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Madison tops Mo-Beard in MCT final

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.

Crimson, Dodgers prevail in MCT semis

BOONTON _ Wonderful. Fantastic. Ridiculous.

Those were the words that spilled out of Nicole Borowiec's following Morristown-Beard's 3-1 victory over Parsippany in a Morris County Field Hockey Tournament semifinal at Boonton High School on Saturday, Oct. 13.

Borowiec, a senior forward, was speaking rapidly, anxious to join her Crimson teammates in their extended celebration of the triumph that vaulted them into their first MCT final and to get to the homecoming festivities back at school. Borowiec was clutch in the first semifinal, scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal 3:42 before halftime to snap a 1-1 deadlock.

"We were very prepared," Borowiec said. "We deserve to play in the final. Parsippany put up a great fight. This is impressive for us. No one expects things like this from a small school. We want it badly. We have a lot of skill and we practice hard. I'll sacrifice homecoming for this. I'm really excited for us."

It was the second consecutive semifinal appearance for Morristown-Beard, which will meet top-seeded and defending champion Madison, a 3-2 victor over Morristown in overtime thanks to Isabella Fragomeni's goal. Last fall, the Crimson were shut out, 3-0, by Morristown but turned in a strong all-out effort and wanted more.

"I'm really happy for the girls," Crimson coach Kate Alderman said. "Everything clicked early for us. We're relatively young but there are great dynamics on and off the field. It's an exciting time."

Parsippany, which stunned second-seeded West Morris a day before, opened the scoring, receiving a goal from Kaitlyn Fang, on the post, 13:24 into the game, jarring Morristown-Beard. Five minutes, two seconds later, the Crimson evened the score when freshman Emma Karrat converted.

"That was a bit of a wakeup call," said Borowiec, referring to Fang's goal. "We needed to calm down. We weren't frazzled but it. We knew we could get it back."

Borowiec dodged several players before sending a shot into the left side of the goalcage from a foot inside the right side of the circle. Joelle Russomanno capped the scoring for Morristown-Beard, connecting with 6:08 remaining in the game off a corner after picking up a pass from Borowiec. Sam Hutchinson initiated the scoring play, inserting the ball on a corner.

"It took us awhile to warm up, for sure," Alderman noted. "We needed (Parsippany to score first). It motivated us. From that point on, we passed well and clicked as a team."

Hutchinson, a senior co-captain and center back, excelled on defense and offense for the Crimson. Left back Sarah Williams had a busy afternoon and was effective in keeping Parsippany from dominating on the right side of the field.

The Red Hawks were energized and looking to post another upset. Fang's goal made it seem like a possibility.

"That goal was great but I wasn't sure we could sustain it," Parsippany coach Rebecca Lilienthal said. "Morristown-Beard is tough. You can't give them opportunities. We couldn't hang in there for the whole game but our kids played hard. It's difficult to have the momentum back to back to back. I liked our girls' heart. We never gave up."

Juniors Alyssa Gallagher and Michelle Ebel each had a goal-line save and were just two of the Red Hawks' many standouts.

Morristown-Beard's players arrived back at school in time to take in the part of the football game and the homecoming festivities as well as share their accomplishment with their classmates and fans.

"I am really, really happy," Borowiec said before dashing off to the bus.

Fragomeni, who transferred from Mountain Lakes her junior year, had a goal for Madison in last year's title game but the one she had versus the Colonials in this season's semifinals was likely the high point of her scholastic career. Fragomeni, a senior forward committed to Old Dominion, simply decided "I'm ending this. It's over."

She gained control of the ball on the right side of the circle and sent the ball into the left side of the goalcage 4:20 into the extra period. There was absolutely no hesitation when she got the ball on her stick. Fragomeni, who "tends to play with the ball," according to Dodgers coach Ann Marie Davies, immediately unleashed the shot that would result in the decisive goal. The ball eluded Morristown goalie Emily Prachthauser, who had an exceptional game, making an abundance of key saves.

"I sometimes look to pull it," Fragomeni admitted. "Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn't. I do it so the team has time to run up."

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Cougars run MCT streak to six

RANDOLPH _ Chatham's Sydney Berkson and Emma Sheldon were sweating through a first set tie-breaker at second doubles when players began finishing their matches during the Morris County Girls Tennis Tournament finals.

Berkson and Sheldon consider every point, every match, important but had no idea how critical their match was until they prevailed, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0, over Morristown-Beard's Sophia Maney and Emma Duffy and their coach, James Cai, approached them.

