BOONTON _ Madison's last two Morris County Field Hockey Tournament championships have had distinct feels to them.
Last year's theme was dominance as the Dodgers outscored their MCT opponents, 23-2. The 23rd MCT championship, attained with a 4-3 win over Morristown-Beard on Tuesday, Oct. 16, was markedly different as Madison had to come from behind in the semifinals and survive a late surge in the title game.
None of the drama the top-seeded Dodgers, sparked by Kerrianne McClay's hat trick in the final, dealt with over the last four days mattered. Their only concern was being the last team standing.
"Perseverance. That's the word," said McClay, who scored Madison's first, third and fourth goals and earned offensive MVP honors. "The semifinal against Morristown was stressful. Tonight's game was close. Winning the title was exciting. It was really great. It hasn't sunk in yet. Maybe tomorrow it will or maybe the next day."
Morristown-Beard, seeded third, had a late surge, scoring two goals in the last 1:16. Kaitlyn Tartaglione connected with 1:16 remaining, leaving the Crimson trailing, 4-2. The most surreal - and scary moment for Madison - of the championship game occurred just 50 seconds later when Morristown-Beard's Sam Hutchinson received the ball off a corner and sent it 15 yards in the chilly night air into the right side of the goalcage.
"For me, getting that goal meant we still had a chance to tie it up," said Hutchinson, a senior defender. "Maybe we could get another and go to overtime. Maybe we could win. We definitely showed our heart. It was a team effort. We didn't give up. We never stopped running."
The aerial play is one that Hutchinson and the Crimson practice often. They've had success with it in one other game this season.
"We've been working to perfect it," Morristown-Beard coach Kate Alderman said. "To execute that was terrific. The girls wanted it. We really did have a lot of heart. A few more minutes... I'm incredibly proud."
Madison junior back Emma Yousey said that Madison (13-2) had "a little letdown" over the last few minutes.
"We reassured each other. We looked at the time and there wasn't much left," Yousey said. "We needed to hold them off. It was frustrating when Morristown-Beard scored those goals."
Soon after, the Dodgers were reveling in their 23rd MCT title, their sixth in seven years. Madison has claimed 11 of the last 13 championships.
"This is just crazy," said Yousey. "We wanted to do it for the seniors. The Morristown game was really hard. We got pretty emotional. We didn't have Elizabeth (Romano) and some other great players this year and overcame the predictions. The juniors and seniors came together. We worked on our chemistry. We had to work as a unit."
McClay, a senior, put forth an exceptional effort. She scored 4:30 into the game off a corner, staking the Dodgers to a 1-0 lead. Emma Meister had the assist. Alexa Slabaugh, on the post, took a pass from Chase Cmaylo and tipped the ball in 13:20 before halftime.
The Dodgers made it 3-0 thanks to McClay's second goal 8:16 into the second half. For that score, McClay dribbled into the circle and dodged several opposing players before unleashing an on-target shot. The Crimson got on the scoreboard with 10:30 remaining when Kaitlyn Tartaglione put the ball across the goal line. McClay completed her hat trick with yet another forceful shot, teaming up with Meister again on a corner midway through the second half to increase Madison's advantage to 4-1.
Jesslyn Patricia of Morristown-Beard was recognized as the defensive player of the game.