Wednesday, September 7, 2016

2016 Field hockey preview: Hunterdon-Warren

Belvidere County Seaters

Coach: Beth Franceschino (third season of second stint, 22-15-3).

2015 record: 12-7-2, 4-1-1 (second place Skyland Conference Mountain Division).

Key returnees: F Kara Tipton (6 goals), sr.; D Erin Bronico, sr.; D Rachel Dultz, sr.; MF Traci Kieffer, sr.; F Maddie Call (8 assists), so.

Key losses: F-MF Hannah Koch; MF Elizabeth Dalrymple (4 goals); GK Maddie Beaumont (10 shutouts); D Mackenzie Sera; MF Paige White; F Katie Spadaccini (8 goals).

Top newcomers: MF Sam Bittenbender, jr.; MF Alex Navarra, jr.; F Abby Bronico, so.; D Mallory Keenan, so.; F Melanie Clark, so.; GK Anya Logan, so.; GK Alyssa Rudd, fr.; F Angie Santini, so.

Outlook: The County Seaters are coming off back-to-back winning seasons, winning the division in 2014 and finishing second a year ago and making a nice run to the North 1, Group 1 semifinals where the season ended with a 2-1 loss to eventual champion Newton. The Warren County school suffered major graduation losses on both ends of the field, but the biggest challenge will be replacing Beaumont (18 shutouts the past two seasons) in the cage. Bronico and Dultz will anchor a defense that has yielded only 22 goals last season and two or fewer in 18 contests. Tipton and Call will lead the offense. If this team can hold tight on the defensive end, it can make another run at the division.

Delaware Valley Terriers

Coach: Stephanie Cirino (sixth season, 39-50-5).

2015 record: 9-9-1, 4-3-1 (third place Skyland Conference Valley Division).

Key returnees: MF Ann Bill (6 goals), sr.; D Jeanne Harabedian, sr.; F Riley Ferrara (5 goals, 4 assists), sr.; F Megan Donnelly, so.; F Sarah Babcock, jr.; MF Rachel Orrico, jr.; D Kathryn Schutta, sr.

Key losses: F Kerrianne Blankinship; GK Morgan Davies (8 shutouts); D Cassie Blankinship.

Top newcomers: F-MF Madeline Bill, fr.; F Jordan Reina, sr.; MF Jillian Ethern, jr.; GK Jillian DePinto, sr.; GK Ellis Stanton, jr.

Outlook: The Terriers are coming off three straight nine-win campaigns and a trip to the North 2, Group 2 quarterfinals last season -- dropping a 3-0 decision to rival Voorhees. The offensive production has been the key with 38 goals in 2015 and 29 goals in '14. Ann Bill and Ferrara will anchor that group, but replacing Davies, a three-year starter in the cage, will be the biggest challenge for this group. This team should do fine against most of the teams on the schedule, but the defense against the stronger opponents will be key to breaking the .500 mark.

Hackettstown Tigers

Coach: Stephen Speirs (seventh season, 64-46-3).

2015 record: 14-3-1, 6-0 (first place NJAC Freedom Division).

Key returnees: MF Molly Gorczyca (31 goals, 6 assists), sr.; F Madison Hoskins (7 goals, 11 assists), so.; F Kayla Cichlar (5 goals), so.; F Jordan Vandermark, so.; MF Kayla Nicholls, jr.; D Nicole Jerome, sr.

Key losses: F Kayli Yeisley (14 goals, 7 assists); MF Samantha Strathern (8 assists); GK Rose Bishop (12 shutouts); MF Cayla Andrews (6 goals, 13 assists); D Michaela Sass; D Madison Kennedy.

Top newcomers: F Kylie Dawson, so.; F Ashley Zellars, so.; MF Jessica Shepherd, so.; D Megan Baker, so.; D Sierra Castiglia, so.; MF Alexis Castellano, jr.; D Cheyenne Scudder, sr.; F Kaitlyn Cogan, sr.; D Carson Fazekas, sr.; D Madison Trotter, fr.

Outlook: Tigers are coming off three straight seasons over .500, winning its first NJAC Freedom Division title and dropping a 2-0 decision to Ramsey in the North 1, Group 2 semifinals. This may be a challenging season ahead with heavy graduation losses, including Bishop, a rock-solid three-year starter in the cage. The good news is the return of Gorczyca, who was one of the top scorers in the area last season and set school records for goals in a game (6) and season (31). But with most of the supporting cast on offense gone, expect opponents to focus on taking her out of games. Besides the annual game against Warren Hills (Sept. 17), the schedule seems favorable.

Hunterdon Central Red Devils

Coach: Jenn Sponzo (18th season, 241-121-16).

2015 record: 17-6, 6-2 (second place Skyland Conference Delaware Division).