"High five," a smiling Cai said, putting his right hand up. "You just won the county title."

The Cougars' sixth consecutive championship, attained on Sunday, Sept. 23 at County College of Morris, was extremely satisfying because it was so hard fought. Berkson and Sheldon, along with second doubles player Libby White, were the only ones from Chatham to advance to the finals. Berkson and Sheldon's triumph allowed the Cougars to edge out second-place Morristown by one point, 17-16.

Kinnelon and Morristown-Beard tied for third with 15 points apiece. Mountain Lakes was next with 14 so it was actually a good thing that Berkson and Sheldon didn't know what was going on with the team scores.

"We came here so nervous," said Berkson, a sophomore. "After warmups, we were confident and got more focused. The first set was difficult. I thought, 'Whoa, what's going on?' during the tie-breaker. I didn't think it would be easy... It was getting frustrating. In the second set, they were wearing out. I couldn't believe it was 6-0."

"It was so close," Sheldon, a senior, noted. "We know that every single point counts. We had to miss as little as possible. One by one, everyone was leaving (the courts). There have been times when we've been the last ones on the court but... We had to power through. We had tunnelvision. It was better if we didn't know if the team was winning or losing. We just kept a positive attitude and played as hard as we could."

Berkson, who has been striving to be more consistent and to improve her mindset, exhibited strong backhand strokes. First serves were Sheldon's forte. The duo was very pleased by their second doubles crown because this is their first season on varsity.

"We play well together," Sheldon said. "We bring each other up. We heard the cheering and kept a positive attitude."

Kinnelon senior Britany Lau garnered her third straight first singles crown, dispatching Hannah Blake of Morristown-Beard, 6-1, 6-0. Lau, who went up 4-0 in the first set, relied on solid serves and solid play at the net.

"I can't think of exact words to describe this," Lau said. "I'm very lucky and very excited. I got to represent my school in this tournament for another year. I focused on every point and came to the net often. I put away a lot there. I moved through the court more."

Lau, of course, was in a familiar environment, having played many of her matches at CCM over the last three years. She was delighted for freshman teammate Claire Zhang, who topped Chatham's Libby White, 6-0, 6-0, to finish atop the field at second singles.

"I've played challenge matches with Claire and hit with her," Lau said. "Having her win at second singles is big for our school. She's similar to me - very focused on her game, consistent, fast. Claire is crafty with her hands."

Zhang, introduced to tennis at the age of 7 by a neighbor, planned to be aggressive and "put a little more on my serve." She was anxious at first during the final but quickly settled in.

"It feels really good," Zhang said. "I've never been in a tournament this big."

Kinnelon coach John Cataldi, naturally, was proud of Lau and Zhang.

"What they did is awesome," Cataldi said. "Both of them were on their games for the entire tournament. They are consistent and dedicated and have a passion for the sport. They have great personalities and are leaders on and off the court. Both girls needed mininal coaching. I spoke to each of them once (in the finals). They were calm, cool and collected the entire time."

Maddie Siegel of Morristown defeated Montville's Amy Zheng, 6-2, 6-2, to take the third singles title. At first doubles, Mountain Lakes' Megan Matiwsky and Alexis Buchanan beat Isabella Galinkin and Alex Fisher, 6-4, 6-1.

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  • Published in Tennis
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Cmaylo's two goals drive Madison

MADISON _ Chase Cmaylo had no problem getting the job done as a sophomore, racking up 15 goals and nine assists for Madison.

This fall, though, Cmaylo has admittedly been a little off. Nothing's changed for the junior forward. She simply couldn't convert.

On Friday, Sept. 21, Cmaylo rediscovered her scoring touch and put the ball in the goalcage not once, but twice, in the second half to power the Dodgers to a 2-1 non-conference victory over Warren Hills.

"I think that may have brought some momentum to the team," said Cmaylo, whose second and third goals were assisted by Kerrianne McClay. "We weren't really frustrated but I, we, really wanted to score. We took more chances after the first goal today."

For 44:23, the teams engaged in an even battle. Madison did not get out to an impressive start but quickly righted itself versus Warren Hills, the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex champion and Group III runnerup. Each team was in command for short periods of time. When Madison ventured into the Blue Streaks' territory, it was typically with McClay leading the charge. Thirteen minutes after halftime, Warren Hills had two of their seven second-half corners but Madison's defenders made sure scoring plays didn't materialize.

