Friday, October 17, 2014

Field hockey: HWS semifinals preview, stats, picks

The sixth annual Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament rolls on with the semifinals on Saturday at the sites of the higher seeds.

No. 6 High Point travels to meet No. 1 Warren Hills in one semifinal at 3:30 p.m., while No. 2 Voorhees hosts No. 4 Hunterdon Central at 2 p.m.

The winners will meet in the championship game on Saturday, Oct. 25. If Warren Hills advances, the site will be Hackettstown High School's Morrison Field. If High Point moves on to the final, the game will be played at Newton's Palmer Field.

High Point, making its fourth semifinals appearance, is the only non-top four seed to reach this round. The Wildcats improved to 12-5 all-time in HWS games with a 1-0 win over Kittatinny in the quarterfinals last weekend.

Warren Hills seeks its second straight tri-county title and fourth overall. The Blue Streaks, who are 18-2 all-time in this tournament, have not yielded a goal, scoring a 6-0 win over Wallkill Valley in the opening round and earning a 3-0 semifinal win over Hackettstown in a rematch of last year's final.

Voorhees, which won titles in 2010 and '12, is 15-3 all-time in HWS play and recently suffered its first loss of the season -- 2-1 to Bernards on Tuesday. The Vikings will get a rematch with county rival Hunterdon Central, which seeks its first HWS championship. Voorhees scored a 5-0 win when the teams met on Sept. 20. Including the former Hunterdon-Warren Tournament, the Vikes have won a record 10 county titles.

Here's a closer look at each semifinal matchup:

High Point (3-7-4) at Warren Hills (13-3) -- Wildcats continued their Cinderella run through the brackets with a 1-0 win over No. 2 Kittatinny in the quarterfinals. Sophomore forward Kelsey Little scored the winning goal and leads the team with four on the season. Lack of offense has been a problem for coach Bev Keur's team, which has scored just eight goals all season. High Point does have a solid defense, anchored by Danielle Price, Lexa Sabo and goalie Autumn Smith (five shutouts). On the other side, Blue Streaks are an offensive powerhouse, averaging 5.1 goals per game with a season total of 82. Senior forward Sydney Muntone leads the team with 19 goals to go with 12 assists. She ranks second on the school's all-time list for career points (183), goals (67) and assists (49). Muntone is six goals shy of passing Lindsey Schott (72) for that record. Senior center midfielder Nikki Profita, a Rutgers commit, is tied for fourth on the all-time goals (54), assists (45) and points (153) list. Defensively, backs Amanda Crampton and Allie Brouhard are exceptional players.

Pick -- Warren Hills, 4-0.

Hunterdon Central (11-4) at Voorhees (14-1-2) -- Red Devils are looking for their first trip to the championship game after reaching the semifinals for the third straight year by knocking off Sussex top seed Lenape Valley in overtime, 2-1, in the quarterfinals. Forward Kendall Nickel (15 goals) is one of the top scorers in the tri-county area, while sophomore Maddie Freeman has emerged as on offensive force with 11 goals for coach Jenn Sponzo's club. Defensively, goalie Hannah Cecchini will need to have a solid game in the cage. Vikings feature the area's top scorer in junior forward Kathryn Roncoroni, who set the school's single-season goals mark on Thursday with three in a 5-1 win over Delaware Valley to give her 36 on the year and 81 for her career. The big thing is that Roncoroni also is setting up goals with a team-high 13 assists, doubling last season's total. Hannah Ryan (12 goals) and Isabelle Houser (10 assists) are also important pieces to the offense. Defensively, coach Taylor Webb's squad is stout, yielding just nine goals all season. Senior goalie Lauren Pianucci has helped produce 11 shutouts.

Pick -- Voorhees, 3-1.

Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex championship results

2013 -- Warren Hills 1, Hackettstown 0

2012 -- Voorhees 1, High Point 0

2011 -- Warren Hills 3, High Point 1

2010 -- Voorhees 1, Warren Hills 0

2009 -- Newton and Warren Hills co-champions (final was never played)

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