Category Archives: Field Hockey

Hunterdon Central captures 13th sectional field hockey title

FLEMINGTON — After scoring 12 goals in their first two state tournament games, the Hunterdon Central High School field hockey team needed just one goal to earn the 13th sectional title in school history.

Kendall Nickel redirected home the night’s only goal 14 minutes in and the Red Devils defense held on for a 1-0 victory over Montgomery in the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV final Tuesday evening.

The reward for Hunterdon Central is a third meeting of the season with Bridgewater-Raritan, the North 1 Group IV champion, Thursday evening at Boonton High School in the Group IV semifinals. Bridgewater-Raritan, a 5-4 overtime winner earlier Tuesday, is the defending champ.

Nickel got the Red Devils on the board when she got her stick on a pass from Kailey Dalgauer 13:50 into the first half and redirected it past Montgomery goalie Kiran Sunduram. Nickel said that the goal was just plain execution of the game plan.

“I just did what I’m told, which is keep my stick down and look for the pass. Kailey and I just made eye contact and made the connection and I deflected it in,” she said.

From there, the Hunterdon Central defense made one goal stand up, not allowing Montgomery even a single shot on goal in the game. But it wasn’t because the Cougars didn’t have any chances. During one two-minute stretch midway through the second half, Montgomery earned four consecutive corners, but couldn’t get a shot on Red Devils goalie Hannah Cechini.

Hunterdon Central head coach Jennifer Sponzo, who’s now won seven sectional titles at the helm of the Red Devils, said that the stifling defense was a product of a shift in preparation.

“We definitely knew that they look for the hard drive in on corners, so instead of having Kendall crash through their offensive players, we wanted her to play man-to-man and mess up their plan,” Sponzo said. “We kind of stunned them with that in the first half and the defense just developed over the course of the season.”

Not even a split-in-half ball could slow down the Red Devils on the coldest night of the season. At the exact halfway point of the second half, the ball shattered into two pieces during a collision at midfield, possibly in part due to the temperatures near 30 degrees. But the Hunterdon Central players weren’t slowed by the conditions, according to Nickel.

“I don’t think it affected us because we had our mind set on winning this game,” Nickel said. “I don’t think we thought about the cold that much.”

The quick turnaround to Thursday’s meeting with Skyland Conference rival Bridgewater-Raritan will be a difficult one for both sides, but Sponzo believes that having defeated the Panthers once this season will bode well for her squad.

“We’ve seen them twice and we know what to expect,” Sponzo said. “When I told the girls we were playing Bridgewater, they were excited. It’s sort of like, ‘Bring it on,’ and they want it. I think Bridgewater underestimated us a little bit, said we got lucky in the first game, so that’s a motivating factor. But the girls know they can play with Bridgewater.”

The teams split a pair of regular-season meetings, with Hunterdon Central winning 2-1 in Bridgewater and the Panthers winning 3-2 in Flemington.


First-half goals boost East Brunswick into GMCT final vs. South Plainfield

East Brunswick high school field hockey players celebrate their first goal against South Brunswick Tuesday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

East Brunswick high school field hockey players celebrate their first goal against South Brunswick Tuesday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

EAST BRUNSWICK — Scoring early in a game has been a rarity for the East Brunswick High School field hockey team this season.

On Tuesday, the Bears scored three first-half goals, dfeating South Brunswick 3-0 and securing their spot in a fifth straight Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Final.

The second-seeded Bears set up a rematch with South Plainfield in Thursday’s final, to be played at East Brunswick’s Jay Doyle Field.

The Tigers beat fourth-seeded Metuchen 4-1 Tuesday.

Meagan Costello, Taylor McNamara and Rachel Huang got the East Brunswick (15-3-1) goals in the opening half to ease the pressure and provide momentum that they hadn’t had much of in first halves this season.

“ Jumping on top quick, which has been something we haven’t done much this season, that in itself gave us the momentum we needed today. That’s how we won the game, absolutely, without a doubt,” East Brunswick head coach Cindi Todoroff said.

