WASHINGTON TWP. -- Warren Hills' field hockey team heated up at the right time after weathering an early storm.
In a two-goal hole just over eight minutes into the game, the Blue Streaks reeled off five straight goals en route to a 5-3 win over Madison in a battle of two top-ranked teams in New Jersey on Friday in the season opener at Warren Hills School District Stadium.
Warren Hills (1-0), the defending Group 3 champion, lost several key players from last year's superb squad, but the Streaks showed the cupboard is far from bare by avenging a 1-0 loss a year ago to Madison, which returned just about everyone following a run to the Group 2 final in 2014.
In addition, Kate Rothman was making her coaching debut at Warren Hills. She couldn't have asked for a better performance. Her Streaks, who have now won nine in a row at home dating to last season, showed tremendous guts in coming back after being down 2-0 and seemingly in danger of being blown out.
"They were beating us in the middle [of the field] so we changed things up," Rothman said. "We couldn't play our three forwards up [on the front line] so we had them stay back. I told them [in a timeout after Madison's second goal] that they were going to win with breakaways because [Madison] wasn't letting our middies feed the ball."
Madison connected off a corner with 27:03 left in the opening half, when forward Caroline Turnbull sent a laser from the top of the circle into the left corner of the cage. Forward Sage Geyer made it 2-0 nearly six minutes later and the Dodgers were rolling early.
But senior forward Katie Thompson delivered a huge goal for Warren Hills with 13:14 left before the half, when Rachel Phillips collected her own rebound and crossed it over to Thompson near the left side of the cage. That sparked the offense as star forward Dani Profita knotted the score with her 41st career goal off a penalty stroke. Profita, a junior, was shoved from behind in the circle by a defender, prompting the stroke call. She later was denied a second goal on a stroke by a stellar save from Madison goalie Emilie Flamme.
Sophomore forward Tali Popinko gave Warren Hills a 3-2 lead with 5:38 to go as she collected a rebound on another shot by Phillips. Popinko also assisted on what proved to be the decisive goal by senior forward Megan Thompson with 1:11 left before the break.
Megan Thompson added her second goal nearly 13 minutes into the second half to give the Streaks some breathing room. Madison wouldn't go away quietly as it fired off 11 shots in the second half to just five for Warren Hills. Turnbull scored her second goal in the final seconds to cap the scoring.
Warren Hills goalie Jackie de Raismes was stellar in the victory as she tallied 13 saves. de Raismes, who started in her first varsity season last year, stopped several point-blanks shots on the pads and patrolled all over the circle.
"It's very exciting when you come out on the winning end," Rothman said.
Up next: Warren Hills returns to action on Thursday for an independent clash at Hackettstown. The Streaks own a commanding 39-4-3 edge in the all-time series dating to 1969, including a pair of 3-0 wins in '14. The Tigers' last win was 2-1 in '06. Rothman will make her return after serving as a middle school coach for Hackettstown before taking the head coaching job at Lenape Valley in 2011. Tigers coach Stephen Speirs' teams are 0-6 against Warren Hills and have been outscored 24-1 in those meetings, which include two HWS matchups in 2013 and '14.
Madison (0-1) 2 1 -- 3
Warren Hills (1-0) 4 1 -- 5
First half -- M, Caroline Turnbull, 1st, (Kaitlyn DaSilva), 27:03; M, Sage Geyer, 1st, 21:17; WH, Katie Thompson, 1st, (Rachel Phillips), 13:14; WH, Dani Profita, 1st, 12:16; WH, Tali Popinko, 1st, 5:38; WH, Megan Thompson, 1st, (Popinko), 1:11.
Second half -- WH, M. Thompson, 2nd, 17:05; M, Turnbull, 2nd, :12.
Shots -- Madison 16; Warren Hills 12.
Saves -- Emilie Flamme 6, defensive 1 (M); Jackie de Raismes 13 (WH).
Penalty corners -- Madison 10; Warren Hills 4.