MONTVILLE _ Last year, the Mountain Lakes girls lacrosse team suffered the agony of losing in overtime in the Morris County Tournament final and decided they never wanted to experience that feeling again.
The Lakers found themselves in another OT versus Chatham and, this time, came out on top as senior Sarah Bedard scored with 17 seconds left in the extra period to lift the Lakers to a 7-6 victory in the MCT championship game on Saturday, May 7 at Montville High School.
Senior goalkeeper Julie Krupnick made 11 saves to earn Most Valuable Player honors for the top-seeded team. Sarah Monteleone, Bedard and Grainger Rosati scored two goals apiece and Avery Holland added a goal for the Lakers. Rosati rallied Mountain Lakes to tie with a goal with 1:01 left in regulation. She also had a pair of shots in the overtime that bounced off the pipes.
Beth Kuyk scored twice to pace Chatham. The second-seeded Cougars also received goals from Abby Morgan, Emilie DeKeyzer, Emily Wingate and Zoe Kraus.
Mountain Lakes did an exceptional job in defending Chatham standout Bridget Ballard during the tight contest. The Lakers used a zone defense and a strong individual performance by Jill Boehmcke to stop Chatham's catalyst from connecting herself or creating goal scoring opportunities for her team.
Late in the overtime, Bedard took a feed from Faith Reilly and used a spin move to work inside and put in a low shot against Chatham's second-half keeper Kat Friday.
"I'm so thrilled that we won this and I scored," Bedard said. "We wanted revenge on them since last year. It is so awesome to finally win this. From the beginning, our quote was 'We will.' We came out tonight like we could do anything we wanted to accomplish."
The victory avenges last year's overtime loss to Chatham in the final. The Lakers have beaten the Cougars in the final for two of the last three years and have reached the title game the last four years.
"It feels awesome," Rosati said. "We have been working so hard. The fact that we came back was just huge. We really worked so hard for this. It feels great."
Mountain Lakes had control of the ball for most of the three-minute overtime period and had scoring opportunities but twice shots by Rosati bounced off the goal pipes. When Bedard had the opportunity to score, she made sure to get a shot in close. Faith Reilly fed her from behind the cage to the right side of the field. Bedard took an inside role while moving to her left to beat her defender and put her shot in, just beating the Cougars second-half keeper Kat Friday for the final score.
"We didn't really have a play set but when we got it down I knew that we didn't have much time left so I decided to take it," Bedard said. "All I remember was doing the spin move and it was just me and the goalie. I knew that we had to win and just scoring that goal was so awesome."
In no time, her teammates surrounded her to join the celebration.
"Sarah is so fast," Rosati said. "She really takes advantage of her speed and her left hand. She helps lead the team and she is such a key factor on offense."
The Lakers won the game with a solid effort on both offense and defensive end. They came in with a plan to nullify Ballard, Chatham's catalyst, armed with a backer zone and Boehmcke's tenacious performance.
"The defense played excellent on her," Krupnick said. "Jill blocked her out most of the game so she didn't have very many opportunities. It worked really well."
Playing zone defense has never been part of the Lakers' arsenal. However, the Mountain Lakes defense is an experienced group with Emmy Fernandez, Emily Krupnick, Boehmcke, Ashley Connor and Kimmy Jenkins among their key personnel. It was felt that they were experienced and could be cohesive enough as a group to be effective with it.
"We didn't use it at the beginning of the season but we have been using it lately and it is working very well for us," Krupnick said. "Our defense is very senior laden and it's very athletic. We feel very confident in trying out new things."
They also had a terrific game from Krupnick. She has played between the pipes in the title game all four years and the Northwestern-bound goalie is accustomed to big games. One point blank shot she stopped from Zoe Kraus in the second half really stood out.
"I just stood tall when they passed her the ball," Krupnick said. "It was a good shot."
Chatham led most of the contest and several times opened up a two-goal margin. However, the Cougars couldn't shake the Lakers, who rallied to tie the score three times.
Chatham had a 4-2 lead at the half and was up by as much as 5-3 with 17 minutes remaining. Monteleone scored her second goal off a Bedard feed with 16:50 left. Then, at 15:05, Bedard tied the game 5-5 with a free position score.
Chatham regained the lead when Kraus scored off a Schuyler Bixby pass at 7:55. The Lakers had several good shots by Monteleone and Bedard that were corralled by Friday. With 2:44, the Cougars called time out and it looked like they would be able to control the ball the rest of the way but the Lakers began to double and Sophia Holt picked up a huge ground ball to give the Lakers possession again. It helped to set up Rosati's free position score with 1:01 left that sent the game into overtime.
"Grainger is an amazing player," Bedard said. "She brings so much to our team (by) winning the draws and scoring goals for the team. She's done so much and accomplished so much."
Rosati took the pull on the draw that started the overtime but it was Boehmcke that picked up the ground ball after a wild scramble. It took nearly the whole overtime period, but the Lakers finally gained the winning goal and the revenge they wanted so badly.
"We had each other's back no matter what," Rosati said. "To get revenge on them is the greatest feeling in the world."