BERNARDSVILLE, NJ -- When she was contacted before the 2019 season about her team's prospects for the fall, Bernards head field hockey coach Sarah Falzarano was hesitant to talk about what might be in store for her young team.
Then the Mountaineers, who have been traditional powers in the sport, went out and lost two games and tie one in their first four.
But since then, Bernards has been on a tear, and Falzarano's team brings a 13-4-1 record into Saturday's Somerset County Tournament championship game against Bridgewater-Raritan. Faceoff is at 1 p.m. at Mount St. Mary's in Watchung.
"We are so excited to return to the county finals," Falzarano said. "This will be our sixth straight year, and its speaks to what our girls can do. After graduating almost all of our starters, there were a lot of decisions and learning to be done by players and coaches, but the experience has been so positive and fun."
Senior forward Lilly Hengerer leads Bernards with 16 goals and 10 assists. Meghen Hengerer, Lilly's sister and a senior midfielder, has six goals and six assists. Junior Anna Gonnella is second on the team on goals scored with 12, including three against Hillsborough in the semifinal. Junior Samantha Rudolf has clicked for nine goals and six assists. Seniors Kate Thomas (four goals, two assists) and Mackenzie Brown (three goals, five assists) have also sparked the team.
With Hope Kaczynski in goal, Bernards has posted seven shutouts. The team also counts on Tori Baker, Rory Hanratty, Lizzie Carlile, Bella Cohen, Christina Manzi and Nathalie Abello.
"I love the way the girls have stepped up and learned about working together this year to have some very impressive wins," Falzarano said. "We lacked experience on the field but were able to make up for it with a lot of hard work. Returning to county finals is always an impressive feat and honor. We never lose sight of that. Bridgewater has always been a quality opponent and we are looking forward to another great game."