The search is over.
After nearly two months and with the field hockey season just 12 days from the start of official practices for the upcoming season, Warren Hills finally has a new head coach.
Former Lenape Valley coach Kate Rothman accepted the job on Tuesday and met with her captains for this year's squad. She will be introduced to the rest of the team on Thursday.
"It feels great. I'm thrilled," said Rothman, who had recently accepted an assistant coaching position at Randolph High School.
Former Hackettstown and Pope John coach Gina DiMaio also was in the running for the vacant job and was informed of the school's decision on Wednesday.
Warren Hills athletic director Pete Lubrecht is pleased to bring Rothman into the fold.
"I like her enthusiasm and she has a great amount of experience," said Lubrecht, who is currently on vacation in El Paso, Tex. "She has a sense of integrity and has a good track record. She knows the program is so visible and what she's taking over."
Rothman, 50, is inheriting one of the top programs in New Jersey. Her staff will consist of former Wallkill Valley player Selena Agnor and Warren Hills alum Gregg Wiseburn, a former wrestler for the Blue Streaks, who has recently served as an assistant coach for both field hockey and wrestling at Delaware Valley.
"Selena will be a nice complement to me, she's young and gung-ho," Rothman said of Agnor, who was a volunteer assistant at Hackettstown last season. "[Gregg] is going to help me a lot with analyzing other teams, which he did at Del Val."
Warren Hills, coming off the best season in program history that culminated with its first Group 3 championship, had been without a coach since Laurie Kerr resigned due to family reasons in early June. Over the past four years, the Streaks have gone 89-13-1.
With no teaching positions available, Warren Hills' search became more difficult, along with the timing of Kerr's resignation. As for taking over a program under some tough and unusual circumstances with the season fast approaching, Rothman isn't too concerned.
"Experience helps you there and I am going to be myself," Rothman said. "I have all the respect in the world for [Kerr]. But give me a chance. I'm here to coach the kids and not everyone is going to love what you do. But I'm here to make the transition as easy as possible and hopefully have a winning season like they're used to here."
Rothman, who graduated from Rutgers with a degree in computer science, is not a teacher and can devote her full attention to field hockey. The Independence Township resident has four children, including sons Jason and Brandon, who both wrestled at Hackettstown. Her daughter, Danielle, played field hockey for the Tigers from 2004-07 and is an assistant coach at Hillsborough.
Kate Rothman revived the Lenape Valley program during her three-year tenure as the Sussex County school's head coach, inheriting a program that went 1-15-2 in 2010 and had won a total of 84 games in 11 seasons.
The Patriots went 20-34-3 from 2011-13, finishing 15-6-1 and reaching the North 1, Group 1 semifinals, where they lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to eventual champ Mountain Lakes, in her final season. Lenape also reached the quarterfinals in the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament, dropping a 3-2 decision in overtime to Voorhees.
Rothman, who has also served as Hackettstown's middle school coach, was not rehired for the 2014 season. The Patriots went 14-6 and won the NJAC Freedom Division title this past season under Lauren Fasano, but were stunned by Kittatinny, 2-1, in the North 1, Group 1 semifinals. They also dropped a 5-0 decision at Warren Hills on Sept. 20.
Warren Hills is coming off its most successful campaign in 50 seasons, finishing 23-4 -- a school single-season record for wins -- and capturing both its 12th sectional title and the program's first state title with a thrilling 5-4 overtime win against nemesis Ocean City in the Group 3 final. It's also the first state championship in any female sport for the Warren County school.
Kerr, a former star player at Warren Hills and 1987 graduate, turned the program into a state powerhouse during her 15 seasons at the helm. Her teams went 264-71-12 overall and won or shared six Skyland Conference Delaware or Raritan Division titles and the school's only county championships in 2009, '11, '13 and '14.
In addition, the Streaks claimed eight of their 12 sectional titles and appeared in the Group 3 finals seven times under Kerr, who surpassed her predecessor and coach Luanne Ferenci (226-101-41 from 1981-99) as the winningest coach in program history.
The Washington/Warren Hills program is 601-250-92 overall. The 600th win came on Nov. 12, 2014, a 6-1 victory over Northern Highlands in the Group 3 semifinals. A 4-2 loss to Oak Knoll in the school's first Tournament of Champions appearance ended an 11-game win streak.
Rothman, who is the program's seventh head coach in 51 seasons, will dive right into things with an opening game at home against state power and Group 2 runner-up Madison on Friday, Sept. 4. But the matchup six days later will be most interesting as the Streaks travel to Hackettstown on Sept. 10, in what will be sort of a homecoming for Rothman, who will also face her daughter's Hillsborough team at home on Sept. 24.
The rest of Warren Hills' ambitious schedule includes games against acrhrival Voorhees (Sept. 15 at home), perennial Group 4 champion Eastern (Sept. 26 at home), Bridgewater-Raritan (Sept. 29 away) and at 16-time Group 2 champion West Essex (Oct, 29 away).