Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Field hockey: Streaks roll in Group 3 semifinal win

BOONTON -- Warren Hills' field hockey team experienced the best of both worlds on Wednesday night.

The Blue Streaks rode their fine senior leadership and some offense from their future star, as super sophomore forward Dani Profita scored a pair of goals in a dominating 6-1 victory over Northern Highlands in a Group 3 semifinal at Boonton High School.

Warren Hills (22-3), which has won 10 in a row and earned the program's 600th victory, advances to the Group 3 final for the third straight season and for the fourth time in six years. Standing in the way of the program's first state title in any female sport is once again Ocean City, which defeated Warren Hills in the last two championship games -- including last year's 1-0 double-overtime win -- and five times overall since 1999. Saturday's title game is set for 2 p.m. at Bordentown High School.

"We wanted Ocean [a 1-0 winner over Moorestown in the other semifinal]. We didn't want to play anyone else," said senior forward Sydney Muntone, who scored a pair of goals to become Warren Hills' single-season leader with 29 to go with one assist. "We want to end [the rivalry] on our note."

"We kept working and playing our hardest because this was our ticket to the big one," said Profita, who produced her sixth multi-goal game and her first goals of this postseason.

Northern Highlands (20-3), which won its eighth sectional title on Friday to reach the Group 3 semifinals for the second straight year, was looking to give a better account after a 9-0 loss to Warren Hills here a year ago. Coach Rich Smith's Highlanders did just that, tightening this one at 2-1, when Caroline Quinn connected off a penalty corner with 3:25 left before halftime.

But Profita's 22nd goal -- a beautiful reverse stick shot off a one-on-one with goalie Victoria Marino -- started a run of four second-half goals that enabled the heavily-favored Streaks to pull away. Shortly before the goal, coach Laurie Kerr called a timeout with her team looking out of sorts.

"I told them if they didn't pick up their communication to pack their bags because their season would be over," said Kerr, now 37-14 in postseason games, including 6-1 in Group 3 semifinals. "We had the right ideas, but we weren't passing it hard enough or right to sticks. We were working so much harder than we had to."

Profita opened the scoring on the game's third penalty corner off a feed from Muntone, who earned her team-leading 20th assist and 57th overall, tying her with Niki Miller for the school's career mark.

Warren Hills' offense, which was on point with its passing game, was simply too much down the stretch. One plus for Northern Highlands was that it allowed just one goal off 10 penalty corners.

"Give a lot of credit to Warren Hills. They're an awesome, high octane team," said the classy Smith. "I hope they do well in the Group 3 final. We defended their corners well. They were 8-of-11 on corners against us last year. It was our first sectional title since 1993 last year and we came in a bit starry-eyed. Tonight, we came out energized. When it got to be 3-1 that might have been the tipping point. We never quit, but I think we felt the game was out of reach."

Senior forward Jessica Nissen got in on the act with her 19th goal, which started with a perfect cross pass from Profita to the left post, where Nissen was waiting to knock it in. Muntone made it 5-1 off a breakaway with 17:04 left, while junior Megan Thompson capped the scoring with her 12th goal at the 7:21 mark.

Corner, fast breaks, cross passes in the circle, Warren Hills got it done with a little of everything. Meanwhile, the stellar defense, anchored by senior back Amanda Crampton, yielded just three shots-on-goal, while the Streaks racked up 21.

"We had really good passing and communicating really well," Profita said.

Muntone, who admittedly doesn't pay attention to stats, was unaware that she needed one goal to set the school's single-season mark after matching Lindsey Schott (27 in 2011) on Oct. 28. The Drexel-bound Muntone also holds records for career goals (77) and points (211), and she is one shy of matching Miller for the single-season points mark of 79.

"It's a huge accomplishment. It feels good to leave Warren Hills with the most goals in a career and single-season," Muntone said. "We have a great defense, too. We have the whole package. When we pass the ball, everyone can score."

Freshman midfielder Tali Popinko made it a family affair by joining her sisters, Toni and Tori, who played in the 2009 state title game for the Blue Streaks. Tali was solid in her first semifinal subbing for junior Julie DeSanto, who is out with a concussion.

Now, Warren Hills is looking to end an 0-for-8 skid in the finals in its Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex-best ninth appearance.

"It's an honor [to play in the Group 3 final]. It's something I've always wanted to do," said Tali Popinko, who watched her sisters play in '09. "We've all worked hard to get there."

Northern Highlands (20-3)               1                  0              --    1
Warren Hills (22-3)                          2                  4               --    6


First half -- WH, Dani Profita, 21st, (Sydney Muntone), 22:54; WH, Muntone, 28th, 8:08; NH, Caroline Quinn, 5th, (Jordan Paton), 3:25.

Second half -- WH, D. Profita, 22nd, (Jessica Nissen), 24:17; WH, Nissen, 19th, (D. Profita), 20:40; WH, Muntone, 29th, 17:04; WH, Megan Thompson, 12th, (Katie Thompson), 7:21.

Shots -- Northern Highlands 3; Warren Hills 21.

Saves -- Victoria Marino 14, Jennifer Sauerman 1 (NH); Jackie de Raismes 2 (WH).

Penalty corners -- Northern Highlands 3; Warren Hills 10.

Group 1 semifinals

Shore Regional 2, Newton 0 -- Annie Deusch and Katie Mannino scored goals as Shore advanced to the Group 1 title game on Wednesday. Goalie Jenna Zawislak made 17 saves for Newton (13-6-5), which claimed its first sectional title since 1986 on Saturday.

Shore, which has won 24 sectional championships, will play Collingswood in a rematch of last year's Group 1 final, won 3-1 by Shore, on Saturday. Newton was bidding for its second finals appearance and first since 1984.

Shore's 13 state championships trail only Eastern (17) and Moorestown and West Essex with 16 apiece.

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