Cmaylo got the Dodgers (6-1) on the scoreboard 14:23 into the second half after picking up a rebound following a shot by McClay. She took two steps and sent the ball into the right side of the goalcage. Cmaylo's second goal was four minutes later. McClay had the assist again. This time, a scramble ensued after McClay took a shot on goal. Cmaylo sent the ball left and a Warren Hills defender missed the clear.

Madison coach Ann Marie Davies was glad to see Cmaylo knock the ball in and noted she "was due."

"We didn't get down when there was no score," said sweeper Sarah Cox, one of the standouts on defense for Madison. "We played well. We pumped each other up. We were in beast mode. We didn't have much energy when we came out then we began to play with heart and to play together."

Cox played the right post for the defensive corner unit and said it "was a little bit intimidating."

"We needed to be strong minded and get the ball out," she said. "We were aggressive in the circle. You have to go big or go home."

The 2-0 advantage seemed to be enough but Warren Hills (5-2-1) struck back, getting a goal from Juliana Valli with 7:28 remaining. Prior to the Blue Streaks' goal, there were more tense moments for the Dodgers as Warren Hills attempted three corners in a span of two minutes. Madison repelled each one successfully.

"This was a hard-earned win," Davies said. "The kids played well under pressure. We picked it up (after a slow start). We figured out how to get the ball through and figured out their system. They had one kid hanging back."

Davies praised goalie Nicole Ducey (8 saves), Cox and Margaret Sheeleigh. According to Davies, Sheeleigh was "everywhere" and her hustle had a major impact on the outcome of the game.

"We played with a lot of heart," Cox said. "This is going to be a turning point. I'm proud of our team,"

"This is a sneak peek into what the rest of the season will be like," Cmaylo said.

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Freshmen spark Randolph

RANDOLPH _ Carly Snarski made the pitch to Lexi Campbell and the Randolph senior wasn't going to take no for an answer.

"You have to play field hockey," said Campbell, recalling Snarski's plea. "You have to. You need to try it. It'll be fun."

It didn't take long for Campbell, a freshman, to commit to the Rams' program. The two knew each other through the New Jersey Colonials Girls Ice Hockey Program and Snarski felt Campbell could easily transfer her skills from the ice to the turf.

Campbell, as expected, made great strides in a few weeks and scored the first goal of her varsity career early in the opening half when Randolph edged Mendham 2-1 in NJAC-American Division action on Saturday, Sept. 8. Another talented freshman, Sarah Bona, converted two minutes later for the Rams, who returned only three starters from last year's squad that went 15-4-3.

The win was the first of the season for Randolph, which suffered losses to Montclair and West Morris before rebounding with the victory over the Minutemen.

"We had one of our best practices yesterday," Rams coach Gina Adickes said. "It was super intense. The girls were cutting hard and hustling every second. I think it fed into today's warmup and game."

Friday's practice featured a knee-tap drill designed to improve the players' footwork and force them to get low. No sticks were used. The objective of the drill is to step forward and reach. Randolph also honed its long-distance passing. If a ball was missed and rolled onto the track, the Rams had to do sprints.

"The girls backed each other up. They were supportive," Adickes said. "I think they felt like 'The harder I work...'"

Randolph (1-2) was certainly charged up from the start. The 5-foot-2 Campbell, a right wing/midfielder, sent the ball across the goal line 3:03 into the game after receiving a pass from Olivia Meyers. Two minutes and three seconds later, Bona recorded her second goal, putting the Rams up, 2-0. Campbell had the assist.

Kristine Lynch initiated the scoring sequence that culminated in Campbell's score. Lynch sent the ball down the right side to Snarski. Meyers then received it and passed to Campbell, a center in ice hockey. Campbell, in the middle of the circle, fired into the right side.

"It was extremely exciting," Campbell said of her first goal. "It was kind of a rush. It was awesome."

Bona, who stands out because she is 5 foot 10, considered cross country because she enjoys running but went with field hockey. Her reasoning?

"I did field hockey clinics in the past and liked it," Bona said. "I wasn't sure about cross country. I used to play soccer. I was a goalie and didn't like that because I like to run. Field hockey is a team sport and it feels like a family. I'm learning so much from my teammates."

Marissa Biancone had a hand in Campbell's goal, setting things in motion with a through ball. Bona got her stick on it, got past several defenders and put the ball through the goalie's legs.

