WASHINGTON TWP. (Morris) _ Mountain Lakes girls lacrosse has a 3-6 record so far this season but don't be fooled.
The Lakers have a ridiculously strong schedule and the experience from the losses they suffered at the beginning of the year are expected to bring wins when playoff competition rolls around.
It showed in Mountain Lakes' 10-6 win over West Morris on Saturday, April 18. Grainger Rosati scored five times and the Lakers' defense stepped up right when the team needed it most to put away the Wolfpack. Mackenzie Metzler scored twice to pace West Morris (3-6).
The Lakers' record is misleading because of the team's schedule. Mountain Lakes has faced Oak Knoll, Ridgewood, Ridge and Chatham early on. It also traveled to play defending champion Moorestown in just the second game of the year, a daunting task, even for a veteran team. This year's Lakers squad had to replace eight experienced seniors lost to graduation. Despite the defeats, Mountain Lakes coach Jen Topakas believes her players haven't lost any confidence.
"I think this team is pretty motivated," Topakas said. "I think in those games that we played that we did have losses, there were really good things that happened within those losses. We tried to focus on the positives and the kids have stayed really positive throughout. Now we are finally starting to get some wins.''
The Lakers players seem to be taking it in stride.
"It's random," Mountain Lakes goalkeeper Julie Krupnick said of the schedule. "Every year, we play these teams. It just happens that it was the first couple of games. We knew we had to keep our heads on straight and keep pushing through."
Saturday's game was a classic trap game for the Lakers. They had played Immaculate Heart Academy on Friday and had not played and rarely practiced on grass all season. The Lakers shrugged off a sluggish start which was helped by the awkward bounces that come with playing on West Morris' lumpy grass field.
"We knew we had to get the ground balls and work hard on the grass because we are so used to the turf," Rosati said. "In the warmup, we practiced really hard on the ground balls and getting used to the field."
The Lakers started off slow but a four-goal run, which included two goals by Rosati, helped Mountain Lakes build a 6-2 advantage by halftime.
"I think Granger is coming into her own," Topakas said. "I think last year her role was a little bit different in terms of just doing the little things and following the lead of others. Now she has become more of a leader. I have seen that develop, especially over the past couple of games."
West Morris rallied in the second half. Back-to-back goals by Metzler and a Lauren Hamilton score made it an 8-6 game with 8:53 left. However, that's when Mountain Lakes' defense stepped up and shut out their opponents the rest of the game. Emily Krupnick, Shauna Burgoyne, Kelly Mourtzanakas, Jill Boehmcke, Kim Brennan and Kimmy Jenkins were largely inexperienced at the varsity level going into the season but have gotten better in their trial by fire.
"Their whole team is so fast. We knew we had to control them," Krupnick said. "The defense did a great job today, forcing (West Morris) to lower angles and keeping them shooting from far out.
"They have played together. Most of them are younger kids so this is their first year playing (varsity) but they are doing a really good job so far."
Krupnick is having an exceptional season between the pipes. She finished with 13 saves versus the Wolfpack.
"She is phenomenal," Topakas said. "She makes the saves that she should make and then she makes the ones that are above and beyond. She gets better every day."
Bedard put in a righty shot with 7:03 remaining to make it a three-goal game and give the Lakers some breathing room. After a couple of errant Wolfpack shots and a Krupnick save, a foul helped Mountain Lakes seal the victory. On a drive, Rosati was fouled in a collision in front of the crease.
"I think I fell and I just got back up," Rosati said. "The goalie might have pushed me."
Rosati's free-position score made it 10-6 with 1:53 left. Then the Lakers were able to win the draw and run out the clock.
This is the time where the struggles of a tough early season schedule should start paying off.
"You can teach them different skills but they have to come together and work together," Topakas said. "They are starting to do that now. Hopefully, we will be able to peak at the right point."