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Kneppel wins three events; Rams are top team

BOONTON _ Butler's Rebecca Kneppel never objected to being labeled "the fast girl."

Everyone always noticed Kneppel's speed when she played soccer and basketball. However, there was little else, she said, that made her a consistent asset on the field and court.

"I had OK skills," she said. "Nothing notable."

So, Kneppel played one year of basketball in high school and dropped it. She took part in soccer as a freshman and sophomore then left it behind, too. The latter is exactly what Kneppel does on the track: Leave everyone behind.

Kneppel, a junior, turned in a superb showing at the Morris County Track and Field Championships on May 16 and 17 at Boonton High School, finishing first in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. She garnered gold in the 100 and 400 in the heavy rain on the first day of the meet and prevailed in the 200 meters on the second day.

Randolph scored 107 points to repeat as team champion. It was the fifth title in 10 years for the Rams. In second place was West Morris with 50 points.

Winning a trio of events was a great accomplishment for Kneppel, who also participated in the 4x100.

"According to the times, I was supposed to get first," she said. "Overall, it was a good meet. I was sort of surprised. It was encouraging to get first in three events."

Kneppel's favorite race is the 200. She was most proud of her performance in the 400 because she clocked a 57.35, shaving more than two seconds off her best time last year.

"I like the 200 because it's just the right distance," said Kneppel, who tore the meniscus in her knee while playing soccer as a sophomore. "The 400 hurts a lot. I hit a wall. It hurts when I try to run through it. The 100 is short and sweet but I'm still accelerating. I feel like I have more."

She certainly hopes she has more. Kneppel's goal is to take her successful season to the limit.

Morris Catholic's Kate McAndrew, also a junior, was atop the pack in the 800 with a time of 2:15.27 and took her first outdoor title. McAndrew was also second in the 1,600 meters to Randolph's Abby Loveys.

"I wanted to get out fast," McAndrew said. "I'm usually behind. I like to catch people. Today, I led and kept the pace up."

McAndrew's strategy typically is to stay with the leader then outkick her. She was the fastest seed coming in and wanted the fastest time. Last winter, at the indoor championships, McAndrew claimed the 1,000 meters.

"I'm excited," she said. "There's so much good competition here."

Kathryn Brown of Kinnelon had a PR  and set a school record in the long jump, leaping 17-6.25. Brown was second to Kayley Moran of Morris Hills in the 400 hurdles, fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the high hurdles, establishing another school record.

"It's exciting and a little surprising," Brown said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity. I did the long jump in the rain on Wednesday and to do what I did... My best jump was my last one. After I did it, I knew it was big. My coach (Joe Illenye) knew it, too. It was all definitely worth it."

Brown deemed competing in the rain as "pretty gross." The sand stuck to her everywhere, including her arms, making putting on a jacket uncomfortable.

"There was so much sand," Brown said. "As a jumper, I have to embrace the sand."

Loveys of Randolph prevailed in the 1,600 and 3,200. Karen Hull of Randolph won the intermediate hurdles. Meghan O'Malley was another gold medal winner for the Rams, capturing the high jump. Makayla Taylor added to Randolph's total with the top throw in the discus.

Montville had a pair of winners in Alicia Gupte (triple jump) and Blythe Hehmeyer (pole vault). Whippany Park's Shannon Ziccarello was first in javelin. Kayla Morgan of Morristown garnered gold in the shot put. West Morris topped the field in the 4x400.



Zannelli's three RBIs key for Lakers

MOUNTAIN LAKES _ Nikki Zannelli has a hit in every game but one this season yet Mountain Lakes' junior second baseman considered herself in a slump going into the Lakers' game against Boonton.

Zannelli felt something was amiss and that led to her being videotaped by Mountain Lakes coach Alison Preston.

"Going into our game on Friday, Nikki said 'I don't know what's wrong. I can't hit,'" Preston recalled.

The videotape revealed that Zannelli wasn't tracking the ball. Her head was in but her eyes weren't following the pitch.

However, after the Lakers' 7-5 victory over Boonton on Monday, May 14, Zannelli, who went 2 for 4 with three RBIs, was satisfied. One of her hits, a triple, provided Mountain Lakes with its first run in the third inning. She also had a two-run base hit in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the Lakers in front, 7-4.

"My hitting has been pretty bad," said Zannelli. "It's been a mix of everything. Sometimes, it goes my way. Sometimes, not. I just wanted to hit well today."