"I wasn't expecting it. It was really exciting," said Bona, who plans to play basketball and take part in spring track.

After dominating in the first half, Randolph played a great deal of defense after the break. Mendham (0-1) frequently surged into the Rams' territory with hopes of drawing even. The Minutemen broke through when forward Lily Weeks scored with 9:02 remaining. The Rams did not make a shot in the second half.

"We were sleeping at the beginning," Mendham coach Breanne Neff said. "Overall, we've been doing a good job but we weren't finding each other today. We weren't working together."

Senior back Emma Marks was exceptional for the Minutemen, doing what Neff called "an amazing job and stepping up when we needed her."

Meyers excelled in the midfield for Randolph. Previously, Meyers, a senior, was the left wing. She notched 17 goals last fall. Eve Guttman was effective as the Rams' sweeper.

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW*** 

Quigley gets in one more home run

MONTVILLE _ Elizabeth Quigley wanted to hit one more ball over the fence, to experience the adrenalin rush and have teammates waiting for her at home plate.

Quigley, Morris Tech's catcher, achieved her goal by slugging a sixth-inning home run for the Blue Team at the 11th Annual Morris County Senior All-Star Game held on June 12 at Montville Municipal Fields.

In her previous two at-bats, Quigley struck out so the two-run blast to right field, which came off a 2-2 pitch, was ultra meaningful. The homer was Quigley's last - in a Morris Tech uniform or any uniform - and gave the Blue Team a 6-2 lead.

"That's the one thing I wanted tonight," said Quigley, who will major in biomedical science at the University of South Florida, of her home run. "I made good contact. I wanted to make sure it went over. This is a good way to go out."

Quigley, known for her power stroke, has played softball since the age of 8 but has no plans to play in college. Maybe, she said, she'll change her mind and play club ball. However, it's unlikely.

"I want to try new things in college," Quigley said.

As a senior, Quigley hit eight homers. She had 18 during her high school career. Her last one was versus West Morris on May 5. Over the last nine games of the Devils' season, Quigley had none so having one in the finale was a mega thrill.

"I'll probably miss softball," she said. "If I do, maybe I'll play club and throw myself back into it."

Pequannock's Erin Dericks, also on the Blue Team, enjoyed participating in the game as well. Dericks, a catcher, sat out the Golden Panthers' last two games with a pulled hamstring.

"It was really fun. I got to get to know the girls from other teams," Dericks said.

Dericks, headed to Salve Regina College, where she will study nursing, feared she'd aggravate the injury and she did while pushing off to chase down a ball hit to right field. She seemed to be in good spirits afterward as this, too, would be her last game.

"I was nervous about it," Dericks said. "I'm OK. I had a good time."

Her Pequannock teammate, Kayla Karaty, was yet another player bidding goodbye to softball. Karaty, a second baseman, will stay local and study business at Ramapo College. Ending her scholastic career didn't get her down. She hoped to get one more hit but did not succeed.

"I'm fine," Karaty said. "It's different when you're with your own team and the girls you've played with a really long time. That's more emotional."

Morris Catholic pitcher Grace Stairiker will continue her academics and athletics at Cabrini. Being with some of her New Jersey Sparks teammates, including Dericks and Karaty, made the all-star game more appealing.

"This was so much fun," Stairiker said. "A lot of my friends were playing tonight. It was good to see them."

Stairiker was pleased with getting out of a tense situation in the top of the fifth inning. Stairiker gave up a walk and a hit before getting three outs in a row, the last one a strikeout.

"That was a big deal," Stairiker said. "I was glad to get out of that without giving up a run."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW*** 

France's Herbin hopes this is her time

GALLOWAY _ Celine Herbin knew her decision to leave her job as a biochemical engineer at the age of 27 to pursue a career in golf would make people question her mental stability.

Herbin was right. Everyone considered her...

"Crazy," she recalled. "It was looking very much like a dream to be a professional golfer at 27 when I was not at all the top player in France."

Still, Herbin, now 35, persisted, playing first on the European Tour before joining the LPGA. As of Saturday, June 9, Herbin, was in an enviable position - she had the clubhouse lead after shooting a 66 in the second round of the ShopRite Classic. In the opening round, Herbin also had a 66. Now, she is 10 under par and sitting atop the leaderboard.

Sei Young Kim had played 15 holes, recording birdies on seven of her last 10 holes, when darkness halted play. At that point, she was tied with Herbin at 10-under. When a weather delay caused tournament officials to clear the course at 1 p.m., Herbin, aiming for her first LPGA championship, was on the 18th tee waiting to tee off. She returned three hours later and birdied No. 18.

