Saturday, November 12, 2016

Field hockey: Streaks' title reign ends in Group 3 final

BORDENTOWN -- Talk about your tough days at the office.

Warren Hills' field hockey team has enjoyed a remarkable run the last five years, but its two-year hold on the Group 3 state title ended abruptly with a 5-0 loss to nemesis Ocean City on a chilly Saturday night at Bordentown Regional High School.

The Blue Streaks (20-5) also saw their six-game win streak end in the fifth straight meeting between these rivals in the title game. Ocean City (22-3) redeemed itself after losing in the 2014 and '15 finals, winning the program's 10th state championship overall and first since '13.

Senior left wing Brittney Stein scored three goals, including the first of the night just 46 seconds into the contest. That goal set the tone as Warren Hills never recovered from the early onslaught as it suffered its most lopsided defeat in 11 state final appearances dating to 1996. Ocean City, now 6-2 all-time against Warren Hills and 10-2 overall in the finals, also won titles in 1997, '98, '99, 2001, '02, '05, '09 and '12.

"They were just faster to the ball and we got caught standing still a lot," said second-year coach Kate Rothman, who led the Streaks to their second title in 2015. "That early goal took us out of our game, and [Ocean City] forced us into playing their game. The made great passes, corners, everything. They won that game."

One look at the final numbers tells the story: Ocean City finished with a 15-2 advantage in shots-on-goal and a 12-4 edge on penalty corners. The Red Raiders scored three goals directly off corners. If not for senior goalie Jackie de Raismes, one of the heroes of last year's 1-0 win over Ocean City, making several outstanding saves to keep it to a 1-0 deficit at halftime, the result would have been much worse.

"They beat us to the ball," said senior forward Caroline Cotte, who was forced to watch last year's title victory from the scorer's table after sustaining a season-ending knee injury during the preseason. "It was really hard to sit here and take stats [last year]. I'm so proud to be a captain ... we worked really hard to get here. We didn't give up."

Junior midfielder Mikayla Dugan, a returning starter, nearly pulled Warren Hills even a minute after Stein's opening goal. Dugan received the ball on a corner and sent a rocket shot toward the cage, but it bounced off the pads of Ocean City goalie Maddie Kahn. The Blue Streaks wouldn't get off another shot until junior Tali Popinko fired one at the cage on a corner with about 35 seconds left in the game.

"They came out with a lot of intensity," Dugan said of the Red Raiders, who were hungry after dropping the last two finals to Warren Hills. "So did we, but we couldn't get the ball into their circle and we didn't execute. It just didn't go our way."

Stein's second and third goals, coming off corners in the first 8:31 of the second half essentially put the game out of reach. The one consolation for the Warren Hills defense, which had not yielded more than three goals in a game all season, was keeping senior forward Rialee Allen, Ocean City's all-time leading goal scorer, off the board. Allen, who has 45 goals this season, did manage two assists.

Dugan, one of six returning starters, knows Warren Hills has enough talent coming back, plus some blue-chip eighth-graders on the way, to make another run in 2017. Junior forwards Rebecca Sigman (17 goals) and Alyssa Appleby (14 goals) helped pick up the slack when all-time leading scorer Dani Profita, went down early in the season with an ACL injury. Profita, to her credit, attended every game this season and cheered her teammates on from the bench. The senior forward and Fairfield University recruit, is the Streaks' leader in career goals (94) and points (245) and their single-season leader in both categories. Proftia also is tied with Niki Miller, who just completed an outstanding career at UMass, for most career assists with 57.

"We'll be ready for revenge," said Dugan, who has verbally committed to Quinnipiac University.

Warren Hills (20-5)                    0                0          --    0
Ocean City (22-3)                      1                4          --    5


First half -- OC, Brittney Stein, 17th, (Shannon O'Reilly), 29:14.

Second half -- OC, Stein, 18th, (Rialee Allen), 26:18; OC, Stein, 19th; 21:29; OC, O'Reilly, 24th, (Allen), 15:47; OC, Grace Steele, 11th, (O'Reilly), 10:00.

Shots -- Warren Hills 2; Ocean City 15.

Saves -- Jackie de Raismes 10 (WH); Maddie Kahn 2 (OC).

Penalty corners -- Warren Hills 4; Ocean City 12.

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