Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Field hockey: Roncoroni-led Vikes stun Blue Streaks

WASHINGTON TWP. -- In a matchup of field hockey heavyweights, it's a huge plus to have that player who can deliver a knockout blow.

With scoring machine Kathryn Roncoroni, Voorhees always has that puncher's chance.

Case in point on Tuesday night, the senior forward racked up two unanswered and unassisted goals as the Vikings rallied for a 2-1 win over Warren Hills in the 57th installment of this tremendous rivalry series before a large crowd at Warren Hills School District Stadium.

Voorhees (2-1), which holds a 31-20-6 edge in the series (13-10-3 on the road) dating to 1975, avenged a 5-0 loss in last year's Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex finals and ended Warren Hills' three-game win streak in the process. No Blue Streaks team has won four in a row against the Vikings.

"We really wanted it more," said the American University-bound Roncoroni, who is Voorhees' all-time scoring leader with 94 career goals and 214 points. "It was a very good game and they are a very good team. We like playing them. They really push us and make us better."

Warren Hills (2-1), last year's Group 3 champion and ranked No. 1 in the Open Mike area, also saw its 10-game home win streak -- dating to last year after a 2-1 loss in overtime against Bridgewater-Raritan on Oct. 2 -- snapped with the loss. Rarely will you see an explosive Blue Streaks offense held to just one shot on goal.

And what a shot it was as junior forward Dani Profita opened the scoring with her team-leading fifth goal with 22:42 left in the first half. Profita received the ball near the left corner and lifted it up over the defense and a helpless Voorhees goalie Annie Weiler could only watch it land in the back of the cage.

"That was a college goal," said first-year Warren Hills coach Kate Rothman, whose team had outscored its first two opponents, 13-5, this season. "We had a really hard time on corners. [Voorhees] packed it in the circle, but we should be able to get shots off. We didn't get a shot off on any of the [five] corners. That's our bread and butter. They played good defense against us."

Other than Profita's stellar goal, No. 2 Voorhees' staunch defense kept it close until Roncoroni was able to deliver two quick and decisive strikes.

With 11:17 left in the second half and Voorhees pressing the issue, Roncoroni went on an 85-yard drive to tie the score at 1. Once in the circle, Roncoroni sent a reverse-stick shot screaming into the right corner of the cage.

"I was able to pull the ball across and I knew I didn't have a lot of time because their defense is so good," Roncoroni said.

Roncoroni took advantage of a tipped ball by the Warren Hills defense to tuck home the eventual game winner with 3:33 left on the clock -- sending a rocket into the left corner of the cage.

"When Kat decides she's the best player on the field, she turns it on," said fifth-year coach Taylor Webb, whose teams are now 4-6 overall vs. Warren Hills. "She led by example. It's key moments of leadership in addition to her scoring."

Webb believes that, after a sluggish first 10 minutes of the first half, that the game really turned in the second half when junior midfielder Hannah Schiavo received a green card for pushing with 24:15 left in the game. The Vikes played down one player for two minutes and that's when her teammates rose to the occasion and swung the momentum.

"It made us play more aggressive," Webb said. "They picked it up when she was missing. Two steps back on the field [after the penalty time elapsed], she was out there making a play."

Warren Hills, which also played a player down with 4:24 left for a green card, had a couple of near-misses on offense that could have turned the tide. Profita nearly had her second goal with 22:43 left in the second half, but her crossing shot sailed wide right. In the first half, sophomore Tali Popinko lifted a ball toward the cage that appeared to be on line, but was tipped over the cage by senior forward Megan Thompson. Ironically, the Streaks scored on that same play in a 5-3 win over Madison on opening day.

Nonetheless, it was special for both sides to see this rivalry renewed in the regular season after playing just once in the tri-county tournament in 2014.

"This is thrilling for me," Rothman said. "You'd like to come out on the winning end, but it doesn't get any better than this -- two Top 20 teams in the state."

Voorhees (2-1)                           0                  2              --    2
Warren Hills (2-1)                      1                   0              --    1


First half -- WH, Dani Profita, 5th, 22:42.

Second half -- V, Kathryn Roncoroni, 4th, 11:17; V, Roncoroni, 5th, 3:33.

Shots -- Voorhees 3; Warren Hills 1.

Saves -- Annie Weiler 0 (V); Jackie de Raismes 1 (WH).

Penalty corners -- Voorhees 4; Warren Hills 5.

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