"Obviously, it's a good position to be," said Herbin, a native of France. "I don't really look at the leaderboard so I didn't really know what was going on today. I was just focused on my game. So I'm glad I'm the leader but there's still lots of players who have to play. Might not be at the end of the day. What counts is the leaderboard tomorrow night."

During the weather delay, brought on by thunder and lightning, Herbin took a nap and read the news. She mentioned Simona Halep of Romania claiming her first major, the French Open, after losing three previous finals. Halep, No. 1 in the world, won one tournament in the last 12 months before triumphing at Roland Garros.

Herbin's determination, passion and the coaching of Vicente Ballesteros enabled her to earn her full card on the Ladies European Tour in 2012. According to Herbin, Ballesteros changed her game completely six months before qualifying school. She competed on the LET for several years, picked up her LPGA credentials in 2015 then went back to her country to take part in the French Open, which she won.

"It's a little improvement every year," Herbin said. "So I won on the French Open. Last December, almost won the Dubai. You have to be patient in your career. Everybody has his own time."

Will this weekend be her time? Possibly.

"There is no secret really," she said. "It's to just keep on working on what I'm doing. I don't care if you miss 10 cuts if you win the 11th. The missed cut doesn't mean too much. What means is the work you do every day to keep on working on your game. You know it's going to come. You have to wait. So you never know what's going to come. Just keep on playing." 

Ashleigh Buhai had a 66 and was in a cluster with Annie Park (65), Mariah Stackhouse (65) and Su Oh, who has two holes left to play, were behind Herbin and Kim.

Buhai has been unable to get all aspects of her game in sync. If she's driving well, she isn't putting well and vice versa.

"The last two days, it just all started to click," said Buhai, who hails from South Africa. "I really try to commit and swing through the ball this week. I found a little something on the range late Thursday and I was able to take it into Friday."

The "little something" she found with the help of her husband, Kevin, and her caddie was that she was hanging back a little bit on her right side. It was determined she had to go through more on her left side.

"I just had to swing through it, commit to it," Buhai said. "I was just kind of pulling out of the shot a little bit. It definitely played a part this week."

Marina Alex had a 68 for a two-day total of 135 and was one of six players in seventh place. The Wayne Hills High School graduate teed off at 8:32 a.m. and got her round in before players were asked to clear the course.

Being among the leaders - and making the cut - certainly was pleasing to Alex, who has not been very successful here. In her six previous appearances at the ShopRite Classic, she made the cut twice and finished tied for 40th in 2012 and was in 65th place in 2016.

"Yeah, it's really cool," Alex said of making it to the third and final round at the ShopRite. "It was a similar experience to last year at the Open. U.S. Open. I played well. There is definitely some positive stuff to pull from there and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."'

Last summer, Alex had a memorable U.S. Open in her home state, ending the U.S. Open at Trump National tied for 11th. She earned $699,895 on the tour in 2017, the most she has made in her six-year career.

On Saturday, the key for Alex was simply hitting the ball straight and keeping it in play. She had a few trouble spots as evidenced by two bogeys but made them irrelevant with five birdies, including two on par 5s.

"I just kept it in the right parts of the golf course," Alex said. "Hit a lot of fairways out here like I did yesterday. If I wasn't on the green, I had only had one kind of really tricky up and down, which I didn't get up and down. That was kind of the only spot in I think two days, that I really put myself in a place where par was going to be pretty challenging so just hitting it in a spot where I'm safe to make a par if I'm not close enough to the hole."

Creamer, in Alex's group, was delighted to record a 66 in the second round and to tied for seventh place. Creamer, who said she "started over" after undergoing surgery on her left wrist last fall to repair an inflamed tendon, thrived with her driver, iron and wedges. She is seeking her 11th LPGA title.

"After my surgery, we just really wanted to break everything down and basically start over again. Now that I'm strong and healthy, I can do a lot more things with my golf swing. I'm able to put the ball. I'm in a better position with my hands and my wrists.

"It's not easy taking it from a driving range to a tournament. I don't know, for some reason, I've always played really well here. I've felt good. I went home after the Open for a couple days and worked on some really good things. Just taking what the golf course gives me."

