Friday, October 21, 2016

Field hockey: HWS starting lineups, facts, prediction

Who: Warren Hills Blue Streaks vs. Hunterdon Central Red Devils

What: Eighth annual Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex Tournament championship

When: Saturday, 3 p.m.

Where: Morrison Field, Hackettstown High School

Records: Warren Hills 14-3; Hunterdon Central 9-6.

Coaches: Kate Rothman (2nd season, 57-40-3, including a 20-34-3 mark in 3 seasons at Lenape Valley); Jenn Sponzo (18th season, 250-127-16).

Series history: Warren Hills, which owns a 40-28-10 edge dating to 1967, has won 11 straight meetings, including a 2-1 win on Sept. 10 in Raritan Township. Hunterdon Central's last victory in the series was 1-0 at home in 2007 and it holds a 5-3 edge in county tournament matchups dating to the former Hunterdon-Warren event. Blue Streaks won the last county clash -- 2-1 in last year's final. This is the second meeting on a neutral field.

Previous champions: Newton/Warren Hills co-champs in 2009 (final was never played); Voorhees in 2010 and '12; Warren Hills in 2011, '13, '14 and '15.

Note: Here's a closer look at both teams with probable starting lineups:

Warren Hills Blue Streaks

How they got here: Beat Newton, 1-0, in quarterfinals; High Point, 3-2, in semifinals.

Previous tournament history: Beat Delaware Valley, 8-2, in 2009 first round, Beat High Point, 4-0, in 2009 quarterfinals, Beat Pope John, 3-0 in 2009 semifinals; Beat Sparta, 6-0, in 2010 first round, Beat Wallkill Valley, 4-1, in 2010 quarterfinals, Beat Newton, 2-1 in overtime, in 2010 semifinals, Lost to Voorhees, 1-0, in 2010 championship game; Beat North Warren, 9-0, in 2011 first round, Beat Newton, 5-0, in 2011 quarterfinals, Beat Wallkill Valley, 8-1, in 2011 semifinals, Beat High Point, 3-1, in 2011 championship game; Beat Lenape Valley, 5-1, in 2012 first round, Beat Pope John, 8-0, in 2012 quarterfinals, Lost to Voorhees, 2-0, in 2012 semifinals; Beat Kittatinny, 6-0, in 2013 first round, Beat High Point, 3-0, in 2013 quarterfinals, Beat Voorhees, 2-1, in 2013 semifinals, Beat Hackettstown, 1-0, in 2013 final; Beat Wallkill Valley, 6-0, in 2014 first round; Beat Hackettstown, 3-0, in 2014 quarterfinals; Beat High Point, 8-0, in 2014 semifinals; Beat Voorhees, 5-0, in 2014 final; Beat Phillipsburg, 4-0, in 2015 quarterfinals; Beat Voorhees, 2-1, on strokes in 2015 semifinals; Beat Hunterdon Central, 2-1, in 2015 final. Overall HWS record: 27-2.

Probable starting lineup: Jr. F Rebecca Sigman (12 goals-8 assists-32 points); Jr. F Tali Popinko (11-7-29); Jr. F Alyssa Appleby (10-1-21); Sr. MF Caroline Cotte (7-0-14); Fr. Samantha Dugan (6-0-12); Jr. MF Rebecca Lezon (1-0-2); Jr. D Mikayla Dugan (4-4-12); Sr. D Brie Schwab (1-5-7); Jr. D Sydney Moskal (0-0-0); Sr. D Tyler Stoner (0-0-0); Sr. GK Jackie de Raismes (64 saves, 7 1/2 shutouts, .877 save percentage, 0.53 goals against).

Hunterdon Central Red Devils

How they got here: Beat Belvidere, 6-0, in quarterfinals; Voorhees, 2-1, on strokes in semifinals.

Previous tournament history: Lost to High Point, 2-1, in 2009 first round; Lost to Newton, 2-1, in 2010 first round; Lost to Wallkill Valley, 5-1 in 2011 first round; Beat Sparta, 4-1, in 2012 first round; Beat Phillipsburg, 2-1, in 2012 quarterfinals; Lost to High Point, 1-0, in 2012 semifinals; Beat Newton, 6-0, in 2013 first round; Beat Sparta, 2-1, in 2013 quarterfinals; Lost to Hackettstown, 4-3 in overtime, in 2013 semifinals; Beat Pope John, 5-1, in 2014 first round; Beat Lenape Valley, 2-1 in overtime, in 2014 quarterfinals; Lost to Voorhees, 1-0, in 2014 semifinals; Beat North Hunterdon, 6-0, in 2015 preliminary round; Beat Wallkill Valley, 3-0, in 2015 first round; Beat Newton, 2-0, in 2015 quarterfinals; Beat Hackettstown, 1-0, in 2015 semifinals; Lost to Warren Hills, 2-1, in 2015 final. Overall HWS record: 12-7.

Probable starting lineup: Jr. F Brittany Bill (7 goals-13 assists-27 points); Sr. F Liza Higley (5-2-12); Jr. F Kali Huck (3-2-8); Sr. F Elizabeth Webb (3-1-7); Sr. MF Nikki Freeman (9-3-21); Jr. MF Nikki Peppe (2-1-5); Jr. MF Alexa Zubalake (0-0-0); Sr. D Dayna DeVincentz (4-2-10); Jr. D Lauren Howarth (0-0-0); Sr. D Emma Webb (0-0-0); Sr. GK Elizabeth O'Brien (102 saves, 5 shutouts, .829 save percentage, 1.40 goals against).

Analysis: It's been an interesting week for the top-seeded Blue Streaks, who are making a tournament-record seventh finals appearance and fourth in a row since losing in the 2012 semifinals. Warren Hills lost a home game due to a scheduling error, having to go to Phillipsburg for a second time this season on Tuesday before suffering a 3-1 loss to nemesis Voorhees on Thursday. The Vikes swept both regular season meetings for the first time since 2010 and denied the Blue Streaks at least a share of the Skyland Conference Raritan Division title for the first time in six years. The third-seeded Red Devils -- also coming off a loss, 2-1 in overtime, to nemesis Bridgewater on Thursday -- are playing in their second tri-county final after three straight losses in the semifinals in 2012, '13 and '14. Central, which is making back-to-back appearances in a county final since three straight trips to the Hunterdon-Warren title games in 1996-98, has not won a championship since 2003, when MVP Hollee Hooven led the Devils to their fifth Hunterdon-Warren crown. Defensively, Central has given up 19 goals and will need to tighten things up against a Warren Hills team that has turned it up on offense since losing all-time leading scorer and two-time HWS MVP Dani Profita -- for the first time in four years their won't be a Profita as MVP with older sister Nikki earning the honors in 2013-- to a season-ending knee injury. Since back-to-back shutout losses to Voorhees and Bridgewater, the Streaks have reeled off seven straight wins and have scored 29 goals during that span. The Red Devils have struggled to put the ball in the cage against the better teams on the schedule, scoring a total of five in meetings with Warren Hills, Bridgewater (twice), Oak Knoll and Voorhees (twice). That could be a problem against the Blue Streaks' D had yielded just eight goals before giving up three in Thursday's loss. Likewise, Popinko is carrying Warren Hills' offense of late with seven goals in the last four games. This matchup is really close on paper, but Central seems to really be peaking, taking Bridgewater to overtime after a 5-2 loss when the teams met on Sept. 27, while also avenging an earlier loss to Voorhees. Warren Hills has plenty of talent to make another run at the Group 3 title, but it just doesn't seem to be clicking right now. The forecast calling for bad weather on Saturday may also be a factor.

Pick: Hunterdon Central, 2-1.

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