And she obviously did. Each time Zannelli, an EMT with an interest in pursuing a career in the field of medicine in the future, went to the plate, Preston reminded her to keep her eyes on the ball. Teammate Julia Matalon, the right fielder, did the tosses while Zannelli hit into a net prior to the game and sensed that she was going to have a big day.

"Nikki was hitting really well," Matalon said. "I was rooting for her to knock over the net."

The two-hit effort boosted Zannelli's season total to 25. She has 22 RBIs.

Boonton went up 3-0 in the second inning on Sophie Reed's sacrifice fly, Merissa Runfeldt's RBI single and Ailina Dauti's sacrifice fly. Freshman Jordyn Serchio went the first five innings for Boonton before senior ace Katie Preston stepped in and finished.

Mountain Lakes (8-11) got two runs in the third inning on an error, Zannelli's RBI triple and Jenna Stickley's run-producing base hit. In the fifth, the Bombers pulled ahead, 4-2, when Reed doubled to the fence in left field and scored on an error.

In the lower half of the fifth, the Lakers pulled even, 4-4, courtesy of Lea Credidio's two-run single.

The sixth inning, in which Mountain Lakes scored three runs, featured a two-run base hit by Zannelli. Leadoff batter Jess Torch, who recently got her 100th career hit, plated what proved to be the winning run with a bunt. Boonton posted its last run in the top of the seventh inning on Michelle Becker's single. Sydney Dolan opened the inning with a single to shallow right field - her third hit of the game - and moved to second on a groundout before Becker lashed her base hit.

"We couldn't hit the first pitcher. She was crafty," Boonton coach Jim Drury said. "We scored when we had runners on but didn't get other hits. Mountain Lakes had timely hitting."

With the win, the Lakers doubled the amount of victories they had last season. That was an important milestone for a team that has struggled in recent years.

"We've had our ups and downs," Zannelli said. "We're not getting mercied anymore. We're always in the games."



Hornets hang on, gain MCT title

ROXBURY _ Hanover Park pitcher Jessica Miller squeezed the popup in her mitt, exhaled and spiked the ball into the infield dirt.

Finally, it was over.

Miller's stomach turned many times in the top of the seventh inning when Mount Olive cut into the Hornets' once-substantial lead. Eleven batters took their turns at the plate. Five runs scored but fifth-seeded Hanover Park held on for a 9-7 victory over the sixth-seeded Marauders at Landing Park to garner their first Morris County Tournament title in 39 years.

"All of the frustration and excitement just came out," said Miller of the celebratory spike. "I was sick to my stomach. Very nervous. That was a long inning."

It certainly was. Mount Olive, motivated after being called for interference with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning, played with a vengeance the rest of the way. Down 9-2 going into the top of the seventh, Kaitlin Pettenger lashed an RBI double. Two errant throws enabled two runs to score. A bases-loaded walk by the typically composed and under control Miller made it 9-6. Alyssa Segnello added a run-producing base hit.

"Even if they tied us, we still had the chance to go up and hit," said Miller, who took MVP honors. "We had to buckle down and get the outs. We did it and now we can look up and see 2018 next to 1979 on the banner in the gym. This is very, very exciting."

Jamie Galioto attributed the shaky conclusion to his squad's youth. Miller and Amy Petrovich, the second baseman, are the only seniors in the starting lineup. The seven others are sophomores. When Galioto went out to talk to his players in the seventh inning, he told them they "were going down as some of the greatest in Hanover Park history."

"I wanted them to get the last out and cement it," Galioto said. "They're a great collection of athletes. They just had to get it done. We knew we may have an inning like this. Things happen. Fortunately, we have Amy to calm everyone and Jess to make the pitches."

Miller hasn't only been effective in the circle. She doubled to left-center field to open the second for Hanover Park. After a sac hunt by Dara DiMaiolo, Miller scored on Gianna Tito’s fielder’s choice. Mount Olive tied it in the top of the third on an infield error.

In the third, Hanover Park received two-run home runs to center field from Petrovich and DiMaiolo. Victoria Lopinto’s double preceded Petrovich’s homer. Nicole Miller doubled before DiMaiolo connected. The home run was DiMaiolo's third this season.

"I was looking for a certain pitch and I got one right down the middle," DiMaiolo said. "It was a little low. It was right there."

The Hornets sent their lead to 9-1 in the fourth on three hits, two errors and a wild pitch. Nicole Miller and Victoria Lupo drove in runs with base hits. If not for sliding catches by Alyssa Segnello and Julia Chang in the shallow outfield, the Hornets would’ve had more base runners.

Some of Hanover Park's offensive prowess comes from hitting in the dark with the lights off. The Hornets hit baseballs instead of softballs. This is all in preparation for night games.