Creamer penciled in eight birdies. It was the most she's had in awhile and she found it encouraging. In 2017, Creamer was tied for the lead at the Shop Rite Classic going into the final round with a 67-66 but faltered on Sunday by shooting a 74 and wound up in seventh place.

"I just want to keep doing what I'm doing with my swing, not do anything different really," Creamer said. "It's another day out on the golf course. I know last year when I came in, (it was) kind of a similar situation. I mean, I don't know what's going to happen this afternoon, but I'll be within four or five of the lead... I put a little bit too much pressure on myself and didn't quite perform the way I wanted to on Sunday. I know that going into it. I just have to go out and have fun and enjoy it." 

  • Published in Golf
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Diaz, with son by her side, among leaders at ShopRite

GALLOWAY _ Most kids aren't anxious to do chores.

Mow the lawn? Maybe tomorrow. Take out the trash? Later. Carry your mom's golf bag? Absolutely.

Toting a golf bag isn't a typical chore so 12-year-old Cooper Diaz was more than willing when his mother, Laura, needed a caddie for the 2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The younger Diaz not only shouldered clubs, he did it well, receiving a grade of 95 for his effort, and Laura Diaz, relaxed by his presence, fired a 66 at the Stockton Seaview Resort's Bay Course in first-round play which commenced on Friday, June 8.

Anna Nordqvist and Celine Herbin also shot 66s and were tied for the lead with Diaz. Nine players, including New Jersey native Marina Alex, were in fourth with 67s. 

“I’m very happy with how I played,” Diaz said. “It’s more special because I have my son with me. It was great. He wasn’t nervous. He was perfect so it’s a calming influence. I think I spent more time worrying about him.”

Diaz, who joined the LPGA in 1999 and won two events in 2002, came to New Jersey with the intention of taking part in the pro-ams and figured she'd try to qualify on Monday, June 4. Two days before the qualifier, she got a berth in the 144-player field. On Sunday, Diaz made the trip north from Winston-Salem, N.C. in torrential rain. Instead of competing in the qualifier on Monday, Diaz practiced. She then took to the course, as planned, for the pro-ams on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 

The 5-under-par showing by the 43-year-old Diaz was amazing considering the only other competitive golf she played this year was the qualifier for the U.S. Open three weeks ago, where she shot a 73 and failed to make the cut. Diaz was steady the entire way, carding birdies on the second, third, ninth, 12th and 17th holes.

Diaz appeared to be in command and enjoying herself but it was quite the opposite.

"I didn't feel good at all the whole day," Laura Diaz said. "No, I mean, obviously nerves are very present. I think that I'm not the first to say that the day that I come to the first tee and I'm not nervous, then that's the day I shouldn't play.

"You know, there was a little bit in the last few years that they really seemed to get to me more so I think my biggest challenge is figuring out how to not let them get to me. He's a huge asset in that because I can focus more on him than me."

It was quite an experience for the younger Diaz, although it wasn't the first time he has traversed a course with his mother. Last year in Wisconsin, Cooper caddied in 95-degree weather with 100 percent humidity when Laura Diaz played a practice round and he found the task difficult. 

"I have a caddie who has caddied for me the last few years, Pete, and he's awesome," Laura Diaz said. "I didn't want him to wait for me so I said to Cooper 'Listen, it's a flat golf course. The weather should be perfect.' (In Wisconsin), it was a real estate property so there were long walks between tees and greens. After an 18-hole practice round, he was like, 'Mom, I can't do this.' He was just honest about it. He's grown about four inches since last year and is playing a little bit more golf. TaylorMade was nice enough to send a bag that's comfortable for him to carry. He didn't complain not one time."

There was one little detail that Cooper, a three-sport athlete, neglected - cleaning her golf balls - yet his mother took it in stride. She spit on them to keep them clean.

"There's room for improvement," she said, jokingly.

Of course, that was nothing considering what Diaz, who has 58 career top 10s and earnings of $5.4 million, has endured over the last few years. In 2016, after Diaz took leave from the tour, she broke her leg while training for a marathon. Her 2015 season was unspectacular (she missed 16-of-18 cuts) and she contemplated not returning. That's why a day in the lead is such a thrill.

"It's just a lot of fun," she said. "I think the last few years have been hard. I came out with a little bit different perspective last year and just tried to play a little bit more relaxed."

Over the last few years, Diaz has devoted more time to her family. She watches Cooper compete in baseball, golf and basketball. Lilly, her 8-year-old daughter, is involved in swimming and soccer. Diaz is junior varsity coach for Cooper's golf team at St. Leo's Catholic School.