Key returnees: MF Nikki Freeman (11 goals, 12 assists), sr.; F Brittany Bill (6 goals), jr.; D Dayna DeVincentz (4 assists), sr.; D Lauren Howarth, jr.; F Elizabeth Webb (4 goals), sr.; F Liza Higley, sr.; D Emma Webb, sr.

Key losses: F Maddie Freeman (14 goals, 8 assists); F Amanda Whitlock (10 goals, 5 assists); F Jill Murray (19 goals); GK Molly Lafferty (6 shutouts); D Megan Fisher.

Top newcomers: MF Nikki Peppe, jr.; F Colleen Barrett, jr.; MF Alexa Zubalake, jr.; GK Elizabeth O'Brien, sr.

Outlook: Red Devils will need to rebuild a bit on the offensive end with the loss of 43 goals to graduation, but Freeman and Bill will be a good place to start on the forward line. Defensively, a new goalie (O'Brien) takes over, but should have a strong group of backs in front of her, including DeVincentz, a returning starter. After winning back-to-back North 2, Group 4 sectional titles in 2012 and '13, the Red Devils have ended the last two campaigns with losses to nemesis Bridgewater in the title games. With both in the same section again, it seems likely there will be a third straight meeting at season's end.

North Hunterdon Lions

Coach: Suzanne Toke (fourth season, 6-48-2).

2015 record: 1-17-1, 1-6-1 (fourth place Skyland Conference Raritan Division).

Key returnees: F Courtney Nealon (3 goals), sr.; MF Nicole Perez, sr.; Jenn Sroka, sr.; D Clara Fischer, sr.; D Mackenzie Gilvey, sr.; F Abby Miller, sr.

Key losses: GK Liz Rotolo; MF Jenna Macri; F-MF Amy Sroka; MF Alara Murphy.

Top newcomers: MF Lexi Poniatowski, jr.; D Lauren Wagner, jr.; GK Wesley Taylor, sr.

Outlook: Lions have struggled in recent times, going 40-123-4 over the last eight seasons. The rebuilding will start with offense, as last year's unit scored just nine goals in 19 games. That makes it tough to win. Defensively, Taylor will take over for her first varsity season in the cage. Keeping opponents off the board also was a struggle last season, especially against the tougher teams on the schedule. Having to play Voorhees and Warren Hills twice in this tough division won't make it any easier, but expect this group to improve as the season wears on.

North Warren Patriots

Coach: Brian Gravatt (second season, 5-13-1).

2015 record: 5-13-1, 0-6 (fourth place NJAC Colonial Division).

Key returnees: GK Jenna Sagan (4 shutouts), sr.; MF Sydney MacDonough, sr.; D Elinor Dowd, sr.; GK Mackenzie Cyr, jr.; F Julia Wetzel, jr.; F Sydney Janerio, jr.; F Danielle Pergola (3 goals), sr.; D Sophia Hinchman, sr.; F Kassandra DePaolis, sr.

Key losses: F-MF Gianna Lorusso; F-MF Kelsey Conlon; F-MF Claudia Wetzel (8 goals); D Carly DeSanto.

Top newcomers: D Dani Towey, so.; MF Lauren Cooke, so.; MF Drew Benzia, so.; MF Rachel Eitner, so.; MF Kaley Wohlers, so.; MF Claire Merkler, so.; MF Katarina Grogan, fr.; MF Alexandra Shramko, fr.; MF Julianne Metzgar, fr.

Outlook: The Patriots slipped back to the pack last season after going 10-9-1 in 2014, the program's first winning season in recent memory. Numbers appear to be good for this Group 1 school, so that's a plus. Sagan is a three-year starter in the cage and will anchor a defense that struggled to contain the tougher teams on the schedule last season. An experienced group of forwards should help the offense improve on its goal total of 17 in 19 games. If the offense can step up, finishing near the .500 mark would be a reasonable goal.

Phillipsburg Stateliners

Coach: Jennifer Paulus (sixth season, 40-54-4).

2015 record: 11-9, 5-3 (second place Skyland Conference Raritan Division).

Key returnees: F Abby Evans (10 goals), jr.; GK Samantha DeRogatis, sr.; GK Lauren Viscione, jr.; MF Gabby Dudek (3 goals, 5 assists), so.; D Katy Perino, sr.

Key losses: F Kylie Marhold (9 goals); F Ellie Zgoda (12 goals, 5 assists); MF-D Lacey O'Dowd.

Top newcomers: MF Carsen Drake, fr.; D Samantha Donnelly, fr.

Outlook: Stateliners have made steady improvement since a dismal two-win season in 2013, going 11-5 combined the last two years in a very tough Raritan Division and 1-2 in the North 1, Group 4 sectional playoffs. Finding consistency on the offensive side was key to reaching 11 wins last year, going from 28 goals in 2014 to 44 in '15, but losing Marhold and Zgoda to graduation will hurt. Evans and Dudek will lead that unit, while both goalies return on the defensive side, along with Perino. If this team can put the ball in the cage on a regular basis, it could surprise this season.

