Hillsborough continues to ascend on the field hockey pitch during 2022 campaign


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HILLSBOROUGH – During her fifth season as head coach of the Hillsborough High School field hockey in 2021, Jennifer Puritz helped lead the Raiders to their first winning season since 2015 by going 14-6 and advancing to the quarterfinals of the sectional tournament.

Now, in her sixth season, Purtiz is watching her squad take the next step in its ascension to being one of the best field hockey teams in the Skyland Conference.

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Led by senior stars Madelyn Kidd (forward), Lauren Flynn (midfielder) and Kerri O’Donnell (goalkeeper), Hillsborough is off to a rocking 6-1-2 start to its 2022 campaign and have all the makings of making a run at winning both a Somerset County Tournament title and sectional championship.

“We came into this season having high expectations of going far in both the county and state tournaments,” Purtiz said. “We’re really excited to see how far this team can go. It’s a great group.”

During its great start to the season, Hillsborough has recorded victories against highly touted field hockey programs such as Northern Hunterdon High School and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School and has also shown its toughness against defending Somerset County champion Ridge High School.

Hillsborough has faced Ridge twice so far this season, and in each contest, the Raiders have battled the defending conference champions to a 2-2 tie.

The second 2-2 tie between the two Skyland Conference foes came on Sept. 27 in Hillsborough.

The first two quarters of action saw the Raiders take a 1-0 lead into halftime after junior Hailey Vogt scored her third goal of the season on a penalty shot with 2:10 to go in the second quarter.

Ridge answered back with 5:50 to play in the third quarter on the heels of a goal scored by Sana Halthore to make it a 1-1 game heading into the fourth quarter.

Kidd led a charge to help Hillsborough retake the lead just over 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Despite Hillsborough being a man down because of a penalty in the final minute of the third quarter, Kidd was able to maneuver her way around the Ridge defense and knock home her seventh goal of the season to put the Raiders back up 2-1.

“I really just wanted to put us back in the lead,” said Kidd of her go-ahead in the fourth quarter. “I just took (the ball) up the field and made something happen.”

Kidd, who has committed to play collegiately for Sacred Heart University next year, has been Hillsborough’s top scorer over the last three seasons.

In that span, Kidd has scored 29 goals, including a team-high 18 goals scored last season. Kidd hopes to top her 18-goal mark this season but is more focused on doing what she can in all facets of the game to help Hillsborough win.

“I’m very happy with how I’ve been playing,” Kidd said. “I think we can go far.”

Hillsborough’s 2-1 lead over Ridge didn’t last long as the Red Devils tied the game against just moments later with a goal scored on a penalty shot by Jenna Narleski.

The two teams stayed tied at 2-2 the rest of regulation to force overtime. Just like their season opener back on Sept. 8, both Hillsborough and Ridge were unable to score in the 10-minute overtime period and the game ended again for each team in a 2-2 tie.

Puritz said after the game that she feels both ties against Ridge this season have given her squad a big boost of confidence.

“It definitely hypes us up,” Puritz said. “(Ridge) is one of our toughest competitors. Just staying with them the entire game is huge for us. I’m really proud of our team and how well they worked together.”

O’Donnell recorded 10 saves in the contest for Hillsborough, including coming up with a huge stop with less than six minutes to go in overtime on a penalty to keep the game tied.

With her 10 saves against Ridge, O’Donnell recorded another milestone in her brilliant four-year career with the Raiders by surpassing 400 career saves. O’Donnell currently has 403 saves in her career.

Reaching 400 saves was something O’Donnell didn’t think she would have a chance to do entering high school, she said.

Now, standing at 403 saves in her career and still a half of a season left to play, O’Donnell says she’s “proud of herself” for achieving this goal and adds that she couldn’t have done it without her teammates helping her each step of the way.

“I’m so ecstatic to have reached this goal (400 career saves),” O’Donnell said. “It all goes to my team. I couldn’t have done this without them.”

Hillsborough travels to play Phillipsburg High School on Sept. 29 and will finish out the week with a road contest against West Morris Mendham High School on Oct. 1.

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