Nordqvist, the 30-year-old native of Sweden, whose birthday is Sunday, concluded her round on the par-5 ninth hole with a birdie, her fifth of the day. The ShopRite Classic champion in 2015 and 2016 and the runner-up in 2017, Nordqvist said she "struck the ball well" and "was patient."

"I have a lot of good memories from here," Lindqvist said. "It's a place that makes me happy."

Alex shocked herself because she normally does not do well here. On Tuesday, she worked with her putting coach and godfather, Charlie Cowell, to sharpen her short game. Alex felt she got up and down well and made good chips. And, she did it without family and friends looking on.

"No one is here yet," Alex said of her family and friends. "Maybe that's a good thing. Yeah, my mom is in New Jersey but my younger cousin, she's 9, she has a big dance recital tomorrow. They're going to do all that and the plan is to come down on Sunday."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW*** 

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Hornets garner sectional crown

PARSIPPANY _ It was another joyous moment in the history of the Hanover Park softball program when it defeated Parsippany 12-5 for the North Jersey Section 2, Group II title.

The Hornets had a subdued celebration then went to right field to discuss what previously had been prohibited: The fact that their Group II semifinal against Ramsey, slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 31 at Seton Hall University, would start at the same time as the prom.

"We haven't mentioned it once because it would have been a distraction," Hanover Park coach Jamie Galioto said. "We knew when the next game was if we won. That's why we had the pow wow afterward. The prom's been the pink elephant in the room. There are some girls who have a decision to make. They have to decide and live with it. Those decisions will be respected. It'll be a learning experience for everyone."

Five girls - senior four-year starters Amy Petrovich and Jess Miller and three underclassmen - have to choose between the big dance and the game that could earn them a berth in the state final. Petrovich, the second baseman, already had her mind made up. She's foregoing the prom and putting on her No. 55 jersey.

"I'm here for the team," said Petrovich, who had two RBIs in the most recent victory over the Red Hawks on Tuesday, May 29. "It'll be OK."

For some, it may not be. Galioto says there will be no animosity toward anyone who picks dancing over the diamond. Miller, who scattered seven hits and struck out three, was emotional after the win, excited to add a sectional crown to the Morris County Tournament championship Hanover Park claimed earlier this month after a 39-year drought but upset about the prom to be held at Brooklake Country Club.

Galioto said that the NJSIAA was contacted after the game about the possibility of playing the game earlier in the day, perhaps at Caldwell University, where Indian Hills and Middletown North are slated to clash at 1:30 p.m. in a Group III semifinal. If a change is unable to be made, he understands and will make sure his team does, too.

No doubt, the Hornets (25-6) still were quietly elated about defeating Parsippany, which it played four times this spring, going 2-2.

Miller saw seven batters and gave up three runs in the first inning but clamped down. Three hits, including a double to Claudia Bennett, Parsippany's very first batter, a walk and an error, allowed the home team to take charge. After that, Miller put down 12 consecutive batters until Bennett singled with two outs in the fifth inning. A home run by Jenna Devens ensued and cut the Hornets' lead to seven runs - the final margin of victory.

"Seeing the home run had me a little worried," said Miller, whose best pitch versus the Red Hawks was her curveball. "I had to get out of that inning and calm it down."

Hanover Park got to work right away, scoring twice in the first inning on Petrovich's RBI base hit and Nicole Miller's sacrifice fly. The Hornets widened their advantage to 5-3 an inning later aided by four walks and hit batsmen. Aryana Galioto, a sophomore center fielder, drove in two more runs with a single in the third inning. Galioto finished with three RBIs.  

The Hornets went through their entire lineup in the fourth inning and plated five runs. Again, walks, an error and a wild pitch proved costly. Nicole Miller, Brielle Junda (2 for 2) and Victoria LoPinto had hits in the inning.

"It was chain reactions," Miller said. "If one hits, the other hit. We feed off one another's energy."

"We pride ourselves on quality at bats and not wasting them," Galioto said. "We try to keep the girls focused. I don't rest and they aren't allowed to either."

Greg Cleary, Parsippany's coach, noted that his squad's season has been "a bit of a roller coaster, Hanover Park included."

"The teams that stay consistent, on an even keel, like Hanover Park, are successful," Cleary said. "We allowed baserunners and walks and it caught up to us. This is good for the younger players. We'll see how they respond next season."

