The Blue Streaks brought their A-game, and as a result, brought home a second straight championship trophy with a hard-fought 1-0 win over nemesis Ocean City in the Group 3 final on Saturday at Bordentown Regional High School.
Warren Hills (23-2), which matched a school record for wins, repeated as the Group 3 champion with back-to-back wins over Ocean City (22-2). Last year's 5-4 win in overtime in the title game snapped the Streaks' eight-game losing skid in finals since their first appearance in 1996. Warren Hills, making its 10th finals appearance, is now 2-5 all-time vs. Ocean City, which has won nine state titles in its storied history.
|Warren Hills celebrates with its second Group 3 trophy.|
"This is really special," said outstanding back Rachel Phillips, one of three starting seniors who became the first group in program history to play in four straight state finals. "Some people thought we weren't as good [as the 2014 title team]. From the first open gym of the season, all we talked about was winning back-to-backs. Probably [winning] the second one [is sweeter] because it's our senior year."
Ocean City coach Cory Terry gave Warren Hills some extra motivation leading up to the rematch when she was quoted in one media outlet as saying "Bring it," in reference to the Group 3 final after a 5-2 win over Moorestown in the Group 3 semifinals. The Streaks needed no other motivation other than five previous losses to the Red Raiders in the finals dating to 1999.
"We saw [the quote] and we said we had to [beat them]," said senior forward Katie Thompson, a captain along with Phillips. "It was tough. They're our rivals. We knew they'd be out for revenge and we needed to step it up. This is the most amazing feeling."
Phillips, who played one of her best games in a fine career, started the play that led to the game's lone goal. Her hard drive from about 35 yards out found its way into the circle, and senior forward Megan Thompson, who was waiting for the ball near the left post, followed up her initial shot to give Warren Hills a 1-0 lead -- her fifth goal of the postseason -- just 1:56 into the contest.
"We talked [on the bus ride down from Washington] about getting that first goal two minutes in," said Phillips, who will play at the University of Vermont next fall. "Katie and I do that play, and Megan was at the right place."
Junior forward Dani Profita, who leads Warren Hills with 40 goals, nearly made it a two-goal cushion two minutes later on a penalty corner, but her shot ricocheted off the right post. Katie Thompson also fired a laser shot in that was denied by Ocean City goalie Charity Beckert.
After what was mainly an intense defensive struggle in the first 30 minutes, Ocean City seized the momentum in the second half. With 28:37 on the clock, the Red Raiders were awarded a penalty stroke, but Alexis Paone pushed it wide left.
Warren Hills junior goalie Jackie deRaismes, who gained valuable experience in this game a year ago, was stellar down the stretch. deRaismes stopped several point-blank shots, including a diving save across the goal line to preserve the lead and a second state championship.
"I don't know how I stopped them," deRaismes said. "After last year, this was just a game to me. I'm so proud of all my teammates. It's really great that I [got to play] in both."
Phillips once again anchored a defense that held tough -- defensing nine penalty corners -- in posting its fifth straight shutout in the postseason. Warren Hills has outscored its opponents 21-0 during this title run.
"Communication and our marking was really tight," Phillips said of the second-half keys for the defense. "Our main goal in the second half was to develop more offense, but that didn't happen. We knew we could do this. This was the best game our defense ever played."
"Twenty-one goals to none, that says it all," said first-year coach Kate Rothman, who wasn't hired until late July, just weeks before the first official practice of the season. "They played with a lot of heart and desire. [Ocean City] is a very good team. After being here last year, our girls knew they can win. I thought Jackie played a fantastic game and our three [starting] seniors are going to be sorely missed."
Katie Thompson, a West Chester recruit, is proud of what the seniors accomplished, and hopes the juniors finds themselves making history next year.
"This is very special," Thompson said of a four-year run to the finals. "We really wanted it. [The juniors] can do it next year, and I hope they do."
Note: Warren Hills will next play either Eastern or Shore Regional on Wednesday in the Tournament of Champions semfinals at West Windsor North High School. Eastern, the Group 4 champion and No. 1 team in the state, faces Group 1 champ Shore in Monday's play-in game.
Ocean City (22-2) 0 0 -- 0
Warren Hills (23-2) 1 0 -- 1
First half -- WH, Megan Thompson, 20th, 28:04.
Shots -- Ocean City 6; Warren Hills 6.
Saves -- Charity Beckert 5 (OC); Jackie de Raismes 6 (WH).
Penalty corners -- Ocean City 9; Warren Hills 3.