Costello got the game’s first goal when she took a penalty corner pass from Leah Zweig and blasted it past South Brunswick goalie Lizzy Ruedemann at the 2:20 mark.

Less than seven minutes later, McNamara took a Costello pass in the middle of the field, turned to her right and shot a low shot past Ruedemann to double the lead.

Huang added an unassisted marker at the 12:51 mark to essentially put the game out of reach heading into halftime, where Todoroff didn’t really think about a potential trip to the conference finals.

“I think we were thinking about winning the second half; if you win the second half, you’re in the GMC Finals,” she said. “But to do that, we had to play our game, which is controlled hockey and we had to not get into a bang-ball game. South Brunswick stepped up and made it very difficult for us to play our game.”

The Vikings couldn’t mount a serious threat in the second half, but it wasn’t because they didn’t have chances. South Brunswick (8-3-4) earned five corners and had at least double that number of looks in front of the East Brunswick net, but couldn’t get it past Emily Polinski, who made two saves to pitch the shutout.

East Brunswick had 12 corners and 11 shots in the game, but after scoring three quick goals, they didn’t need to do much more than run out the clock.

“Unfortunately we didn’t convert a lot of the chances that we had on corners, partly due to some miscommunication, but their goalie played phenomenal hockey again,” Todoroff said.

With victories in their last nine games and 10 of their last 11, Todoroff believes her squad is playing its best hockey of the year, with a rematch against South Plainfield on the horizon. Last season, the Tigers beat East Brunswick 2-1 for the GMCT title and South Plainfield has won both regular-season meetings in 2013.

“We just need to be sharp on Thursday,” she said. “In the first game against them, Mother Nature wasn’t our friend, because we only got to play one half due to rain and lightning, and in the second game, we weren’t our friend; we outshot and out-cornered them, but made two mistakes that they converted for goals. So, hopefully everything will be on our side and we’ll be able to come out of there with a championship.”

South Plainfield 4, Metuchen 1: Shannon Hughes finished with two goals and an assist, including a tone-setter one minute into the contest, as top-seeded South Plainfield advanced to the final.

Jessica Bishop added a goal and an assist, while Charlotte Macchia added a goal for the Tigers.

Rachel Guloyya scored a goal for fourth-seeded Metuchen.

Bishop, Hughes lead way in victory

Sayreville and South Plainfield battle for the ball in their game Tuesday. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Sayreville and South Plainfield battle for the ball in their game Tuesday. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

SOUTH PLAINFIELD — After winning the first six games of the season and racking up 33 goals in the process, the South Plainfield High School field hockey team has put the rest of the Greater Middlesex Conference on notice.

The defending GMCT champions had outscored opponents 33-4 in the season’s opening month prior to a 5-0 drubbing of Sayreville (1-2-1) Tuesday afternoon, with senior captains Jess Bishop and Shannon Hughes leading the offense.

The duo has combined for 41 points this season and both added to their totals against Sayreville in a game where the Tigers didn’t appear to have their best effort throughout much of the first half.

Bishop scored her 12th goal of the year and added two assists to give her eight for the season and Hughes scored once and assisted on two more goals to pad her totals to 12 and nine respectively. Having a pair of elite players like South Plainfield (7-0) does is quite a luxury for head coach Cheryl Hughes.

“These guys feel like they have a lot to prove because we lost 13 seniors and everybody was saying that there’s no way that South Plainfield is going to be good again,” Cheryl Hughes said. “And I think that stuck in Shannon and Jess’ mind and the other seniors on the team want to say to everybody that we can be as good and if not better than last year and they’re really striving to do that so far.”

The Tigers expect to get every team’s best shot this season and that includes the Metuchen Bulldogs (4-2), who’ll be the Tigers’ next opponent Thursday afternoon. Cheryl Hughes knows that her squad will have to play better than they did against Sayreville to remain unbeaten in the GMC.

