Monday, September 15, 2014

Field hockey: Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings

We're off an running in the 2014 field hockey season and it's time to unveil the first set of Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex rankings.

No surprise at the top with No. 1 Warren Hills and No. 2 Voorhees. These bitter rivals are annually the top programs in the area and are among the state's best. It's a shame we won't see them match up, at least in the regular season, as the teams are in different divisions in the Skyland Conference for the first time since 2002.

Warren Hills has just about everyone back from last year's 22-win team, including outstanding seniors Sydney Muntone (146 career points, third all-time at the school) at forward, Nikki Profita (129 career points, fourth on the Streaks's all-time list) at center midfield and Amanda Crampton at back. Through three games, a high-powered attack produced 15 goals. Crampton anchors a stingy defense that has yet to allow a goal. New goalie Jackie de Raismes, a sophomore, will get a big test this week when No. 4 Lenape Valley comes calling on Saturday.

"We have high expectations," said Crampton following a 3-0 win over Hackettstown in the opener on Sept. 8.  "We're working really hard in practice. Once we get that first goal, we feed off the energy."

Speaking of the Patriots, they have some pretty lofty goals of their own this season with a veteran group returning from last year's 15-win club that marked one of the area's biggest turnarounds in recent years.

Senior center midfielder Sally Olson and Bucknell commit is the heart-and-soul of this group. The captain and last year's Mugs Media Player of the Year, has three goals in three games, including one off a penalty stroke in a 2-0 win over High Point on Sept. 5.

"We definitely feel the pressure is on us," said Olson, when asked how the team is responding to playing the role of being one of the hunted this year. "We just have to step up and play our game. Every practice, we're trying to get better."

Lenape seems to have unfinished business after getting knocked off in last year's North 1, Group 1 semifinals.

"We have high hopes," senior forward Alyssa Falleni said. "We want to take [the title] home this year."

Now onto this week's rankings:

1. Warren Hills (3-0) -- Blue Streaks, who have reached the Group 3 final each of the last two seasons, are once again the team to beat in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area. Coach Laurie Kerr's team opened with a 3-0 win against Hackettstown before blanking Pingry (4-0 last Tuesday) and Montgomery (8-0 last Thursday), the latter in the Skyland Conference Raritan Division opener. In that one, senior forward Sydney Muntone notched her second straight three-goal game, while sophomore Dani Profita added two goals and two assists. Profita had at least one goal or an assist in the three victories, while senior back Amanda Crampton had assists in all three.

Up next: Ridge at home on Tuesday; Phillipsburg at home on Wednesday; Lenape Valley at home on Saturday.

2. Voorhees (4-0-1) -- Vikings are off to another fine start as the offense is rolling in the early going with 16 goals in five games. For a team that usually plays sound defense, that's big. Junior forward Kathryn Roncoroni is leading the charge with eight goals and is on pace to shatter the school record of 33 she matched a year ago. She had three in the team's 6-2 win over Bernards in the opener and added one on a penalty stroke to help coach Taylor Webb's club earn a 1-1 tie with state power West Essex on Sept. 6. The Vikes rolled to three shutout wins last week, including a 4-0 victory over rival North Hunterdon on Saturday in Voorhees' annual charity game for Save the Cherubs.

Up next: at Mount St. Mary on Tuesday; at Somerville on Thursday; Hunterdon Central at home on Saturday.

3. Hunterdon Central (3-0) -- Red Devils rolled to wins over Hillsborough (5-1) and Watchung Hills (6-1) before earning a 2-1 win at Pingry on Saturday to improve to 2-0 in the Skyland Conference Delaware Division standings. Senior forward Kendall Nickel scored two goals in each of the first two wins and had an assist on Saturday, while also notching her 100th career point against Watchung. Nickel has scored 37 goals over the last three seasons, including a team-high 17 a year ago. Senior midfielder Kailey Dalgauer also has four goals through three games, while senior goalie Hannah Cecchini made 16 saves in the three wins.

Up next: at North Hunterdon on Tuesday; at Voorhees on Saturday.