On the way out of the gym after their last hitting session, the Hanover Park players found a dead hornet on the floor. They named it Hillary, put it in a cup and brought it to the MCT final. Forty minutes after the end of the championship game, Galioto and the Hornets took the insect out to the infield and buried it.

"We bury our dead like on the Walking Dead," Galioto said. "It'll be there for future trips to this field."

DiMaiolo was thrilled by the MCT title. Postgame, the Hornets posed for photos and huddled with several members of the Mount Olive team.

"We choked a little bit at the end," DiMaiolo said. "We got tense. We had to find a way to win. Many of us have been together since travel ball. Once we got the lead, we had to keep going. It's never done. It's never over."

That was evident in Hanover Park's first-round MCT game versus Madison. The Hornets trailed 6-3 going into the seventh inning but put across four runs in the top of the seventh to advance. Had they not come through, there would have been no MCT crown.

"That was stressful, too," Jessica Miller recalled. "We got the momentum. We didn't want it to go to the very last inning."

Miller leads Hornets into MCT final

ROXBURY _ It clearly wasn't Jenna Devens' night and that pained Hanover Park's senior ace Jess Miller.

"I'd be terrified to be in this position as a freshman," Miller said of Devens, Parsippany's first-year pitcher who was making her debut in the Morris County Tournament semifinals. "It's a lot. I felt bad. I guess we all have our days."

Although it wasn't Devens' day, the MCT semi was certainly one to remember for Miller, who had three hits, including two home runs, and fired a four-hitter to highlight Hanover Park's surprising 21-1 win over top-seeded and defending champion Parsippany on Saturday, May 5 at Landing Park.

Miller's first hit, a single to left-center field in the first inning, was the 100th of her career. And, the evening only got better as she slugged home runs to left field in the second and fourth innings. She had hoped to reach the milestone against Morristown-Beard on Thursday but went hitless in two at-bats. She said she didn't see the ball well and may have been overanxious.

"I had 99 hits and I knew it," Miller said. "That made it a little nervewracking. Seeing everyone get on raised my spirits. It was definitely nice to get my 100th hit."

Never had Miller had two homers in a game. She said the rarity led her to feel "euphoria and so much happiness."

The fifth-seeded Hornets racked up five runs in the first inning as 11 players took their turns in the batter's box. A bases-loaded walk and an error gave Hanover Park its first two runs. A wild pitch and a hit batsman accounted for two more runs. No doubt, Devens, was off and likely nervous. Miller took note.

"I saw that the strike one was pretty tight," said Miller, who finished with two strikeouts and was backed by errorless defense. "I needed to be careful and hit my spots."

The 21 runs Hanover Park scored over five innings were astounding considering it was beaten by the Red Hawks, 6-4, in an NJAC-Liberty Division game earlier this season. Parsippany led, 6-0, in the middle of the fifth inning in that matchup. Hanover Park pushed across all of its runs in the bottom of the fifth and lost, 6-4.

"I know every one of our girls, one through nine, can hit," Hornets coach Jamie Galioto said. "Everyone can play well. I just told them to enjoy the night and the atmosphere. I wanted them to have the time of their lives, be very loose and to play ball."

The third and fifth innings were big ones for Hanover Park, slated to take on Mount Olive in Wednesday's MCT final, also at Landing Park, at 7 p.m. Amy Petrovich's two-run single highlighted the six-run third. The fifth featured Aryana Galioto's triple to center field which knocked in two runs.

Several players had multiple hits and/or RBIs for the Hornets. Nicole Miller, who bats in the fourth spot, had three hits, a walk and four RBIs. Dara DiMaiolo had two hits and drove in two runs. Victoria LoPinto contributed a hit and two RBIs. Gianna Tito added two hits and two RBIs. 

Parsippany's lone run was scored on Gabby Gennarelli's sacrifice fly in the third inning. Claudia Bennett led off that inning with a double and scored on the sac fly. A 4-6-3 double play ended the inning and squashed further opportunities. Miller and Hanover Park put down the side in order in the fourth and fifth innings.

Julia Vincent had two hits and a stolen base for Parsippany, which will meet Hanover Park again on Monday, May 7 in a key conference game.

"Hanover Park is a well-coached and well-prepared team with a lot of ability and they were clicking on all cylinders," Parsippany coach Greg Cleary said. "We are obviously capable of playing a lot better than we did and we have a few more weeks to make that happen."

In the final, the Hornets (16-5) will be looking to break a lengthy spell without a title. Hanover Park captured its only MCT championships in 1978 and 1979 under Edie Stitt.

