Sunday, November 15, 2015

Field hockey: Five thoughts on Warren Hills' G3 title

Warren Hills' field hockey team isn't finished yet, as the Blue Streaks still have business at hand in the Tournament of Champions on Wednesday.

But here's five thoughts on a 1-0 win over Ocean City for a second straight Group 3 championship -- the only state titles for any female sports program in the history of the school. How about a few banners detailing the tremendous success of the field hockey program being hung at the turf facility starting next season? Sounds appropriate to me.

1. Defense wins championships. Certainly won this one. Senior back Rachel Phillips was instrumental in what she deemed the unit's best game to date. Phillips was a big reason why the D held off Ocean City on nine penalty corners, and she even sparked the winning drive on offense, sending a ball screaming toward the goal from about 35 yards out to senior forward Megan Thompson, who was able to collect her own rebound for the only goal of the contest.

Can Warren Hills' field hockey team 3-peat in 2016?
Not to be outdone was the stellar performance of junior goalie Jackie de Raismes, who stopped six shots and made a pair of tremendous diving saves in the second half with Ocean City knocking on the door. After being thrown into the fire last year in her first varsity season, de Raismes, who never seems fazed by playing in big games, proved up to the challenge once again.

"After last year this was just another game to me, " said de Raismes, who, along with the rest of the team, dedicated the season to classmate Evan Murray, the Blue Streaks' quarterback who tragically died following one of the team's games earlier this season. "We knew he was watching."

2. To say the Blue Streaks were motivated for the final is perhaps the understatement of the season. Not only were they out to prove that last year was no fluke, but they took exception to comments made by Ocean City coach Cory Terry, who said "Bring it," to one media outlet following a 5-2 win over Moorestown in the Group 3 semifinals. All that ultimately mattered was the final numbers on scoreboard and the trophy going back to Washington for a second straight year.

To a player, this Warren Hills team believed all along it would return to Bordentown for a rematch with Ocean City, now 5-2 all-time in this championship series with the Streaks. The teams have met in the last four Group 3 finals, with the Red Raiders winning in 2012 and '13.

"From the beginning of the season, we never thought about anything but getting back here," said forward Katie Thompson, one of three starting seniors, along with Phillips and twin sister Megan, who will be deeply missed in 2016. "We worked so hard. It's amazing."

3. First-year coach Kate Rothman said afterward that Warren Hills played with tremendous heart and desire. It showed in a second half that favored Ocean City for nearly the full 30 minutes. But each time the Red Raiders threatened, the Streaks found a way to preserve the shutout. OC finished with a 9-3 edge in penalty corners and held Warren Hills to just two shots-on-goal in the second half. Some of the officials' calls were questionable, but the better team prevailed in the end.

4. As it did a year ago, Warren Hills jumped out in front with an early goal. In 2014, it was Katie Thompson who scored the first goal. Turn the page to Saturday, and it was twin sister Megan who notched what proved to be the game-winner just 1:56 in. It set the tone for a second straight title.

5. Of course, now the question now is can Warren Hills 3-peat? With eight returning starters -- juniors Dani Profita (40 goals, 25 assists), Brie Schwab, Tyler Stoner and de Raismes, and sophomores Rebecca Sigman (19 goals), Tali Popinko, Mikayla Dugan and Sydney Moskal -- and a strong eighth-grade class, it's a solid bet the Streaks are back in the title hunt. In addition, junior Caroline Cotte, who was expected to be one of the top players in the area, was lost for this season with a torn ACL. Cotte served as the team statistician all season and will be hungry to return in 2016.

OC isn't going away either. Despite losing three starting seniors, there are nine juniors and three sophomores on this year's roster.

"I think we can [win it next year]," de Raismes said. "We just have to take it one at a time. We are going to try our best to get back here."

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