“Today was just one of those days. They (Metuchen) have a lot of good players, Rachel (Gulotta) and Olivia (Volpe) especially, and they have been scoring left and right,” Cheryl Hughes said. “We know they can play and that they’re talented. So I told our guys that if they’re going to come out and sleepwalk again, we’re going to be in trouble. So they need to be in the right mentality for Thursday.”

But having Bishop and Shannon Hughes, along with the senior leadership of Emily Lubach should help the Tigers avoid another less than stellar start.

“We need to think on defense and shoot as much as possible and force the issue and eventually the shots will go in,” Lubach said. “We need to be smart in the midfield and play hard and smart on defense and do what we do.”

With two eight-goal games already in their pocket this season and three others with five or more goals, including Tuesday’s win over the Bombers, South Plainfield has what it takes to score with anyone in the state, including Metuchen’s duo of Gulotta and Volpe, who have teamed up for 18 points this year. The biggest challenge for the Tigers on Thursday is to come out and not expect a victory without putting in the work, according to Lubach.

“Every game isn’t going to be a walkthrough, we need to treat every game like it’s a championship and we need to go out and work for it every game we play,” she said.

East Brunswick field hockey defeats Monroe

Monroe's Grace Martini (left) battles for the ball with East Brunswick's Rachel Huang during the first half on Monday in Monroe. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Monroe’s Grace Martini (left) battles for the ball with East Brunswick’s Rachel Huang during the first half on Monday in Monroe. Photo by: Jason Towlen

MONROE — Despite falling behind in the opening portion of their contest Monday afternoon, the East Brunswick High School field hockey team stayed the course and found their offensive touch, doubling their season output in goals scored en route to a 3-2 victory over Monroe Monday afternoon.

Senior Rachel Huang recorded a first half hat trick to pace the East Brunswick (2-2) attack, which had scored just three goals in three games to begin the season.

“We’re still working on a lot of things and we’re still getting into a rhythm and we’re working on our chemistry so I just wanted to help out the team today with my offense,” Huang said.

The help was needed, especially after Monroe jumped out on top just 3:45 into the game, when Jenna Parisen beat Emily Polinski for the goal. But the Bears knew that they needed to stay the course and play their game, something that head coach Cindi Todoroff praised afterwards.

“As far as going down 1-0, we just had to be patient and work the game. What we were trying to do today was improve our small-passing game,” Todoroff said. “We stayed with our passing game and made some adjustments, worked the ball and that all resulted in some good scoring opportunities and we finished.”

Less than 10 minutes after Parisen’s tally, Huang connected on her first goal of the season, taking a Meagan Costello pass in the middle of the defense and slapping a shot into the back of the goal. But the 2012 Home News Tribune first team All-Area performer wasn’t done, as she put the Bears on top for good five minutes later. Taylor McNamara fed Huang on top of the offensive formation and Huang ripped a shot home exactly halfway through the opening 30 minutes.

For good measure, Huang completed the hat trick with an unassisted goal just before intermission.

“We stuck to our plan and stayed patient and Rachel had three goals; in games like this you look for your impact players to step up and that’s what happened today,” Todoroff said.

Monroe got back into the game midway through the second stanza when Jenna Morelli clicked on an unassisted goal at the 15:30 mark, but the Falcons couldn’t get the equalizer as the time ticked away.

The Falcons were able to keep East Brunswick off of the scoreboard in the second half, something that Huang said is becoming customary of Monroe’s teams during the years.

“They play really good defense and it was just a lot of unforced errors that I was able to take advantage of; without those errors, it would have been a really close game,” she said.

Even with the victory that evened up their season record, Todoroff knows that her squad has plenty to work on at practice.

“We also had a number of scoring opportunities that we didn’t finish, so we’ll work on that in practice,” Todoroff said. “Defensively, Monroe plays a really great circle attack, and we were getting beat a lot; we need to work on that as well.”

Yaney was leader for the Panthers

Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Courier News Player of the Year Rachel Yaney. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Rachel Yaney stood over the ball, waiting for the official’s signal to attempt her penalty stroke in overtime of the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV final against Montgomery.