"We'll keep working hard," Miller said. "We can pull it out. We need just one more run than the other team."

Smith, Mt. Olive jar Rams in semis

ROXBURY _ Annalee Smith, perturbed by her lack of hitting, decided, literally and figuratively, to take the gloves off.

The phrase means to not hold anything back and that's exactly the approach that Smith, Mount Olive's catcher, decided she had to take with two outs, the score tied and a runner on first base in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Smith, admittedly superstitious, gripped her bat with her bare hands and ripped a first-pitch offering down the third-base line to knock in pinch runner Brianna Segnello with the winning run when the sixth-seeded Marauders edged seventh-seeded Randolph 3-2 in a Morris County Tournament semifinal at Landing Park on Saturday, May 5.

"I was definitely down on myself at that point," Smith said of the way she felt before her fourth trip to the plate. "I had to take my batting gloves off. It was down to the wire. I had nothing to lose. I'm really superstitious. I had three bad at-bats in this game. I wasn't seeing the ball well. I went up and I was going to swing at the pitch that was right. A lot of times, it's the first pitch because they're coming right after you.

"I cleared my head and looked at my coach. He said 'Calm down. Deep breath.'"

Smith's hit was only the fifth Mount Olive (12-4) managed off Rams sophomore ace Amanda Flynn, who recorded 13 strikeouts. After giving up a two-run single to Alyssa Borozan in the first inning, Flynn retired 11 of the next 12 batters. The sophomore right-hander with the effective riser went on another streak after walking Julia Chang in the fourth inning, putting down 11-of -12 hitters again. A walk prevented it from being 12 of 12. During that stretch, Flynn fanned six batters.

That's exactly why Smith had to make the most of her fourth time up. Previously, Smith, the cleanup hitter, struck out twice and was out on a popup. She'd had enough and went to the plate thinking only of making an impact. With one out in the eighth, Izzy Hendrickson gained first on an error and Mount Olive coach Bill Romano called on Segnello to run. Smith's double down the line ensued and Romano sent Segnello home. Seconds later, Mount Olive's dugout emptied and the Marauders reveled in their extra-innings victory.

"I'm really happy for our four seniors," said Romano, referring to Smith, Borozan, Hendrickson and Chang. "They started for us since they were freshmen and worked so hard to get here. It was a great game. Annalee's been solid all year. She had home runs when she was younger but is now a line-drive hitter. She told me 'We got this' before the bottom of the eighth inning."

As for the batting gloves, they've been lucky and not so lucky. Smith wore them for a 5-for-5, three-RBI effort versus Mendham. They were on for dismal performances (a combined 0 for 7) against Newton and Montgomery. Gloveless when Mount Olive clashed with West Morris, Smith, headed to Susquehanna where she will play field hockey, drove in three runs.

"Annalee was getting down on herself," Borozan said. "She told me 'I'm doing nothing' and I told her she'd be fine and that she'd hit. She got up and yanked it down third. I had tears in my eyes."

Borozan, the winning pitcher, is also superstitious. She wears orange Crocs - the right one with a flower in it and the left one with a small baseball attached - that she's had since sophomore year to games. Her Nike cleats, she said, "are falling apart at the seams" yet she continues to lace them up. The sole is coming off of one of them and there's a hole from her dragging her right foot when she pitches. Still, Borozan (four hits allowed, two strikeouts) believes they are magic. Perhaps it's the two-feet-and-a-heart charm, in memory of her grandfather, that makes them special.

Being in the semifinals for the first time in 10 years was a thrill for Borozan, especially because it provided another memory with her teammates. Many of them have been together since the age of 8 when they played on a travel team. In 2012, many of the girls traveled to the Babe Ruth 12U World Series, where they finished third. Now they'll vie for the MCT title on Wednesday, May 9 at the same site. Mount Olive is seeking its third championship. The Marauders' last MCT crown was attained in 1996.

"I have no words. No words," Borozan said. "It's amazing. We haven't been this far in many, many years. It was a full-team effort."

Mount Olive's first three batters of the game got it off to a fast start. Lindsey Walter, the Marauders' leadoff batter, had a perfect bunt single, the ball spinning and coming to rest in a hole. Hendrickson singled up the middle off a full-count pitch before Borozan stepped into the box and lashed a two-run base hit to right field. A passed ball enabled Borozan to take second. However, Flynn struck out the next three batters to escape a tense situation.