4. Lenape Valley (3-0) -- To no surprise the Patriots are off to a perfect start after opening the first season under new coach Lauren Fasano with a 2-0 win at High Point -- snapping the Wildcats' 54-game unbeaten streak in divisional contests dating to 2009. Seniors Alyssa Falleni and Sally Olson scored goals in that one before combining for three more in last Wednesday's 4-2 win over North Warren in the home opener. Falleni added a goal and Olson had an assist in Friday's 2-1 win over Hackettstown that moved the Pats to 2-0 in the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division.

Up next: at Newton on Tuesday; Mount Olive at home on Wednesday; at Warren Hills on Saturday.

5. Hackettstown (2-2) -- Tigers opened their season with a 5-0 win over Jefferson, followed by a 2-0 victory over Wallkill Valley last Wednesday. Senior forward Kelly Healy scored a pair of goals in the opener, while junior forward Madison Kennedy notched her second goal in the win over Wallkill. Sandwiched in between was a 3-0 loss at Warren Hills last Monday in which junior goalie Rose Bishop played well in making nine saves. Coach Stephen Speirs' team closed out the week with a 2-1 loss at Lenape Valley in a key Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Freedom Division matchup on Friday.

Up next: at North Warren on Tuesday.

6. Kittatinny (3-0) -- Cougars are developing a trend in the early going with three consecutive 2-0 wins to open the season. New addition Alexis Ambrosino has been just what the offense needed as the senior forward and transfer from High Point notched a goal in each victory. She will face High Point this week. Senior goalie Julia Pevarnik has been solid for a stout defense with seven saves in three shutouts. Kittatinny had eight shutouts all of last season. A 2-0 win over Newton last Friday boosted their record in the new Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference Colonial Division to 2-0.

Up next: High Point at home on Tuesday; at Ridge on Saturday.

7. Belvidere (2-1) -- County Seaters gave new coach Beth Franceschino a win in the first game of her second stint -- 2-0 at North Plainfield in the season opener -- and scored a 1-0 victory over nemesis South Hunterdon last Thursday to raise their Skyland Conference Mountain Division record to 2-0. Senior forward Erin Sassaman is off to a great start with six goals, including a pair in the season-opening win over North Plainfield. Junior goalie Maddie Beaumont made 22 saves in two shutouts.

Up next: Franklin at home on Tuesday; at Mount St. Mary on Thursday; at North Warren on Saturday.

8. South Hunterdon (1-2) -- Eagles opened their season under new coach Stephanie Davis with a 3-1 win at Mount St. Mary before back-to-back 1-0 loses at Voorhees last Tuesday and Belvidere on Thursday. Sophomore forward Kate Shaffer scored one of the goals on opening day, while sophomore goalie Giovanna Rubino made 34 saves in the three contests. The offense has been a bit slow to come around early on after producing 12 goals in the first three games a year ago.

Up next: Somerville at home on Tuesday; North Plainfield at home on Thursday.

9. Sparta (2-1) -- Spartans stormed out of the gate with a 4-1 win over Roxbury before stumbling in a 3-1 loss at Montville last Tuesday. Coach Kristin Lindsley's team rebounded with a 5-0 win over Morris Hills in a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference American Division clash. Junior forward Rhett Curran is off to a great start with five goals and three assists, including three goals in the win over Morris Hills. Junior midfielder Gretchen Bowie -- the other half of the Sussex County school's 1-2 punch on offense -- has added three assists.

Up next: at Randolph on Monday; Mendham at home on Wednesday; Vernon at home on Friday.

10. Delaware Valley (3-1) -- Terriers capped their 2-1 week with a 3-0 blanking at home over Phillipsburg on Friday. Sophomore forward Ann Bill scored her third goal of the season after notching a pair against East Brunswick in the team's 3-1 season-opening win. Senior midfielder Alyssa Orrico had two assists in last Tuesday's 3-0 win over Mount St. Mary. In three wins, junior goalie Morgan Davies made 17 saves and yielded just one goal, while stopping 12 shots in last Thursday's 4-0 loss at Voorhees in a Skyland Conference Valley Division clash.

Up next: Bernards at home on Thursday; at Montgomery on Saturday.

On the bubble: Pope John (3-0); Phillipsburg (2-2).

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