Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Field hockey: Red Devils, Streaks march into finals

As expected, Hunterdon Central and Warren Hills passed NJSIAA sectional semifinal tests on Wednesday.

That makes it five teams from the Hunterdon-Warren-Sussex area still competing for sectional championships on Thursday and Friday.

Newton (North 1, Group 1), along with Hackettstown and Voorhees (North 2, Group 2), also won their semifinal matchups on Tuesday.

Central earns rematch

Hunterdon Central 4, Princeton 3 -- Senior midfielder Nikki Freeman was at it again, scoring a pair of goals to lead the third-seeded Red Devils past No. 2 Princeton in the North 2, Group 4 semifinals. Freeman, the HWS Tournament MVP, notched three goals in last year's 4-3 win over Princeton in the semis.

Freeman, who has 15 goals on the season, also scored in a 1-0 win over Hillsborough in the quarterfinals on Saturday. Senior forward Elizabeth Webb scored a goal and added an assist in the win over Bridgewater-Raritan.

Hunterdon Central (15-6), which has won six in a row since a 2-1 loss in overtime to Bridgewater-Raritan on Oct. 20, will face the top-seeded Panthers for a third time this season in the sectional championship game on Friday. The Red Devils, who also dropped a 5-2 decision on the road when the Skyland Conference Delaware Division rivals met on Sept. 27, are looking to snap a 10-game skid against the Panthers, who have won 11 straight sectional titles -- losing to state powerhouse Eastern in the Group 4 final all of those years -- since claiming the program's first in 2005.

Bridgewater (20-2), which advanced to a 12th straight final with a 5-0 win over No. 4 Old Bridge, scored a 5-1 win over Hunterdon Central in last year's final. The Red Devils, who have lost 23 of the last 24 meetings, scored their last win over the Panthers in 2013 -- 2-1 in a regular season matchup. Coach Jenn Sponzo's teams are 8-25-2 overall vs. Bridgewater in her 17 seasons.

Central is seeking the program's 14th sectional title and first since winning the North 2, Group 4 championship in 2011. Bridgewater, which was the North 1 champion that year, scored a 4-1 victory in the Group 4 semifinals.

Streaks eyeing 5-peat

Warren Hills 4, Northern Highlands 0 -- Junior forward Alyssa Appleby scored two goals and junior Tali Popinko added an assist as the third-seeded Blue Streaks rolled past No. 2 Northern Highland in the North 1, Group 3 semifinals in Allendale.

Warren Hills (18-4) advances to its 18th sectional final and will meet No. 1 West Morris in Friday's title game. The Streaks, who have won the last two Group 3 titles, have captured four straight sectional titles and will be seeking the program's 14th overall.

Popinko has scored at least one goal or had one assist in 10 of the team's last 12 games. Junior forward Rebecca Sigman, who had one goal and one assist in the win over Northern Highlands, leads the Streaks in scoring with 15 goals and eight assists.

Senior goalie Jackie de Raismes made three saves for the shutout.

Warren Hills, now 74-40 all-time in postseason games, has beaten Northern Highlands in three of the last four years, including two wins in the Group 3 semis (9-0 in 2013) and (6-1 in '14). In their only other postseason meeting against West Morris, Warren Hills scored a 6-4 victory in the Group 3 semifinals in '12.

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