With the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament underway, the season is starting to heat up. And it will get a lot hotter on Tuesday night when No. 1 Warren Hills hosts No. 2 Voorhees at 6 p.m., in the one of the best rivalry games in the state and a key Skyland Conference Raritan Division matchup.
Warren Hills (7-0), which has won six of the last nine in the series, including a 2-1 victory on strokes in the HWS semifinals last year, will enter the 59th meeting at less than full strength. Outstanding senior forward Dani Profita will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, while junior defender Sydney Moskal also missed Saturday's 2-0 win over Ridge with an injury.
Voorhees (6-2), which owns a 31-21-6 edge in a series dating to 1975, is coming off a tough 2-0 loss to perennial Group 4 finalist Bridgewater-Raritan at home on Saturday. A pair of freshman forwards -- Brooke Hyland (six goals) and Cassie Boyce (four goals) -- have helped pick up the offense, which was a question coming into the season with the loss of Kathryn Roncoroni, the school's most prolific scorer. The Vikes stunned the Streaks, 2-1, in Washington last year in a regular-season clash before dropping the rematch in the HWS semis. Four of the last six meetings were decided by one goal.
Great to see the teams back in the same division this season, guaranteeing at least two meetings this season and a very strong chance for a third in the HWS final, with Warren Hills the top seed and Voorhees the No. 2.
Here is the first set of our area rankings:
1. Warren Hills (7-0) -- Blue Streaks have stormed out of the gate in pursuit of a third straight Group 3 state championship. Profita entered the week as the area's leading scorer with 14 goals, and the rest of the offense must step up to make another title run. The defense, anchored by senior goalie Jackie de Raismes, has produced five straight shutouts, including a 6-0 win over No. 10 Phillipsburg on Thursday.
Up next: Voorhees at home on Tuesday; at Bridgewater-Raritan on Thursday; Montgomery at home on Saturday.
2. Voorhees (6-2) -- Vikings went 2-1 last week, including a 2-0 win over Ridge, which also dropped a 2-0 decision to Warren Hills on Saturday. Senior midfielder Hannah Schiavo scored in back-to-back wins over Ridge and Montgomery (3-1 on Thursday). Vikes' two losses are to state powers West Essex (3-0 on Sept. 10) and Bridgewater-Raritan (2-0 on Saturday).
Up next: at Warren Hills on Tuesday; at Pingry on Thursday; at North Hunterdon on Saturday.
3. Hunterdon Central (5-2) -- Red Devils, who drew the No. 3 seed for the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament, have won four in a row. They went 2-0 last week with wins over Montgomery (5-0 on Tuesday) and Hillsborough (6-0 on Thursday). Junior forward Brittany Bill scored four goals in those wins, while senior midfielder Nikki Freeman had a two-goal game against Hillsborough. Senior forward Liza Higley has scored in four straight games. Central looks to snap an eight-game skid against nemesis Bridgewater on Tuesday.
Up next: at Bridgewater-Raritan on Tuesday; Watchung Hills at home on Thursday.
4. Newton (6-0) -- Braves drew the No. 8 seed in the HWS Tournament due to a low power-point total and having only four of the maximum six games played before the cutoff. Senior forwards Natalie Rivas (nine goals, seven assists) and Kate Barbato (four goals) are off to strong starts, while junior forward Morgan Mendel (four goals) has helped balance the offense. The defense has yielded only two goals through six games.
Up next: Wallkill Valley at home on Monday; at High Point on Wednesday; Wallkill Valley at home on Saturday in HWS Tournament.
5. Delaware Valley (5-1-1) -- Terriers are off to fast start with their highest ranking in our poll since its inception in 2009. They enter the week off a 1-1 tie with Bernards, which snapped a five-game winning streak. Senior forward Riley Ferrara has led a balanced offensive attack with four goals and five assists, while senior midfielder Ann Bill (four goals, four assists) and junior forward Sarah Babcock (three goals, four assists) have chipped in. Light week with only No. 8 Belvidere on tap.
Up next: Belvidere at home on Tuesday.
6. Belvidere (5-0-1) -- County Seaters, who drew the No. 6 seed in the HWS Tournament, won their first four games before a 2-2 tie with Bernards on Tuesday. They bounce back with a 4-0 win at North Plainfield as sophomore Abby Bronico, who leads the team with five goals, notched her second assist. Sophomore forward Angie Santini has chipped in three goals, while sophomore goalie Anya Logan has anchored the defense with four shutouts.
Up next: at Delaware Valley on Tuesday; Hackettstown at home on Friday; Phillipsburg at home on Saturday in HWS Tournament.
7. Hackettstown (5-2) -- Tigers have won three in a row, including a 2-1 win over No. 7 High Point on Wednesday in an important NJAC Freedom Division clash. They closed the week with a 4-1 win over Kittatinny in the preliminary round of the HWS Tournament. With opponents keeping an eye on senior midfielder Molly Gorczyca (three goals), sophomore forward Jordan Vandermark (six goals) and sophomore forward Kayla Cichlar (six goals) have boosted the offense.
Up next: at Lenape Valley on Monday; Kittatinny at home on Wednesday; South Hunterdon at home in HWS Tournament.
8. High Point (4-2-1) -- Wildcats, who went 7-12 a year ago, have relied on defense through the first seven games and some timely offense. Credit veteran coach Bev Keur for going out and getting No. 3 Hunterdon Central on the schedule -- a 3-1 road loss on Sept. 17. Senior forward Kelsey Little leads the offense with three goals after scoring a total of five in 2015. Little had the lone goal in a 2-1 loss to No. 6 Hackettstown on Wednesday. Big week with No. 5 Newton at home on Wednesday.
Up next: at Vernon on Monday night; Newton at home on Wednesday; Sparta at home on Saturday in HWS Tournament.
9. Wallkill Valley (4-3) -- Rangers have had a bit of an up-and-down season, with losses to No. 5 Delaware Valley (3-2 on Sept. 10), No. 8 High Point (1-0 on Sept. 15) and No. 7 Hackettstown (2-0 on Thursday). Junior forward Morgan Carr leads the offense with 12 goals, while the return of senior forward Danielle Seabeck (four assists), who missed all of 2015 with an ACL injury, has helped bolster the unit.
Up next: at Newton on Monday; at Vernon on Wednesday; at Newton on Saturday in HWS Tournament.
10. Phillipsburg (2-4-1) -- Stateliners are coming off a 1-1 week, dropping a 6-0 decision to No. 1 Warren Hills on Thursday before rebounding with a 3-0 win over Pope John in the preliminary round of the HWS Tournament. Forward Julia Dalrymple scored two goals and sophomore midfielder Gabby Dudek added a goal and an assist in the win over the Lions.
Up next: at North Hunterdon on Tuesday; at Ridge on Friday; at Belvidere on Saturday in HWS Tournament.
On the bubble: South Hunterdon (4-3); Sparta (3-4).