Randolph evened the score, 2-2, with three hits in the fourth inning. Mailynn Soto reached on a bunt. Michelle McMillan doubled Soto in and Flynn doubled off the fence in right-center field to plate the second run. Borozan got out of the jam with two flyouts and a strikeout.

"I knew Randolph wasn't going down without a fight," Borozan said. "They're a good-hitting team. I just wanted to stop the bleeding. End it. Cut it off. We needed to recover and recuperate. I figured we'd come back and hit." 

There was no shortage of stellar defensive play in the first game. For the second out of the second inning, the Rams' McMillan made a sliding catch in shallow center field.

Walter, Mount Olive's shortstop, made a backhanded dive for the last out of the third inning. Soto, Randolph’s second baseman, leaped to nab what would have been a sure hit and RBI for Borozan with one out and a runner on third in the third inning.

Trish Costanza, Smith's mother, was rooting for the Marauders, of course, but was pleased that her former field hockey player at Morris Knolls, Ashley (Thompson) Kanya, has been doing such a fine job coaching Randolph.

"It was nice to be surrounded by such talented female athletes," Costanza said.

Kanya lauded the Rams (10-5) for "playing their hearts out."

"I'm not happy with the outcome," Kanya said. "I'm so proud of the way we played. I'm not going to blame anyone. It's a bummer. A heartbreaker. Both teams played hard. We hit well and played good defense. Our pitcher was lights out. We gave it all we had."


Rams vault to Morris Relays record, title

RANDOLPH _ Paige Zangara, Michelle Lu and Jordyn Kranis, Randolph's pole vaulters, have spent considerable time calculating numbers and figuring out how to better their jumps.

Zangara and Kranis have nearly every class together in the morning and have been chatting about the possibility of setting a record at the Morris County Relays. Zangara and Lu meet up in ceramics class and the talk quickly turns to track.

On Wednesday, May 2, the Rams trio proved that their incessant chatter wasn't idle when they established a Morris County pole vault record by combining for 29 feet. Randolph, which took first in four other events, claimed its third consecutive Morris County Relays championship, scoring 97 points. Roxbury was second with 48 points. West Morris and Morris Hills, respectively, had 43 and 40 points and finished third and fourth.

"We've begun to click in field events," Zangara said. "We've practiced and practiced. We've been talking about who needs what to clear a certain height. We hydrated. We were motivated."

All three girls are seniors so they wanted to make their mark before graduating next month. They offer one another constructive criticism and receive tips from the members of the Randolph boys team.

Zangara cleared 10 feet while Lu and Kranis also soared, doing 9 feet, 6 inches apiece. The 29-foot mark was four inches above the previous record held by four teams, most recently Whippany Park in 2015.

"To win relays is an amazing accomplishment," Zangara noted. "And to be part of a record in our last year... We wanted to make this our best. We did the math. We planned it out. We put the pieces together today and pulled it out."

In addition to the pole vault, the Rams also were golden in the 4x1,600, the distance medley, high jump and discus. Randolph was second in the 4x100, long jump triple jump and shot put.

Kranis had a very busy day, competing in the pole vault, high jump and shuttle hurdles. The Rams picked up the points needed to win despite being disqualified in the shuttle hurdles.

"We did well today and were prominent but we have to watch out," Kranis said. "We need to be focused all the time. We made a few mistakes in this meet but nothing to set us back too far. It was a really good meet."

The winning 4x1,600 team was comprised of Kate Gihorski, Brooke Olson, Abby Loveys and Meredith Finley and had a time of 21:49.49. Loveys and Finley were on the first-place distance medley unit along with Kaitlyn Attinello and Amanda Houston.

Kranis, Zangara and Meghan O'Malley combined to take the high jump with 14 feet, 10 inches. Discus, with Makayla Taylor, Kat Sharabba and Hannah Murphy making the throws, totaled an even 277 feet.

"I joined track my sophomore year and I feel like the field events began to come together then," Zangara said. "We all put in so much time to get better. Our throwers were so good today."

The throwers, noted Kranis, "are not recognized as much as they should be."

Now, Randolph is looking toward the Morris County Championships which will be held on May 15 and 16 at Boonton High School.

"This puts our name out there," Kranis said. "We want the counties but our end goal is to win the groups. We won the groups in the winter and we had never done it before."


McGlone prevails at Morris Championship

FLANDERS _ Mary Cate McGlone texted her mother, Catherine, shortly after completing her nine-hole round at the Morris County Girls Golf Championship with a 12-foot putt for par.

I shot a 44. I might win.

It didn't take long for the elder McGlone, who was at work, to respond.

Wowzer! You're a winner either way. Love you.

