By Mike Weilamann
Expectations being what they are, Warren Hills’ field hockey team enjoyed a modest celebration following a 4-0 win over Mendham in the North 1, Group 3 sectional final on Friday at Warren Hills School District Stadium.
The top-seeded Blue Streaks (21-2) cruised to their fourth straight sectional title and the program’s 13th overall, but becoming accustomed to winning and staying focused on the bigger prize took hold during the postgame gathering on the turf.
“We take it one game at a time, but the second this game is over, we’re on to the next game,” said outstanding senior back Rachel Phillips, who is part of just the third group of seniors in the program to win four straight sectional crowns as Warren Hills also did it from 1999-02 and 2000-03.
“That’s what keeps us motivated.”
The next one for Warren Hills in its bid for back-to-back state titles comes on Wednesday when it meets North 2 champion Summit in the Group 3 semifinals at 4 p.m. at Johnson Regional. The winner advances to next Saturday’s championship game at Bordentown High School. Last year, the Streaks beat nemesis Ocean City for their first state title.
Ocean City will meet Moorestown in the other Group 3 semifinal.
But first, Warren Hills needed to stay focused on winning the sectional title and beating a good Mendham team that only had two other losses to state-ranked Madison and, with eight starting seniors, played the Streaks tough in a 2-1 loss at home in last year’s North 2, Group 3 final.
Making it even sweeter was this group of seniors playing their final game at home and getting to hoist another championship trophy after having to win it on the road in 2014.
“It feels really good,” said senior midfielder Katie Thompson, who scored both goals in last year’s 2-1 victory over Mendham. “This was our last home game so it’s very special. We don’t want to have any letdowns. We need to keep it going.”
Junior forward Dani Profita inched closer to the all-time goals record at Warren Hills, opening the scoring with 11:04 left in the first half when she connected for her single-season record 37th goal off a feed from Rebecca Sigman, whose initial shot kicked out to Profita on the right post. Profita, who now has 76 career goals, needs two to surpass Sydney Muntone’s mark of 77 from 2011-14.
Thompson made it 2-0 with her 16th goal of the season with 7:24 left before halftime — off a nice crossing pass from Profita on a penalty corner. After a back-and-forth affair for most of the first half, the flood gates seemed poised to be open.
Turns out, a stellar goal-line save by sophomore Mikayla Dugan probably had as much to do with sending Warren Hills rolling to another title as the offense. Mendham (18-3) seemingly had its first goal of the game when Dugan dropped her stick near the line and stopped a sure goal that could have turned the momentum.
Instead, Warren Hills came roaring in the second half as Sigman’s goal just 2:20 in all but sealed the victory. Senior forward Megan Thompson capped the scoring with her 18th goal off a third assist by Profita, who with 23 trails only Niki Miller (29) on the single-season list. Profita’s 201 career points are second only to Muntone’s 211.
“We need to be offensive-minded and after the first half, we picked it up on the offensive end,” said Thompson, whose team finished with a 9-2 edge in shots-on-goal.
Phillips anchored a defense that didn’t yield a shot-on-goal in the second half and was able to thwart three penalty corners in the second 30-minute half.
“It’s all about communication,” Phillips said. “We work really well together. That was an amazing save by Mikayla Dugan. We know where we need to be and she was at the right spot at the right time.”
South Hunterdon still holds the Skyland Conference mark for sectional titles with 14, while Hunterdon Central and Warren Hills are next with 13.
Mendham (18-3) 0 0 — 0
Warren Hills (21-2) 2 2 — 4
First half — WH, Dani Profita, 37th, (Rebecca Sigman), 11:04; WH, Katie Thompson, 16th, (Profita), 7:24.
Second half — WH, Sigman, 18th, (Profita), 28:40; WH, Megan Thompson, 18th, (Profita), 26:03.
Shots — Mendham 2; Warren Hills 9.
Saves — Morgan Turner 5 (M); Jackie de Raismes 1, Mikayla Dugan 1 (defensive) (WH).
Penalty corners — Mendham 6; Warren Hills 7.
North 2, Group 2
Madison 3, Voorhees 2 — Senior forward Kathryn Roncoroni scored a pair of goals, but it wasn’t enough for second-seeded Voorhees (18-5), which was bidding for its first sectional title since 2006.
Roncoroni, who is heading to American University next fall, concluded a stellar career that saw her claim all but one offensive record in Voorhees’ fine field hockey history. She finishes with single-season records for goals (51) and points (116), along with career marks for goals (140) and points (319). Coach Taylor Webb still owns the Vikes’ record for career assists (58 from 1999-02).
Junior midfielder Hannah Schiavo had one assist in the loss to top-seeded Madison, which claimed its 14th sectional title and second in a row.
Mike Weilamann is a veteran sports writer who has covered high school, college, and professional sports. This post was originally published on Mr. Weilamann’s blog, Open Mike, and has been re-published with his permission.