Category Archives: Field Hockey

Bridgewater-Raritan can’t get by old nemesis Eastern

EWING — For the Bridgewater-Raritan High School field hockey team, it’s like the worst kind of déjà vu that keeps coming back at this time every year.

For the eighth consecutive season, the Eastern High School Vikings claimed the NJSIAA Group IV State title, winning 9-2, and for the eighth consecutive season, Bridgewater-Raritan was forced to stand on the sideline and watch the celebration.

After getting up 7-0 at intermission, Eastern only added two goals after the break, something that pleased Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Kathie DeBonis.

“We really stepped it up after halftime. We’ve been battling a couple of serious injuries this postseason and I think playing every other day didn’t give us any rest, but the kids did a great job to work through adversity and we made a few changes due to that and they did everything we’ve ever asked of them,” DeBonis said. “It was really about telling them, ‘Let’s play our game. If the ship is going down, let’s play our game,’ and I just told them to relax and control what we can control and we tried to just play and see where the chips would fall.”

Bridgewater-Raritan’s season was highly successful leading into Sunday’s matchup with the Vikings, losing just one game and capturing the Somerset County title and the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV crown, but Eastern continued to stand in the Panthers’ way of a state championship.

“Eastern is strong in every area and this is close to the quintessential team that she’s ever had over there,” DeBonis said. “This is definitely one of the best teams Eastern has had, if not the best.”

Christen Piersanti did everything aside from standing on her head in the Bridgewater-Raritan net, turning aside 14 shots on the game. The senior goalie, who had helped lead the Panthers to a 23-1 record over the course of the season with rock solid play between the pipes, knew what type of game this would be for her and the Panthers defense.

“I expected everything that was going to be coming my way and there isn’t much we could have done to slow them down,” Piersanti said.

The Panthers’ offense, which was led all season long by Cathernie Caro and Rachel Yaney, simply couldn’t get anything going against the Eastern defense, routinely having to turn around and play defense instead of heading towards the goal. Caro did notch a goal late in the second half, with the outcome in doubt, her 37th of the season. But Eastern’s defense was especially stout throughout the contest.

Emily Miller got Bridgewater-Raritan on the board with 8:25 remaining in the contest and Caro’s goal came inside of the final minute of regulation.

For Eastern, Austyn Cuneo notched her 67th and 68th goals of the season, just one off her New Jersey state record that she set last season as a freshman. Five different players scored at least once for Eastern (25-0). DeBonis knew that Eastern would come out with a solid offensive attack, but also added that Piersanti faces some of the best in practice every day.

“Christen did do a good job and she gets hits against Yaney and Caro and Paustian every day in practice, but they just happen to have eight or nine girls that can hit it like that and that was hard to prepare for,” DeBonis said.

Yaney’s goal lifts Bridgewater-Raritan over Montgomery in sectional final

Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

BRIDGEWATER — As she stood hunched over the ball 5:33 into overtime, Rachel Yaney thought back to all of the times she practiced taking penalty strokes and knew exactly where she’d be putting the ball.

With the flick of the wrist, Yaney fired the ball into the top left corner of the goal, giving the Bridgewater-Raritan High School field hockey team a 2-1 victory over Montgomery and the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV title.

The Panthers will play the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between Randolph and Montclair Friday at Basilone Field. The game is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m.

“I practice shooting to the same spot of the goal and I was just prepared to do it again,” Yaney said. “I just said to myself ‘this is not over, and I’m not ending my season on this day,’ so I had to make it in.”

The Panthers also defeated Montgomery in the Somerset County Tournament on Oct. 20.

Yaney got her chance in the extra period when she was hauled down on a breakaway by a Montgomery defender. The officials got together and ruled that the play warranted a penalty stroke, setting up the drama with 4:27 remaining.

“I was surprised at the call, but I was confident in Rachel taking the stroke,” Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Kathie DeBonis said. “She is one of our top strokers, so I had no problem with her taking the stroke. I knew that if there was a possibility of her putting it in, she would do it. I was a little worried that she might have been a little banged up from getting clotheslined, but she put it in and held tight and stayed composed.”

It looked like Bridgewater-Raritan was going to pitch their second consecutive shutout, but Montgomery’s Erica Hrudowsky found the back of the net with just 8:16 remaining, tying the score at 1-1. The Cougars dominated the possession battle for a good portion of the second half, giving themselves a chance to earn the equalizer. For the game, Bridgewater-Raritan earned 15 corners to Montgomery’s 5, but the Cougars had some of the better scoring opportunities throughout the contest.