South Hunterdon Eagles

Coach: Stephanie Davis (third season, 20-19).

2015 record: 12-9, 5-1 (first place Skyland Conference Mountain Division).

Key returnees: F Carly Leary (10 goals, 5 assists), sr.; F Kate Shaffer (4 goals, 4 assists), sr.; F Julia Kreider (9 goals), jr.; GK Giovanna Rubino (4 shutouts), sr.; D Kendall Storcella, sr.; D Emily Carrier, sr.; MF Mae Dienes (4 goals), sr.; MF Rebecca Godown, sr.; F Brooke Tumler, jr.

Key losses: F Ashley Eick (7 goals); D Rachel Knappenberger; D Carolina Restrepo.

Top newcomers: D Claire Greenwood, jr.; GK Kerry Coleman, so.; D Nicole Costantini, so.; MF Jada Kauth, so.; F Ashley Lucarini, so.; MF Sophia Petrucci, so.; MF Alana Cantanzareti, so.

Outlook: Davis begins her third season with the most experienced group yet, so the Eagles appear primed for another run at the Mountain Division title and the North 2, Group 1 title game -- falling 7-0 to state power Shore Regional last season. With most of the forward line returning, look for Leary and Kreider to anchor a unit that produced 37 goals last year after scoring just 20 in 2014. Rubino returns for a third year in the cage and will lead a defense that allowed 33 goals in 21 games, though seven of those came in the sectional final.

Voorhees Vikings

Coach: Taylor Webb (sixth season, 80-22-3).

2015 record: 18-5, 8-0 (first place Skyland Conference Valley Division).

Key returnees: MF Hannah Schiavo (7 goals, 11 assists), sr.; D Sarah Matyas, jr.; GK Annie Weiler, sr.; D Laura Chen, jr.; F Claire Whiston (3 goals), sr.

Key losses: F Kathryn Roncoroni (51 goals, 14 assists); MF Isabelle Houser (5 goals, 13 assists); D Lexi Crans; F Cori Lenzinger (10 goals); F Jenna Smego.

Top newcomers: D Lauren Kokoskie, fr.; MF Danika Berman, sr.; D Emma-Leigh Cameron, sr.; D Stevie Ader, sr.; F Lindsay Fritz, sr.; F Brooke Hyland, fr.; F Cassie Boyce, fr.

Outlook: Vikings are jumping back to the Skyland Conference Raritan Division after back-to-back title runs in the Valley Division title and consecutive losses in the North 2, Group 2 sectional final. The offense takes a major hit with the loss of Roncoroni, now at American University and one of the area's most prolific and talented scorers as the owner of the school's single-season and career goals and points marks. Schiavo, a tough and talented player in her own right, now assumes the leadership role for an offense that will need to be consistent across the board. Defense is always the glue and Weiler is coming off an excellent year in the cage. It would be foolish to count this well-coached team out despite heavy graduation losses.

Warren Hills Blue Streaks

Coach: Kate Rothman (second season, 43-37-3 overall including stint at Lenape Valley).

2015 record: 23-3, 8-0 (first place Skyland Conference Raritan Division).

Key returnees: F Dani Profita (41 goals, 24 assists), sr.; MF Tali Popinko (12 assists), jr.; D Caroline Cotte (injured, ACL), sr.; D Brie Schwab, sr.; GK Jackie de Raismes (14 shutouts), sr.; F Rebecca Sigman (19 goals, 5 assists), jr.; MF Mikayla Dugan (6 assists), jr.; D Sydney Moskal, jr.; D Tyler Stoner, sr.; F Alyssa Appleby (3 goals, 3 assists), jr.; F-MF Rebecca Lezon, jr.

Key losses: MF Katie Thompson (17 goals, 14 assists); F Megan Thompson (20 goals, 12 assists); D Rachel Phillips (9 goals, 18 assists).

Top newcomers: F-MF Sam Dugan, fr.; F Kate Fenner, fr.

Outlook: Blue Streaks are coming off their fifth straight division title and back-to-back Group 3 state championships for the first time in program history, while also matching the school record for wins. Expect this group to keep the train moving, despite three huge graduation losses, including Phillips, who many feel was this team's best all-around player last season. Profita, with 80 career goals, looks to put several school records out of reach and is joined on a talented front line by Sigman, who is coming off a strong season. The defense should be in great shape as well and features one of the area and state's most clutch goalies in de Raismes, who turned in perhaps her finest game in last year's Group 3 win over Ocean City. Another plus is the return of Cotte, who showed real promise as a sophomore before an ACL injury ended her junior season before it began.

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