McGlone's 44, as it turned out, put her atop the 41-player field competing on the blue course at Flanders Valley Golf Course. The title was the first for McGlone, a junior at Villa Walsh. She was extremely proud of her achievement, which was the result of exceptional putting and on-target approach shots.

"This is just great," McGlone said. "It's so exciting. I'm honored to win this."

Last year's champion, Christi Conroy of Morris Knolls, was one of three players with a 46 and was fourth after a match of cards. In second and third place, respectively, were Caroline Fischbach and Lindsay Perrin of Mendham. Rayne Yelinko of Morris Tech fired a 47 and was fifth. Montville's Pooja Shetty (48) and Emily Cheng (49) were sixth and seventh.

McGlone revealed that staying out of the bunkers was another key to her victory.

"I wasn't in them at all," said McGlone, who lives in Boonton. "That really helped my confidence."

McGlone began playing golf at the age of 7 and refined her skills, her putting in particular, at Rockaway River Country Club. She recalls taking to the course every Sunday with her mother and her father, Joseph.

"My parents aren't super serious about golf," McGlone said. "I think they play for fun and to be outside when the weather gets nice."

She was in the junior program, which was run by club pro Greg Baker, at RRCC. Also in the program were Conroy and Renee Monaco, another Morris Knolls golfer. Both were delighted for McGlone. Villa Walsh coach Mark Yannotta praised McGlone, who finished eighth in 2017.

"Mary Cate has experience," Yannotta said. "It was her day, a perfect day. She made a few putts here and there. Golf is a funny game. Mary Cate has been improving despite the weather."

McGlone considered the par-5 fifth hole, her last hole, her best. She hit her tee shot into the rough on the right side before using a hybrid to launch a 170-yard second shot. She left a 35-foot putt, uphill with a break, 12 feet short. McGlone then sank the ensuing putt for par, congratulated those in her group and contacted her mom.

"I had a good finish," McGlone said. "I was standing over the putt and I told myself 'Make this and you have a chance.'"

Her round was a steady one and featured three pars. McGlone had a double bogey on a par 5 after driving her ball into the woods and having to punch out.

Of course, McGlone is accustomed to overcoming adversity due to her year-round participation in sports. A middle hitter for the volleyball team, she led the Vikings in kills. In basketball, her favorite sport, she averaged 9.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks last winter.

McGlone may have benefitted from strong putting but Conroy was the opposite. The Golden Eagles senior bemoaned her effort on the greens.

"I didn't putt well," Conroy said. "My drives were pretty good. Maybe I could have put some of my chips closer."

The hole that will haunt her is No. 7, which she reached in three shots. However, she four putted. She left a 30-foot putt 10 feet short then sent the ball past the hole.

Morris County Girls Golf Championship Results

Mary Kate McGlone, Villa Walsh 44

Caroline Fischbach, Mendham 46

Lindsay Perrin, Mendham 46

Christi Conroy, Morris Knolls 46

Rayne Yelinko, Morris Tech 47

Pooja Shetty, Montville 48

Emily Cheng, Montville 49

Marina Hussain, Kinnelon 50

Heather Ivans, Chatham 52

Alexandra Artigliere, Madison 53

Ellie Ackerman, Villa Walsh 54

Renee Monaco, Morris Knolls 55

Tessa Reilly, Villa Walsh 56

Emma Wright, Parsippany 57

Holly Padko, Pequannock 57



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MCT quarterfinals

PARSIPPANY _ Freshman Rachel Volarich is considered Parsippany's eighth or ninth best hitter.

That sounds like a harsh assessment but it is not at all an insult. The Red Hawks' lineup is laden with consistent batters. There's no particular reason why Volarich is No. 9 in the order.

On Saturday, April 28, Volarich had three hits, one of them a ground-rule double to left field that knocked in two runs in the five-run fifth inning, to help top-seeded and defending champion Parsippany to a 9-8 come-from-behind victory over ninth-seeded Kinnelon in Morris County Tournament quarterfinal-round action.

"It's a compliment to our team that Rachel is considered the eighth or ninth best," Red Hawks coach Greg Cleary said. "She's a scrappy hitter. Rachel would probably be a great No. 2 hitter. For now, we'll keep her where she is - a very tough out at the bottom of the order."

Parsippany (10-1) entered the lower half of the fifth inning trailing, 8-4. With the bases loaded and one out, Michelle Ebel drove in a run with an RBI base hit to left field. Volarich then stepped to the plate. The count went to 1-2 before Volarich drove in the sixth and seventh runs with her double. Claudia Bennett picked up an RBI with a bloop single to right field, knotting the score, 8-8. Julia Vincent hit a hard single off the third baseman's glove to drive in the Red Hawks' ninth run.