“Montgomery really stepped it up, they gave us a really hard game and a great competition and they played their hearts out and scared us,” Yaney said.

The Panthers scored the game’s first goal with just 87 seconds left before intermission. Victoria Umbach smacked home a loose ball in front of the Montgomery net, beating Cougars goalie Kiran Sunduram, who played an excellent game in goal.

The hosts played without their top scorer, Catherine Caro, who suffered an injury in their semifinal win over Hunterdon Central. DeBonis pointed out that playing without Caro affected her team’s style of play and ability to get solid scoring chances.

“Catherine didn’t play today, so one of our premiere players was out of the game and we just didn’t stay true to our game,” DeBonis said. “I think we played a little scared, not ever being in the position to have to play without her, so that definitely had a bit of an impact on us today.”

Panthers able to come together after time off

Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

Photo by: Augusto F. Menezes

BRIDGEWATER — For Bridgewater-Raritan and Hillsborough, two schools that haven’t been open since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, getting back onto the field and playing a field hockey game was one way to restore a bit of normalcy to their lives.

The host Panthers rolled to a 10-1 victory to advance to the semifinals of the North 2, Group IV state tournament, but it was more than a game for both schools.

“For whatever reason, the time off really increased their finishing ability, so I think it actually helped us a little bit,” Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Kathie DeBonis said. “We’re really trying to get back to normal; we were really trying to get back to practice and be back to business as usual and get back to a state of normalcy. It’s good for them and it’s good for everybody to get back to doing things in a regular routine.”

Catherine Caro scored three times and added two assists for the Panthers, but said that she and her teammates have tried to just stay focused over the last week, communicating as often as possible and trying to stay fit.

“We’ve been texting back and forth and stuff to make sure everyone’s running and if they can, getting a stick on the ball, even passing to someone in your backyard or something,” Caro said. “We just wanted to try and stay in shape and not fall off.”

Bridgewater-Raritan had practiced Sunday and Monday, but DeBonis said that her team bonded over the week off, doing things together and keeping their focus along the way.

“Everybody is back and forth with each other; they’re not only friends on the field, but they’re friends off the field as well, so they do everything in a pack of 20,” DeBonis said. “They were together the whole time (that we didn’t have school), whether they were at somebody’s house that had heat or whatever the case was. We did have quite a few days off, but I have to tell you, the kids looked great in practice.”

But Hillsborough hasn’t been so lucky, and their head coach Lyndsay Boettke said her home is still without power and she was very limited in how she was able to communicate with her team over the last week.

“It was tough, I mean I still have girls without power and the internet has been down and some of the girls couldn’t charge their phones,” Boettke said. “A lot of girls left town to be with family up in North Jersey, because they didn’t have power. We had practice the last couple of days, but we couldn’t make it mandatory and I think we had 14 girls one day and 10 another before finally getting everyone together Monday. They couldn’t even run around their neighborhoods because the streets are a mess and this really affected us big time.”

Boettke said her team should have been going into this matchup with some momentum, after beating Monroe in the first round of the tournament on Oct. 25. She said the break couldn’t have come at worse time for her squad, especially with Bridgewater-Raritan looming. But the Raiders’ coach knows that she did all she could to try and keep her team ready to play against one of the best teams in the state.

“Obviously I wished the game had gone a little bit differently, but that’s what happens when you don’t play for so long,” Boettke said.

South Plainfield defeats East Brunswick for GMC field hockey title

PARLIN — It’s never easy to beat a single team three times in the same season, but on Tuesday night, the South Plainfield High School field hockey team did just that, taking home the Greater Middlesex County Championship in the process. Shannon Hughes and Deirdre Machia each scored and the Tigers held off East Brunswick for a 2-1 victory, their third win against the Bears this season.

The South Plainfield victory was a sign of revenge, as the Bears won the GMCT last season after losing both regular season meetings to the Tigers. South Plainfield head coach Cheryl Hughes stressed how hard it is to beat a team three times in a single year, especially one as talented as East Brunswick.

“It’s very difficult because they get to see you and fix things that didn’t work the first time,” Cheryl Hughes. “Every time East Brunswick comes out, they are a better passing team and they’ve cleaned up their game and they know how to attack us better. We know it’s going to be a tough game against them and it’s really tough to battle them.”