She thought back to all of the times that she had practiced taking penalty strokes, and with a flick of her wrist, the forward from Bridgewater-Raritan High School sent the ball into the the net, setting off a wild celebration with her teammates over the 2-1 victory by the Panthers.

“It was something that I had prepared for, but I wasn’t expecting to have that moment in a game, especially one as big as the sectional final,” Yaney said. “If I hadn’t made it, our season could possibly have been over. I just took a deep breath and knew that I had to make that shot.”

That goal, one of the 37 that Yaney caged this season, was just one of the highlights that led her to a superb season.

Yaney is the Courier News Field Hockey Player of the Year.

Yaney added 31 assists to finish the season with an area-best 68 points. Only one player in the state recorded more assists than Yaney this season, and just nine players scored more goals.

“I worked hard for this and I made my own path to get to this point,” Yaney said. “Some other people get things and accolades handed to them, but I definitely deserved to be recognized for the season that I had and all I had done to get to this point in my career.”

Bridgewater-Raritan won the Somerset County Tournament crown all four years that Yaney was a member of the team, and the Panthers also made it to the Group IV state final in each of those years. Yaney knew that this year would be no different than any of the past three, in regards to winning and the effort it would take to repeat as champions.

But as the 2012 season began, Yaney knew that she needed to change the way that she played to help the Panthers meet their goals. She said that through her first few years on the team, she didn’t assert herself as much as she probably could have.

“The fact that I was a senior this year made me step up and be a role model to the younger girls,” Yaney said. “When I was younger, I would just look up to them (the upperclassmen) and I would stand to the side. I didn’t think I had to do anything more to succeed. But this year I stepped it up and played my heart out each game.”

Yaney scored at least one goal in all but three games this season as the Panthers finished 23-2, and her 37 goals nearly matched her total from her first three years combined. Yaney totaled 38 goals and 18 assists before this season.

Next fall, Yaney will be starting over again when she heads to Rutgers University .

“It’s going to be different going to Rutgers because I’m going to be a freshman all over again,” she said. “It’s going to be really fun, but I know that it’s going to be hard. ”

DeBonis, Panthers excelled once again

File photo

Bridgewater-Raritan Field Hockey coach Kathie DeBonis. Photo courtesy of Kathie DeBonis.

On a given game day, Bridgewater-Raritan high school field hockey coach Kathie DeBonis can be found pacing the sidelines, preaching to her team to make the right pass or to keep its heads up. Sometimes she reminds them that they need to communicate with each other. But no matter what she says, the message always gets across.

For the fifth straight season, the Panthers captured the Somerset County Tournament title and for the eighth consecutive campaign they reached the final of the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV tournament. DeBonis, who has been there for every single season during of the aforementioned streaks, is the Courier News Field Hockey Coach of the Year.

“It’s a great honor and it’s something that should be shared by me and all of my assistants. They work equally as hard,” DeBonis said.

The Panthers went 23-2 this season and won 17 games in a row at one point.

“The girls really aspired to excel,” DeBonis revealed. “When you have a group that wants to do that, they make your job so much easier. There were a lot of games where the girls played near to perfection and they did everything we asked of them. It was fun to coach.”

Hughes stood out as Tigers met their goals

Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

The Home News Tribune Player of the Year Shannon Hughes. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Coming into the 2012 season, the South Plainfield High School field hockey team told its coaching staff that they had two goals. One was to win the Greater Middlesex Conference and the other was to play in the NJSIAA North 2 Group III final.

Thanks to the spectacular play of their stars and a deep lineup, the Tigers were able to meet both of those goals, but it was the play of Shannon Hughes that stood out more than anyone’s.

The junior forward scored 23 goals and added 17 assists in helping South Plainfield to a 21-2-1 record with a GMC Tournament title and a berth in the North 2 Group III final along the way.

Hughes is the Home News Tribune Field Hockey Player of the Year.

“It’s just amazing. I love field hockey and I would do anything for this sport,” Hughes said. “It’s such an honor to be recognized like this.”

Hughes refused to take too much credit for the Tigers’ success, instead deflecting some of the credit to her teammates.