Never did Volarich doubt that Parsippany, which will face Hanover Park in the semifinals, would rally.

"I figured we'd have a big inning and we came together as a team in the fifth inning," Volarich said. "We knew we had to get runners on and drive them in. I had two strikes on me so I had to hit anything close to the plate. I hit an inside fastball. I'm so glad I was able to get us some runs."

There were ample opportunities for the Red Hawks early on. Five runners, one on third and two on second, were left stranded over the first four innings.

Doubles by Angelica Haley and Jenna Meluso provided the Colts with their first run in the two-run first inning. Two errors, two hit batsmen and hits by Brooke Jacko and Alexa Saccomanno added up to four more runs for Kinnelon in the second inning.

Parsippany evened the score, 2-2, in the bottom of the first inning on a home run by Gabby Gennarelli. The Red Hawks made it 6-4 by putting across two more runs in the third inning. In the top of the fourth, Kinnelon strung together hits by Haley, Jacko and Meluso and benefitted from an error to go up, 8-4.

An exceptional defensive play was made in the fourth inning. With Parsippany runners on first and second and two outs, Colts second baseman Cristina Avato made a back-to-the-infield catch of a ball hit to shallow right field depriving Gennarelli of a base hit.

"We didn't play well at the beginning," Cleary said. "We weren't throwing strikes and we had a few hiccups in the field. We lined out to end two innings. We deserved to be down by four after two innings."

Cleary said that his players came into the game having worked on "getting their front foot down on time."

"We prepared for this game like we used to prepare for (Larissa) Spellman," he said, referring to Butler's former ace. "I wing pitches at them in practice. We made sure they were on time with landing that front foot."

Volarich is looking forward to making her first appearance in the MCT semifinals.

"I'm so excited," Volarich said. "It's such a big game. We came together today. We cheered each other on. I thought we'd string together some hits eventually."


Randolph 2, Chatham 0

For two games, the Rams struggled on offense, scoring once versus Pequannock and twice against Morris Knolls.

Randolph coach Ashley Kanya worried that her squad might not produce against Chatham in a MCT quarterfinal on Saturday, April 28.

It took until the sixth and seventh innings but the Rams finally began knocking in runs.

Two runs, which came courtesy of Emily Spingarn's RBI single and Lindsay Danias' home run, were enough when No. 7 Randolph blanked second-seeded Chatham in a MCT quarterfinal.

"We've had trouble scoring and Chatham did, too," Kanya said. "We havent been able to connect. We needed to make something happen."

In the sixth inning, Michelle McMillan and Amanda Flynn singled before Spingarn drove in the first run. Danias, a junior first baseman and three-year starter, homered to left center field with two outs.

"Lindsay has a good swing," Kanya said. "If she makes contact, it's solid. She saw the ball well today. I don't know what it was but I thought we'd score. My girls' energy level was high. I felt we had it. It was just a matter of when."

Amanda Flynn, a sophomore righty, went the distance for the Rams. She struck out nine and walked three while allowing two hits. Camryn Davies and Kaitlin Pinaire had hits for the Cougars.

Mullins, Morristown advance in MCT

MORRISTOWN _ For the last week, Morristown center fielder Tatum Mullins has been in softball bliss.

Mullins returned to the softball diamond this spring after undergoing what every athlete dreads - knee surgery - and has been working her way back into form.

On Saturday, April 21, Mullins capped an exceptional week with a game-winning double in the bottom of the seventh inning in Morris County Tournament preliminary-round action, lifting the 15th-seeded Colonials over No. 18 Whippany Park, 4-3, at Frelinghuysen Middle School.

"There was a lot of pressure being at bat in that situation even though there were no outs," said Mullins, the cleanup batter. "Once I hit the ball, I knew and I got excited."

Runners were on first and second when Mullins, who tore her ACL during a New Jersey Fight game last summer, stepped to the plate. She let the first pitch, a ball, go by before sending the second pitch to left field. Within seconds, her Morristown teammates were on their feet and waiting to congratulate her.

"When I talked to Tatum before she went to bat, I said 'Let's get this done,'" Colonials coach Bob Bruno said. "She had just missed a few innings before."

The "miss" Bruno was referring to was a line drive she hit to third base for the second out of the fifth inning. Wildcats third baseman Paige Walsh made a great play, denying Mullins her second hit of the game. She singled in Morristown's three-run first inning, too, so it was the second time she had multiple hits in the last three games. During that stretch, she went 5 for 8, including a double and a triple, and walked once.