Shannon Hughes got the Tigers on the board 18 minutes into the contest when she hammered home a shot right in front of the East Brunswick net. It was her 20th goal of the season. Danielle Butrico came up with the assist, her 17th of the year. Shannon Hughes was at a loss for words after the game when describing her goal.

“It was amazing. It was off of a corner and I’ll never forget it,” she said.

The Tigers went up 2-0 when Machia ripped home her marker with 23 minutes left to play. But the Bears went on the offensive, earning three consecutive corners, eventually leading to their best scoring chance of the game.

Eight minutes after South Plainfield went up two, Lauren Cram tallied her 11 th goal of the season, with the goalie heavily screened in front, cutting the lead to 2-1. The goal was the first one South Plainfield had allowed since Sept. 27, when they beat Ridge 3-2.

From there, it was just a matter of holding onto the ball and not giving East Brunswick any more chances.

“When you’re up 2-1, it can be 2-2 like that, and you get nervous that your kids aren’t going to mark up and stay with their girls, but we were yelling from the sideline ‘deny, deny, deny,’” Cheryl Hughes said. “And they did it really well, they didn’t let East Brunswick get off a clear shot. The only clear shots that they had were on corners and their goal was beautiful.”

The Tigers won both regular season meetings; by a 2-1 score on Sept. 6 and a 1-0 score 18 days later. But their goal all along was to get back to this game and beat East Brunswick for the county title.

“Ever since we lost to them last year, all we’ve wanted to do was come back and beat them this year, and we did it,” Shannon Hughes said. “It’s amazing. This was our goal from the beginning and we did it as a team.”

Paustian-led Bridgewater wins fifth straight SCT title

WATCHUNG — Behind Championship Game MVP Dayle Paustian, the Bridgewater-RaritanHigh School field hockey team (18-1) captured their fifth straight Somerset County Tournament title, besting Montgomery 5-1 Saturday afternoon at Mount St. Mary’s Academy.

Paustian scored two goals and added an assist and Cat Caro also had three points as the Panthers wrapped up the SCT, out-scoring their three opponents in the tournament by a combined score of 16-1.

But Bridgewater-Raritan fell behind early against a pesky Montgomery team (11-5-3) that refused to roll over and die. After the Panthers secured the game’s first six corners, but could not score, Montgomery used a corner of their own to get the contests’ first goal. With just over eight and a half minutes to play until halftime, Tori Rudo banged home a loose ball in front of the Bridgewater-Raritan net, giving the third-seeded Cougars the lead.

Three minutes later, the Panthers found the equalizer, with Paustian sending a Caro pass into the back of the net. Bridgewater-Raritan controlled the play for the remainder of the half, earning two more corners and jumping in front when Caro dove for a loose ball and whipped it past Montgomery goalie Kiran Sunduram, making the score 2-1.

“I thought we started out a little bit slow today, but the girls kicked it into gear and they played with composure and came back and got into our game,” Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Kathie DeBonis said. “Once we were in our game, we were able to control the ball. We just had a bit of an issue finishing in the beginning of the game; Montgomery did a really nice job covering up in the circles, but once we got into our groove, we knew we had control of the game.”

In the second half, the Panthers seemed to get to most of the 50-50 balls, keeping possession inside the Montgomery end and forcing the Cougars to play defense. Eight minutes into the final stanza, Rachel Yaney scored a beautiful goal, backhanding the ball inside the near post off a Bridgewater-Raritan corner, upping the Panthers’ advantage to 3-1.

From there, the Panthers just tried to keep the ball away from their own net, but Montgomery stepped up their pressure, at one point winning four consecutive corners, but could not score.

Paustian scored her second goal of the contest with just over 11 minutes to play and Emily Howarth collected a goal of her own nine minutes later, capping the scoring.

For the game, the Panthers earned 17 corners to Montgomery’s five. DeBonis credited winning that battle to the philosophy of her squad.

“We play possession-ball, we play a stick-to-stick game and we take a lot of pride in that, so it’s just a culmination of what we do in practice and games prior to today,” DeBonis said. “The kids have really bought into what we’re doing and they just go out there and do what we ask.”

Montgomery holds on for 2-1 victory in SCT semifinal

MARTINSVILLE – The second semifinal of the Somerset County Tournament seemed to be under control for Montgomery, as the Cougars held a 2-0 advantage heading into the final two minutes of play. But Emery Sorvino found the back of the Montgomery net, giving the hosts a glimmer of hope and giving Cougars’ head coach Tiffany Trockenbrod fits on the sideline.

