Tuesday, September 6, 2016

2016 Field hockey preview: Sussex

High Point Wildcats

Coach: Bev Keur (26th season, 357-143-22 over three stints)

2015 record: 7-12, 3-3 (second place NJAC Freedom Division)

Key returnees: F Kelsey Little (5 goals), sr.; MF Jordyn Martin, sr.; MF Marissa Sinacore, sr.; MF Melissa Way (4 goals), sr.; D Alyssa Merwin, sr.; F Cassady Bruning, jr.; GK Brittany McKenna (3 shutouts), jr.; D Maddie Davies, sr.; F Emily Seely, sr.; MF Alexis Sisco, sr.; D Melissa Augustine, jr.; MF Julianne Mangano, so.; F Tyra Wingle, so.

Key losses: F Kayla Halloran (8 goals, 5 assists); GK Mindy Steiger; F Mikayla Schappert.

Top newcomers: F Melissa Sisco, sr.; GK Kia Sabo, jr.; F Michaela Thiessen, so.

Outlook: The biggest question for the Wildcats the past two seasons has been a lack of offensive firepower. Last year's team scored a total of 24 goals in 19 games, doubling its goals total from 2014. After reaching the North 1, Group 2 quarterfinals in 2014, the 'Cats were bounced for the third straight year by West Essex -- 5-1 in the quarters. Losing leading scorer Halloran hurts, but Little and Way return to lead the offense, along with Martin, a solid midfielder. If this group is going to improve on last year's win total it will need the defense to help lead the way.  The 'Cats will need to play tight, low-scoring games to be successful.

Kittatinny Cougars

Coach: Emily Murray (fourth season, 31-24-5).

2015 record: 8-9-1, 3-3 (second place NJAC Colonial Division).

Key returnees: F Hailee Lolk (9 goals, 5 assists), sr.; MF Madison Mailloux, jr.; D Sam Kately, sr.; Erin Douglas, sr.; Taigan Murphy, sr.

Key losses: F Holly Reznik (8 goals, 7 assists); F-MF Christina Chernati (3 goals, 5 assists); F-MF Ashley Brown (4 goals); D Maureen Douglas (3 assists); GK Carly Palmer (5 shutouts).

Top newcomers: MF Gabby Simpson, jr.; MF-D Carlee Lehmkuhl, so.; F-MF Jess Smalley, so.; GK Rebecca Pavlick, sr.

Outlook: After a 15-win season and reaching a sectional final in 2014, the Cougars took a step back a year ago. Offense was a major weakness, as the unit went from 59 goals in '14 to just 28 in 18 games last year. That could be a concern again, along with a lack of varsity experience. Murray has done a solid job the last three seasons, but this could be the most challenging campaign yet. Cougars will be in a three-team division this year with Wallkill Valley and North Warren.

Lenape Valley Patriots

Coach: Lauren Fasano (third season, 21-16-2)

2015 record: 7-10-2, 2-4 (third place NJAC Freedom Division)

Key returnees: GK Kaylee Gentilucci (3 shutouts), sr.; MF Kristen Rafferty (7 goals, 3 assists), sr.; MF Bridget Togno, sr.; F Bailey Connery (7 goals), sr.; MF Lindsey Bicher, so.; D Sarah Canfield, sr.; F Jillian Amato (4 assists), sr.; D Holly Delagrange, sr.; F Cara Lindner, sr.; F Gina Scalfani, sr.

Key losses: F Hollis Smith (3 goals, 5 assists); D Nicole Guisewhite; D Madyson Griswold.

Top newcomers: F-MF Leah Gonzalez, so.; F-MF Thalia Johnson, so.; F Lauren Cooper, so.

Outlook: After posting 29 wins the previous two seasons, the Patriots took a step back as expected a year ago. Fasano, a former star athlete at High Point, did a nice job as the Pats finished with a respectable seven wins, including a 2-1 victory over her alma mater and former coach. Offensively, the Pats scored 26 goals in 19 games, which wasn't bad considering they had 38 goals in 2013 and 43 in '14. Improvement will start there and Rafferty and Connery will be counted on heavily to raise their totals. Defensively, Gentilucci has been solid in her previous three seasons in the cage with a combined 28 shutouts.

Newton Braves

Coach: Lisa Bechtel (27th season, 379-133-18)

2015 record: 18-2-2, 5-0-1 (first place NJAC Colonial Division)

Key returnees: F Natalie Rivas (22 goals, 11 assists), sr.; F Kate Barbato (12 goals, 4 assists), sr.; F Brittany Schumann (4 assists), sr.; F-MF Brianna Monahos, sr.; D-MF Emma Orabone, sr.; D Becky Powers, sr.; F-MF Nikki Rizzo (19 assists), sr.; D Jasmine Luciani, sr.; F-MF Lisa Quarmout, sr.; D-MF Katy Van Orden, sr.; F Lauren Barbato, so.

Key losses: MF Hannah Ervey; MF-D Jordan Coiro; F Emily Weiss; F-MF Olivia Weiss; GK Amanda Alessandra; GK Katie O'Brien; MF-D Jordan Pavlishin.

Top newcomers: F Morgan Mendel, jr.; D Makaela Dionne, jr.; F April Seratelli, jr.; MF Taylor Goldschmiedt, so.; Liliy Widgren, so.; GK Emily Kurnides, so.; MF Carly Delorio, so.; D Jade Luciani, so.; F Victoria Docherty, so.; F Kate Lazar, so.; F Dominique Simeone, so.; F Angela Melillo, so.; GK Abby Berkowitz, so.

