; MF Shannon Monahan, sr.; F Jackie Hallack, so.; D Nicole Gerardiello, sr.

Key losses: D Liz Anderson; F Emily McGuckin; F Aly Matchett (5 assists); GK Julia Keenan (4 shutouts).

Top newcomers: MF-D Isabel Passerini, so.; MF-D Isabella Candeloro, so.; GK Morgan Sullivan, jr.

Outlook: Talk about your turnarounds. After going 8-56-2 from 2009-12, including an 0-16 campaign in '11, the Spartans reeled off 11 wins and were a contender in the American Division, as evidenced by a 1-1 tie at home against High Point that ended the Wildcats' 51-game winning streak in the division. Offensive consistency was the key, scoring 36 goals after just two in '11 and 19 in '12. Bowie and Curran are back to lead that unit, which figures to be strong. Defensively, the losses of Keenan in the cage and Anderson at sweeper hurt. If the defense is solid, you can expect the Spartans to once again be one of the top programs in the county.

Vernon Vikings

Coach: Hollyce Schoepp (fifth season, 39-36-1)

2013 record: 10-9, 7-7 (fifth place NJAC American Division)

Key returnees: D Regina Incarnato (4 goals), sr.; D Lindsay Verrico, jr.; MF Emily Garofalo (7 goals), jr.; GK Lauren Incarnato (8 shutouts), jr.; D Marissa Molloy, sr.; F McKenzie Alter, so.

Key losses: MF Julie Cacace (7 goals); F Julia Hammerton (7 goals); MF Miranda Logan.

Top newcomers: D Brenna DelBagno, so.; MF Erin Keneley, so.; F Brianna White, so.; F Danielle Ward, jr.

Outlook: Vikings rebounded from a tough 4-win season in 2012 to notch double-digit wins for the second time in three seasons after winning 15 games in 2011. The loss of Cacace, a four-year starter, to graduation is big, but the Incarnatos are back to anchor the defense. Defensively, this group should be fine. It's the offense that's a big question mark coming into the fall. The Vikes, who only have three seniors in the lineup, scored 10 goals in their first 14 games last year, and no more than one in any game, before notching 18 over the last five. To be fair, 13 of those came against struggling Morris Hills and Butler squads, before a disappointing 1-0 loss to Mount Olive in the North 1, Group 3 playoffs ended the season. Vernon beat Mount Olive twice during the regular season.

Wallkill Valley Rangers

Coach: Irene Chernati (29th season, 356-184-7)

2013 record: 9-12, 6-8 (fifth place NJAC Freedom)

Key returnees: MF Erica McNaulty, jr.; F Danielle Seabeck (3 goals), so.; F Leah Struble (4 goals), sr.; D Meg Good, sr.; GK Merinda Gruszecki (8 shutouts), sr.; D Casey Murphy, sr.

Key losses: F Casey Pustelniak (14 goals); F Barbara Hannan (4 goals, 6 assists), sr.; MF Katelynn Higgins; MF Emma Chick; D Courtney Berado; F Olivia Shea.

Top newcomers: D Laura David, sr.; D Nicole Fadel, sr.; MF Nicole Hopper, jr.; F Sam Hopper, so.; F Fiona Blake, fr.; MF Caitlyn Mizeski, fr.; F Morgan Carr, fr.

Outlook: Rangers are three years removed from a division title and made a second straight run to the North 1, Group 2 quarterfinals last season -- beating Pequannock, 4-0, in the opening round before being ousted by eventual champion Mountain Lakes, 3-0. Offense has been a question mark in recent seasons, scoring 27 goals last year after notching just 17 in 2012. Defensively, Gruszecki stepped into a tough situation last year with a season-ending injury to the starting goalie and improved as the season wore on. Chernati is a fine coach, so expect this squad to get better as the season rolls on.

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