He was glad there was a late bid to score some runs, of course.

"I'm not surprised that we came back a little," Cleary said. "We've done it all year. Just when you think we're out of it, we show some life."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

Homer sends Mt. Olive into final

MOUNT OLIVE _ Annalee Smith was seeking redemption for herself and Mount Olive.

Last year's result against Ridgewood was still weighing heavily on the mind of Smith, the Marauders' catcher, when she stepped to the plate to open the bottom of the sixth inning with the score tied, 3-3, in a North Jersey Section 1, Group IV semifinal. All she wanted was to get on base.

Smith looked over the first pitch, a ball, before homering over the fence in right field. The home run, Smith's first in 48 games, more than fulfilled her wish, sending the third-seeded Marauders to a 4-3 victory over the No. 7 Marauders on Friday, May 25.

"I was looking for something to barrel up on," said Smith, Mount Olive's cleanup hitter. "I wanted to get someone in scoring position and create an opportunity for our team. We lost 9-2 to Ridgewood (in the first round of the state tournament in 2017). That one really hurt."

Ridgewood triumphed in short order last season, laying down 16 bunts. The Marauders committed four errors and managed only four hits and made a quick exit from the state tourney. The homer was unexpected, although Smith did have one versus Morris Catholic in a preseason scrimmage and five as a freshman and sophomore. This blast, however, had great significance because it alleviated the sting of the seven-run setback and the incessant bunting as well as earned Mount Olive a berth in the sectional final opposite Livingston on Tuesday.

"Annalee has been a line-drive hitter," Mount Olive coach Bill Romano said. "She gets gap hits and always comes up big when we need her. For four years, she's been a rock behind home plate."

Three weeks ago, Smith had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the eighth inning of a Morris County Tournament semifinal against Randolph, sending the Marauders to the title game for the first time since 2008. It has also been a decade since Mount Olive (19-5) has played for a sectional championship.

Over the last three seasons, the Marauders have clashed with Ridgewood in the states. In 2016, Mount Olive's win was equally dramatic. Alyssa Borozan slugged a two-run homer in the ninth inning of a quarterfinal, sending the Marauders past the Maroons, 2-1. The date of that victory was the same: May 25.

Mount Olive led, 3-2, in the current game until the top of the sixth when Ridgewood scored on Kiera Boucher's base hit. The next batter, Chloe Lennon, doubled to right-center field. Right fielder Alyssa Segnello fielded the ball and fired to shortstop Lindsay Walter. The relay concluded with Walter throwing to Smith, who applied the tag at home.

"That play was huge," Romano said. "It got everyone riled up. That was great defense. They settled down finally."

Smith, whose previous home run was on May 18, 2016 against Mendham, quickly shed her catcher's gear after the excellent defensive play, took a few swings and walked to the batter's box.

"It was funny that I was getting up to bat and the Ridgewood coach (Patti Auger) said 'All left side,'" Smith recalled. "It was kind of shocking that the ball went to right field. I'm usually up the middle or to the left."

Junior designated player Kaitlin Pettenger also was critical to Mount Olive's attack, knocking in a pair of runs in the three-run third inning with a double to left-center field off a 1-2 pitch. Julia Chang doubled and Walter singled and stole second base before Pettenger's at-bat.

Pettenger, a first baseman or left fielder when not the DP, had swung a hot bat of late, going 12 for 20 with nine RBIs and four walks over the Marauders' last six games.

"I knew I had to get runners in," Pettenger said. "I stuck to mechanics. I kept my cool and did what I know how to do best. I've been hitting well and that's good for the team. I've been focusing on the ball and trying to get everything out of my head."

Romano noted that Pettenger, unfazed by pressure situations, is a team player and is "hitting the best out of anyone."

"Kaitlin does whatever I ask her to do," he said. "I can't take her out of the lineup. She's been hitting the ball really, really well."

Borozan, a senior pitcher, has been effective in the circle and was solid against Ridgewood, yielding four hits and striking out seven. The Maroons reached her for two runs in the second inning. Errors played a role. Beginning with the last out of the second inning, Borozan retired 10 in a row.

Now, Mount Olive will vie for a sectional title.

"This is definitely an amazing feeling," Pettenger said. "We've never been there before. Ridgewood has been a struggle for us, especially when they bunt. It's so good to beat them."

"We just had to play our game," Smith said. "This could have been the last one. We said 'We've got this.' It's my senior year so it's really great."

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW*** 

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