Monday, November 7, 2016

Field hockey: Braves, Vikes, Streaks eyeing history

We're down to three teams from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area -- one from each county -- still battling for state championships. The quest continues on Thursday with the semifinals as the winners will advance to the Group finals on Saturday at Bordentown Regional High School.

Newton and Voorhees are looking to reach the state finals for the first time since 1984 and 2006, respectively, while Warren Hills seeks a fifth straight appearance in the Group 3 final -- beating nemesis Ocean City for its first two titles in 2014 and '15 after previously going 0-8 in the finals.

"Ocean City is a name we all knew on the high school level growing up," said senior back Brie Schwab, whose Streaks will take on Freehold Borough in the Group 3 semifinal round.

Here's a closer look at the three matchups involving the local teams:

Group 3

Warren Hills (19-4) vs. Freehold Borough (15-4-1) at Johnson High School, 6 p.m.

Group history: Warren Hills (Group 3 champion in 2014 and '15, runner-up in 1996, '99, 2000, '01, '03, '09, '12, '13). Freehold Borough (Group 3 champion in 2011, runner-up in 2007, '10).

Players to watch: WH -- Jr. F Rebecca Sigman (16 goals, 10 assists); Jr. F-MF Tali Popinko (13 goals, 9 assists); Jr. MF Mikayla Dugan (6 goals, 4 assists); Sr. F Caroline Cotte (10 goals); Jr. F Alyssa Appleby (13 goals); Sr. D Brie Schwab (7 assists); Sr. GK Jackie de Raismes (9 1/2 shutouts). FB -- Sr. F Tori Tiefenthaler (23 goals, 8 assists); Sr. F Alex Bock (8 goals, 6 assists); Sr. F Gabby Arancio (9 assists); Sr. F Lindsay Koller (6 assists).

Interesting fact: Warren Hills has won five straight sectional titles for the second time in program history. Freehold Borough, back in the state semis for the first time since 2013, was the last team to beat the Blue Streaks in a sectional final -- 3-2 in the 2011 North 2, Group 3 title game, as former star midfielder Emily Wold, now an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina, scored all three goals.

Skinny: The Streaks appear to be peaking at the right time and are coming off a tough 2-1 win over West Morris in the sectional final, a task made more difficult by playing on a bad grass field. This site is a familiar one after scoring a 7-0 win over Summit here in last year's semifinals. Sigman and Popinko are driving a well-balanced offensive attack. On the other side, Tiefenthaler, the Colonials' leading scorer who has 88 career goals, will be the focus of a stingy Streaks defense, led by Schwab and de Raismes, a goalie who thrives in big games. Warren Hills is hungry for another trip to the Group 3 final and has benefited from a much tougher schedule.

Prediction: Warren Hills, 4-1.

Group 2

Voorhees (18-3-1) vs. West Essex (20-1) at Johnson High School, 4 p.m.

Group history: Voorhees (Group runner-up in 2000 and '06). West Essex (Group champion in 1984, '87, '89, '91, '92, '93, '96, '97, 2002, '05, '06, '07, '08, '11, '13, runner-up in 1974, '75, '81, '83, '94, '95, 2004, '10, '12).

Players to watch: V -- Sr. MF Hannah Schiavo (9 goals); Fr. F Brooke Hyland (16 goals); Sr. F Lindsay Fritz (7 goals); Fr. F Cassie Boyce (9 goals); Jr. MF Laura Chen (6 assists); Sr. GK Annie Weiler (11 shutouts). WE -- So. F Ellie Decker (31 goals, 17 assists); Jr. F Julia Russo (31 goals, 20 assists); Jr. F Ashley Iannuzzi (30 goals, 14 assists); Sr. F Lia Sinisi (28 goals, 25 assists); Sr. MF Jordyn Thies (13 assists); Fr. GK Tara Smith (15 shutouts).

Interesting fact: West Essex has won a state record 34 sectional titles and holds an 8-1-2 edge in the all-time series with Voorhees, including a 3-0 win on Sept. 10. Coach Jill Cosse (413-34-12 in 20 seasons) and the Knights (870 victories overall and 15 state titles) have won four of the last five meetings since 2012, while the Vikes' lone victory was 2-1 in the 2000 Group 2 semifinals.

Skinny: It's hard to imagine a scenario where Voorhees, a young team that could very well be here again next year, can reverse a three-goal loss to one of the state's best teams and the Group 2 title favorite. West Essex, which has won nine straight since a 3-2 loss to Oak Knoll on Oct. 10, has a huge edge on offense with three 30-goal scorers and having scored eight goals in each of its last five games. The Vikes, who rely on staunch defense, need to somehow keep it a low-scoring affair to have a shot at pulling off the upset. In its three losses this season, Voorhees scored a total of one goal.

Prediction: West Essex, 3-1.

Group 1

Newton (17-3) vs. Madison (15-4) at Boonton High School, 5 p.m.

Group history: Newton (Runner-up in 1984). Madison (Group champion in 1995, '97, 2003, '09, '15, runner-up in 1990, '94, 2001, '12, '13, '14).

Players to watch: N -- Sr. F Natalie Rivas (22 goals, 19 assists); Sr. MF Nicole Rizzo (10 goals, 17 assists); Jr. F Morgan Mendel (13 goals); Sr. F Kate Barbato (8 goals, 7 assists); Sr. F Brittany Schumann (11 assists). M -- Jr. Elizabeth Romano (34 goals, 9 assists); Sr. Catherine Crowley (17 goals); Jr. Sage Geyer (6 goals, 9 assists); Jr. Maddie Farrell (11 assists).

Interesting fact: Newton has won a Sussex County-record 12 sectional titles and is bidding for the county's first state championship since Vernon won the Group 4 crown in 1996.

Skinny: Braves scored a 2-1 win over Mountain Lakes to win their third straight North 1, Group 1 sectional title, but they haven't played for a state championship in 32 years. Shore Regional, which won the last two Group 1 championships, was the roadblock in previous seasons. Now last year's Group 2 champions stand in the way of coach Lisa Bechtel's team taking the next step. Madison, which advanced with a 1-0 win over Shore in the North 2 final, has won four straight since a 2-1 loss to Warren Hills on Oct. 24. Dodgers, who scored wins of 8-0 and 4-2 over Mountain Lakes this season, are battled tested and well coached as Ann Marie Davies is regarded as one of the best in the state.

Prediction: Madison, 3-1.

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