Friday, November 7, 2014

Field hockey: Streaks strike for 12th sectional title

MENDHAM -- Junior midfielder Katie Thompson and the Warren Hills' field hockey team were living right on the left post on Friday afternoon.

Thompson scored both of the Blue Streaks' goals in a 2-1 win over Mendham in the North 2, Group 3 sectional final played under windy conditions on the turf at Mendham High School.

Warren Hills with the sectional trophy. (Courtesy of Michelle Pulsinelli Profita)
Warren Hills (21-3), which has won nine straight since a 1-0 loss to Madison, collects its 12th sectional championship and third in a row. The Streaks advance to face North 1 champion Northern Highlands (20-2) -- a 1-0 winner over West Morris on Friday -- in a rematch of last year's Group 3 semifinals 4 p.m. on Wednesday at Boonton High School.

Moorestown will face Ocean City in the other semifinal. The winners move on to the Group 3 final at Bordentown High School on Saturday, Nov. 15.

In addition, coach Laurie Kerr's team, which beat Northern Highlands, 9-0, last year to reach the Group 3 final, claimed the program's 599th victory in its 50th season. Overall, the program, which started as Washington High School, is 599-248-92.

"This is my third one and it feels really good to keep that trophy in our hands," said senior back Amanda Crampton. "This was a really tough game. This is probably the toughest sectional final we've played, so it feels really good."

Mendham (16-3), which was seeking its third sectional title and first since 1993, gave a good account early on in the first half. But Warren Hills got on the board with 10:44 left -- on its fifth penalty corner -- when Thompson collected the ball off senior goalie Grace Tino's pads following a shot by sophomore forward Dani Profita and tucked it into the left corner for a 1-0 lead.

Nearing the end of the half, Thompson again cashed in off a penalty corner on a nice feed from senior forward Sydney Muntone to make it 2-0 with 1:17 left on the clock. Muntone, who has 19 assists on the season, needs three more to pass Niki Miller (57) for first place on the school's all-time list.

"We always play as a team. I usually get the assists on our goals," said Thompson, who has been on fire of late with four goals and 15 assists in her last nine games, including two goals and six assists in three playoff wins. "My inserts on corners have gotten a lot better."

Despite dominating most of the first half and most of the second, Mendham, now 0-3 all-time against Warren Hills in the postseason, made it a one-goal game when junior midfielder Samantha DiMaio connected off a rebound in front of the cage with 5:32 left to play in the contest. That's when Warren Hills' stellar defense kicked into gear to preserve another title.

Senior backs Crampton, Allie Brouhard and Amanda Oberly, along with junior Rachel Phillips, didn't allow a shot the rest of the way, as the Blue Streaks were a player down when Muntone received a green card with 1:42 left. As a group, the defense has yielded just two goals during this nine-game win streak, including back-to-back 4-0 playoff victories over Hopewell Valley and Princeton.

"The second half was not our strongest," said Crampton, a starter on the last three sectional title teams. "I think we played not to lose instead of to win. Our defense is usually on point, and we know if a ball gets past one of us, someone will be there to back us up."

"This is really awesome. You have a goal set since your freshman year, and to be part of the varsity team is like a family," said Oberly, whose aunt, Marlene, was the starting goalie on the Streaks' first sectional championship team in 1984.

Kerr said the play of Thompson, both on the field and inserting the ball on corners, has provided a spark since the loss to Madison.

"We had some nice shots today at the post and Katie was in the right spot, and she was able to finish it," said Kerr, a sophomore on the '84 team, who has guided her alma mater to eight sectional titles and a 36-14 postseason record in 15 seasons. "She has been playing real well."

Warren Hills (21-3)                    2                  0              --    2
Mendham (16-3)                        0                  1              --    1


First half -- WH, Katie Thompson, 6th, 10:44; WH, K. Thompson, 7th, (Sydney Muntone), 1:17.

Second half -- M, Samantha DiMaio, 8th, 5:32.

Shots -- Warren Hills 13; Mendham 4.

Saves -- Jackie de Raismes 3 (WH); Grace Tino 11 (M).

Penalty corners -- Warren Hills 11; Mendham 2.

North 2, Group 4

Bridgewater-Raritan 2, Hunterdon Central 0 -- Senior Samantha Giordano scored her team-leading 32nd goal and Kelly Watson added another -- both in the second half -- to lift the top-seeded Panthers (22-2), who advance to play Montclair in the Group 4 semifinals, to their 10th consecutive sectional title. Goalie Hannah Cecchini made seven saves for the third-seeded Red Devils (16-7), who were seeking their 14th title and third in four years.

Central is now 8-18-2 in the series under veteran coach Jenn Sponzo in 16 seasons, including two regular-season losses in 2014. The Red Devils won titles in 2011 and '13 and were ousted in last year's North 2, Group 3 semifinals by Bridgewater-Raritan.

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