BORDENTOWN _ Madison couldn't help but feel a little uneasy about its one-goal lead.
The Dodgers clung to their slim edge for nearly 34 minutes in the Group II final on Nov. 14 before knocking in four goals in a span of eight minutes.
The late rapid-fire outburst, which featured a goal and two assists by Stephanie Dellavia, settled Madison, which shut out Wall Township 5-0 at Bordentown High School, earning them their first state title since 2009.
"The momentum kept building," said Dellavia, a senior forward. "We always give 110 percent. We played hard and didn't let down."
It was the fifth group championship for the Dodgers, who also claimed Morris County, sectional and conference crowns this fall. Apparently, Madison (21-2) is on the every-sixth-year plan. The Dodgers' last three championships were in 2003, 2006 and 2015.
A year ago, Madison rallied but fell to Rumson-Fair Haven on the very same field. The setback was a source of great upset for the Dodgers.
"We talked about getting back here since we left this field last year," Madison coach Ann Marie Davies said. "I think our season prepared us. We played some tough teams. This team had the right to be champion."
After midfielder Caroline Turnbull, another senior, gave Madison a 1-0 advantage 13:56 before halftime, its attack was silent. Fortunately, the Dodgers' defense, featuring Elizabeth Romano, Turnbull, Kaitlyn and Amanda DaSilva and goalie Emilie Flamme, was able to deny Wall, which had 14 corner attempts, some in bunches.
Amanda DaSilva's role on corners was to thwart the slip to the outside intended for Wall's Hanna Zarrilli. Turnbull, the flyer, used her speed to break up the inserts that went to Emily Surgent.
"The corner play was tremendous," Davies said. "We stopped them each time. We told our players to get into the game and play Madison field hockey and they did."
Most thrilled to convert was senior Sarah Luciano, responsible for the Dodgers' fourth goal with 5:51 left. Luciano was on three weeks of bed rest due to an enlarged spleen and missed the previous state tournament games.
Dellavia sent a cross pass into the circle and Luciano, five feet away from the goalcage, ran onto it and got her stick on the ball, sending it toward the right post.
"I went in with about 10 minutes left," Luciano said. "I didn't think I'd get in because it was my first day back. It was so amazing. It was the best goal, the craziest. It was the best experience with girls I've been with for four years. It means the world to me."
Having Luciano back in the mix and involved in the attack excited her teammates.
"That meant so much to Sarah," Dellavia said. "She was pumped, especially because it was the state final."
"I'm very, very happy for her," Turnbull said. "The look on Sarah's face when she scored was awesome."
Turnbull, a senior center midfielder, put Madison up, 1-0, by using a flick to score off a corner. The ball entered the cage right beneath the crossbar.
"That shot was practiced with the coaches," Turnbull said. "I began practicing flicks to the top in June. I had to have enough power. On that corner, I said 'OK, I can do this.' It was nice to get it in."
Wall (22-2) applied pressure often after that. The Crimson Knights' corners came in twos and threes. Eleven minutes into the second half, Wall was awarded three consecutive corners. Flamme made a pair of saves. The series ended when the ball hit a Wall player's foot.
"Caroline's goal was a pressure reliever," Dellavia said. "We had to stay with it. At 1-0, it could have easily changed."
With 10:14 remaining, Dellavia struck to widen Madison's lead to 2-0. Dellavia jumped on the ball and finished it after it came off a defender's stick. Lauren Taylor pushed it to 3-0 just 29 seconds later.
At eight minutes, Flamme (11 saves) ventured out to make a pair of slide tackles. Luciano connected then Romano registered the fifth goal with 2:34 left.
Kaitlyn DaSilva and Amanda DaSilva, who will play at the University of Richmond, had an assist apiece.
"The game last season was a heartbreaker," Dellavia said. "Winning today was incredible. It's all we ever dreamed of. This senior class had won sectionals but not a state title. We decided we had to win. It's really great."
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***
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