Outlook: Coming off back-to-back sectional titles -- the first two under Bechtel -- the Braves are looking for the rare three-peat. Rivas has led the team in scoring the past two years and will help anchor a unit, along with Kate Barbato and Rizzo, that only produced 58 goals in 22 games in 2015. The defense, which is usually a hallmark of this program and produced 13 shutouts overall and eight straight to open last year, will need to help along a new goalkeeper. Now in the Freedom Division, the Braves are expected to battle Hackettstown for the title.

Pope John Lions

Coach: Erin Ashton (first season).

2015 record: 1-17, 1-7 (fifth place NJAC American Division)

Key returnees: F Ali Sturchio (3 goals), sr.; MF-D Adriana Purcell, jr.; D Danielle Reilly, jr.; MF Cameron Sacco, jr.; D Maggie Walsh, jr.; F-MF Katie Publik, so.; MF Katherine Yarussi (3 goals), so.; MF-D Alexis Ippolito, jr.; F Jordan Gulick, so.; D Antonia Ippolito, jr.; D Selah Cronin, so.

Key losses: F Maddie Jordan, jr.; D Katie Callahan; GK Erin Johnson.

Top newcomers: F Sophia Felix, fr.; F Ryan Wagner (transfer from Kittatinny), jr.; F Alana Balisi, fr.; GK Erin Callahan, so.

Outlook: Lions have their third coach in three seasons, as Ashton, a former player at Wallkill Valley, takes over a program that fell on hard times a year ago. The biggest challenge will be improving an offense that scored just 10 goals in 18 games, four of those were in a win over Morris Hills in the fifth game of the season, so the Lions scored just four in their remaining 13 games. The good news is that the four players who combined for nine of those 10 goals are all back. Defensively, the loss of Johnson in the cage will also need to be addressed.

Sparta Spartans

Coach: Kristin Lindsley (fifth season, 41-34-3)

2015 record: 12-9-1, 5-2 (second place NJAC American Division)

Key returnees: F Jacqui Hallack (10 goals, 12 assists), sr.; MF-D Isabella Candeloro (6 goals), sr.; MF Isabel Passerini, sr.; MF Kelly Martin, sr.; F Isabella Tracy, so.; F-MF Hope Nafis, jr.; F Alexis Gudenkauf, jr.; GK Angela Elzind, jr.

Key losses: MF Gretchen Bowie (9 goals, 4 assists); F Rhett Curran (13 goals, 11 assists); D Alex Curran; GK Courtney McKenna (8 shutouts).

Top newcomers: D Julianna McGuire, sr.; MF Lucie Wolfson, so.

Outlook: After going a dismal 8-56-2 from 2009-12, the Spartans have reeled off 36 wins the last three seasons. Offensive consistency has been the key, but for the first time in awhile, that is a questions coming into this seasons with the losses of Bowie and Rhett Curran, who were instrumental in the turnaround of this program. Hallack, coming off two solid campaigns, will now be counted on to be the leader of this unit. Defense remains a question as well with the loss of McKenna in the cage. After yielding 37 goals in 22 games, this group will need to tighten up for this year's group to be successful.

Vernon Vikings

Coach: Kieran Killeen (first season).

2015 record: 4-13-2, 3-5 (fourth place NJAC American Division)

Key returnees: D McKenzie Alter, sr.; MF-D Brenna DelBagno (7 goals), sr.; MF Brianna White (3 goals, 10 assists), sr.; GK Kaitlyn Gallaugher, sr.; F Erin Kenely, sr.

Key losses: F Emily Garofalo (13 goals); D Lindsay Verrico (3 goals); F Danielle Ward (3 assists).

Top newcomers: F Carlie Van Tassel, fr.; D Caitlyn Kowalski, jr.; GK Emma Cahill, so.

Outlook: Vikings have a new coach as Killeen takes over for Hollyce Schoepp, who guided the program to a 48-61-5 mark the previous six seasons. Killeen inherits a team that won just four games a year ago and is likely to struggle this season. The good news is the return of Alter, who did not play in 2015. DelBagno and White were all-conference players a year ago and will be counted on for leadership of a young group. Having Gallaugher back in the cage also is a plus.

Wallkill Valley Rangers

Coach: Irene Chernati (31st season, 372-203-12)

2015 record: 9-9-3, 3-2-1 (second place NJAC Colonial Division)

Key returnees: F Morgan Carr (20 goals, 9 assists), jr.; F Danielle Seabeck (injured in 2015), sr.; MF Caitlyn Mizeski (6 assists), jr.; F Fiona Blake (4 goals), jr.; D Angelique Wygonowski, jr.; F Legend Hicks, sr.; F Sam Hopper, sr.; GK Sam Hutnick (8 shutouts), sr.; D Alexis DeOliveira, sr.; D Jada Martin (injured in 2015), sr.; D Lousieth Nazairre, sr.; MF Francesca Ciasullo, so.

Key losses: MF Erica McNaulty (7 goals, 4 assists); MF Leah Struble (4 goals, 7 assists); MF Nicole Hopper; D Celena Persuad.

Outlook: Rangers have made four straight appearances in the sectional quarterfinals, dropping a 3-2 decision to Belvidere in the North 1, Group 1 quarters last season. Offense, which had been a huge question mark in recent seasons, picked up a year ago with 45 goals after scoring 30 in 2014. Carr has emerged as one of the area's top scorers, while the return of Seabeck (ACL injury) should strengthen this unit even more. Hutnick returns in the cage, and if the backs can continue to improve, this team should make a major jump in wins. With only three teams in the division, this group is a heavy favorite to claim the title.

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