“We were thinking ‘just get the ball up the field and get it to the flags and let’s make them chase it,’” Trockenbrod said afterwards. “We fought really hard as a team and we fought together and that’s something we got better at as the season went along.”

But after her defense kept the ball away from Pingry’s offense for the final 86 seconds,Montgomery was finally able to celebrate a 2-1 victory, which sends them into the SCT championship game against top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan next Saturday.

“We haven’t played them since 2010, so the kids are looking forward to it,” Trockenbrod said. “We really want to play them; they want to play anyone, really. So it doesn’t matter to us who we play, because it’s the first time we’ve made it to the county finals, so the girls are really happy. I’m really proud of them for that.”

Montgomery got on the board 12 minutes into the first half when Erica Hrudowsky banged home an Allison Mannheimer pass, through the legs of Pingry’s keeper. The Cougars had a chance to extend the lead minutes later, but a shot bounced just wide of the net.

The game was 1-0 at halftime, but not without Pingry getting a few chances to tie the score. The Big Blue earned six corners in the first half, but were unable to do much with their opportunities, turning the ball back over to Montgomery on multiple occasions.

Coming out of intermission, the Big Blue turned up their offensive pressure, carrying the ball for most of the first 10 minutes of the half, but the Montgomery defense stepped up time after time to thwart any scoring chances.

Then, with 11:41 remaining, Montgomery seemed to put the game out of reach when Mannheimer knocked home a goal of her own, beating multiple defenders to a loose ball in front of the Pingry net. Caiomhe Tyndall picked up the assist on Mannheimer’s tally.

The Cougars’ defense helped finish it out from there, setting up the matchup with Bridgewater-Raritan for all the marbles next weekend. Trockenbrod knows her team will have to come out with a superior defensive effort to dethrone to high-powered Panthers’ attack.

“We’re going to have to play tough defense and our goalie is going to have to have a huge game [for us to beat them],” Trockenbrod said.

The SCT Championship Game will be played at 2 p.m. at Mount St. Mary Academy in Watchung.

Parson, defense carries North Brunswick to first victory

EDISON – North Brunswick got themselves in the win column in 2012 with a 33-21 victory over J.P. Stevens Friday night after forcing five turnovers and racking up 303 yards of offense. Tim Parson threw a pair of touchdown passes and rushed for another score, helping the Raiders emerge victoriously in front of a packed house on the campus of J.P. Stevens High School.

“Like I told my players at the end of the game, I couldn’t be more proud of them. We have an injury list that’s as long as you can imagine, and we’ve had guys who were down and we got beat up last week against Old Bridge,” North Brunswick Head Coach Mark Zielinski said. “There were a lot of things against us tonight, being on the road against a really difficult team, so we’re incredibly proud of our team.”

J.P. got on the board first one play into the game, when Jared Mincey bounced outside and rushed 33 yards to put the Hawks up 7-0 just 19 seconds in. The drive was set up by Chiebuka Chukwuneke’s long kickoff return.

But the Raiders answered back, going six plays and covering 62 yards to even the score. The final play of the drive was a perfectly thrown ball from Parson to Joe Manley in the corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score.

On the ensuing series, J.P. Stevens quarterback Dario Brzozowski fumbled a snap and the Raiders pounced on it at the Hawks’ 46. Ten plays later, Ron Nazzaro bullied his way for a 2-yard touchdown, taking two defenders in with him.

Brzozowski’s rough night was only getting started, as on the Hawks’ next drive, he was intercepted by Joe Castellanos and the ball was returned all the way to the Hawks’ 5.

Parson hooked up with Jarai Wise for a touchdown on the very next play to push the lead up to 21-7.

The Raiders seemed to put the game out of reach when Jaylen Hobdy picked off Brzozowski and brought it back 53 yards for a touchdown two minutes later. Brzozowski finished the game 3-11 for 38 yards and four interceptions.

“I attribute the defensive effort to a bunch of guys that just continue to believe in what they’re doing. We have a lot of guys that took personal responsibility for themselves and we got back to work and improve on what we’re doing,” Zielinski said.

Chukwuneke continued his superb season with 118 yards and two more touchdowns, helping the Hawks get back into the game in the second half. But in the end, it wasn’t enough, as Parson added a late 1-yard touchdown run to seal the deal.