With each game, Mullins, her left knee protected by a bulky brace, gains more confidence. She was the recipient of the game ball for her clutch hit and planned to put it on the shelf above her dresser.

"I was a little nervous coming back after the surgery," Mullins said. "I'm getting better. I'm playing the best I've played all season. I'm proud of myself."

The knee brace can be cumbersome but Mullins tries not to think about it. Otherwise, she feels "it would restrict my playing."

Bruno is pleased with Mullins' progress and put her in a category with Mary Carroll Smith, whom was a standout at Mount St. Dominic and Seton Hall University.

"I've seen only one better outfielder in my 40 years coaching," Bruno said. "That was Mary Carroll Smith. Tatum is tremendous and she's worked hard to become a better hitter. Her shoulder has been bothering her, too, but she never complains."

If there was another game ball to award, it likely would have gone to pitcher Molly Murphy, who held Whippany Park to three hits. Murphy struck out four and walked one. She helped her cause by slugging an RBI double in the first inning. Chloe Saia also had a solid game, rapping out two hits and knocking in a run for the Colonials (5-3).

Whippany Park scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to knot the score, 3-3. With two outs, Alexa Malet laced a two-run single down the right-field line. A run-producing triple to right field by Walsh ensued.

"I was hoping someone would drive a ball," Wildcats coach Todd Callaghan said. "We needed to find some gaps. We've been too inconsistent. A bad inning here or there. We're trying to get to the point where it doesn't affect us too much. It's still a work in progress."

The late comeback by Whippany Park had some of the Colonials, who will face second-seeded Chatham in the first round, on edge. However, Mullins and her teammates were determined to prevail.

"We didn't want to get too down after Whippany Park scored," Mullins said. "We had to keep our energy up and stay positive. If one head goes down, everyone's goes down."

She considered her decisive double "kind of fun" yet felt Morristown could have put up more runs earlier. The Colonials loaded the bases in the second inning and left eight runners stranded.

"It shouldn't have come to that," Mullen said. "We should have done better at the beginning of the game. If we did, we wouldn't have been in this situation."


Red Hawks are top seed for MCT softball

DOVER _ Parsippany has been unfazed by its Morris County Softball Tournament seedings in recent years.

Whether the Red Hawks fell into the teens, the top 10 or were the seventh seed, like they were in 2017 when they claimed their first MCT title since 1986, they have the same intent. The objective is to play smart softball and battle through the bracket.

On Tuesday, April 17, Parsippany, undefeated after seven games and eager to defend its championship, was voted the top seed for the 2018 MCT. Although coach Greg Cleary may have been elated, he held his emotions in.

"We've had the same approach for the last four years since we've been competitive," Cleary said. "It we play our best, we can beat anybody. If we don't play well, we can lose to anyone. I like to stay on an even keel and I have the players think that way, too.

"I don't feel that there's a target on our backs because of being the top seed. It's nice to be recognized. It's cool. We used to hand in our uniforms in mid-May. Now we're playing under the lights. We're in the county or sectional finals.It takes a lot of hard work. We'd like to keep things going."

Once-beaten Chatham is the second seed followed by Jefferson. Rounding out the first 10 are Mendham (4), Hanover Park (5), Mount Olive (6), Randolph (7), Roxbury (8), Kinnelon (9) and Pequannock (10). Last year's runner-up, Morris Knolls, is the 11th seed in the 26-team tournament.

Preliminary-round games must be played by Saturday, April 21. First-round matchups must be completed by Wednesday, April 25. Quarterfinals are slated on or before Saturday, April 28.

Landing Park will be the site of the semifinals on Saturday, May 5 at 5 and 7 p.m. The final is scheduled for Wednesday, May 9 at 7 p.m., also at Landing Park.

Preliminary and first rounds

Winner of Morris Hills (17) at Montville (16) at Parsippany (1)

Winner of Whippany Park (18) at Morristown (15) at Chatham (2)

Winner of Morris Tech (19) at Butler (14) at Jefferson (3)

Winner of Parsippany Hills (20) at Morris Catholic (13) at Mendham (4)

Winner of Dover (21) at Madison (12) at Hanover Park (5)

Winner of West Morris (22) at Morris Knolls (11) at Mount Olive (6)

Winner of Morristown-Beard (23) at Pequannock (10) at winner of Mountain Lakes (26) at Randolph (7)

Winner of Villa Walsh (24) at Kinnelon (9) at winner of Boonton (25) at Roxbury (8)

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