“As a team, it was amazing to be able to meet both of our preseason goals,” she said. “It was awesome to be able to do that as a team, especially with the record that we had. I honestly have no words to describe this season with this team.”

In the GMCT final, Hughes scored the Tigers’ first goal of the night, as they would go on to defeat East Brunswick 2-1. Hughes scored 20 of her 23 goals against GMC opponents this season, and when it was all said and done, she was thrilled to have won such a competitive conference.

“It meant to much to be the best team in the GMC this year,” Hughes said. “When we were going into the finals, that’s what we wanted; especially having lost in the conference finals against East Brunswick last year.”

But the Tigers weren’t done at that point, as they had only accomplished half of what they had set out to do.

After defeating Mendham in the quarterfinals of the North 2 Group III tournament, South Plainfield went into overtime against second-seeded Freehold Borough.

Just 1:35 into the extra session, Hughes scored the game-winning goal, setting off a wild celebration with her teammates and with that marker, Hughes knew that she had helped her team reach what it had ultimately set out to do.

“I’ll remember that forever and being able to do that for my team, to help deliver that win was awesome,” she said. “Winning against Freehold to get us into the sectional final was my favorite moment of this year.”

Only a junior, Hughes has one more year left to improve her game, something she said she hopes to do.

“I think there’s always room for improvement, so I’m hoping there’s still room for me to grow and be even better than this year,” Hughes said.

But whether or not she improves her game and puts up even more points next season, it won’t matter much to her because she is the consummate team player.

“I’m so proud of my team and everything that we were able to accomplish this year,” she said. “It was awesome to share all of this with them and I hope to do it again next year.”

So. Plainfield’s Hughes didn’t want season to end

Photo courtesy of: Cheryl Hughes

South Plainfield Field Hockey head coach Cheryl Hughes. Photo courtesy of: Cheryl Hughes

After guiding the South Plainfield High School field hockey team to a 21-2-1 record, collecting the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title and securing a berth in the NJSIAA North 2 Group III final, Cheryl Hughes is the Home News Tribune Field Hockey Coach of the Year.

“Any time you get recognized it’s special,” Hughes said. “This year was special to me and this was the best team I’ve ever coached. I didn’t want this season to end. I told the girls that I feel blessed to coach them and we knew we had a special team coming back from last year. I knew that it would be a great season with this group.”

South Plainfield took down East Brunswick to win the GMCT in October and made it all the way to the sectional final, something Hughes is particularly proud of.

“At the beginning of the season, we asked the girls what their goals were,” Hughes said. “They said to win the GMC, which we were able to do. They wanted to make it to the sectional final, though. They were able to meet their second goal as well, and it was very satisfying for everyone involved .”

All-Home News Tribune Field Hockey team

Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Position Player School Year
Offense Shannon Hughes South Plainfield Junior
Offense Danielle Butrico South Plainfield Senior
Offense Lauren Cram East Brunswick Senior
Offense Rachel Huang East Brunswick Junior
Offense Olivia Volpe Metuchen Junior
Defense Sara Acevedo East Brunswick Senior
Defense Allie Wahl South Brunswick Junior
Defense Amanda Salvadore Monroe Senior
Defense Jess Bishop South Plainfield Junior
Defense Rebecca Eustice South Plainfield Senior
Goalkeeper Hannah Isaacs Piscataway Junior

All-Courier News Field Hockey team

Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Position Player School Year
Offense Rachel Yaney Bridgewater-Raritan Senior
Offense Catherine Caro Bridgewater-Raritan Senior
Offense Kaycee Zelkovsky South Hunterdon Junior
Offense Erica Hrudowsky Montgomery Senior
Offense Katie Ruesterholz Pingry Senior
Defense Natalie Colonna Montgomery Senior
Defense Nicole Braun Bridgewater-Raritan Senior
Defense Allison Mannheimer Montgomery Junior
Defense Bridget Bruno Pingry Senior
Defense Nicole Arata Pingry Senior
Goalkeeper Christen Piersanti Bridgewater-Raritan Senior