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Dodgers halted in Group I title bid

BORDENTOWN _ Sage Geyer and all of her Madison teammates wanted to get revenge and hoist the trophy at the conclusion of the Group I final.

There was no joyous celebration, though. Instead, there was much sadness and many players wondering what went wrong in the wake of the Dodgers' 4-3 loss to Haddonfield on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Having a two-goal lead slip away stung. So did the fact that the Dodgers' own comeback fell short. But the pain went beyond that.

"The game was so, so close," said Geyer, a senior center midfielder. "We wanted the championship but that wasn't really even that important. Not being able to play with this team again is the hardest part. We became such good friends... I love all of these girls, freshmen through seniors."

Madison (22-3) didn't want to see that camaraderie and unity end and battled until the very last second. Stunned by Haddonfield's four-goal blitz that left them trailing, 4-2, the Dodgers battled but it wasn't enough. Elizabeth Romano scored the Dodgers' third goal with 2:47 remaining. Madison, of course, hoped to force overtime but the Dawgs stood tall.  

The Dodgers were edged by Haddonfield (22-3) for the second consecutive season. Last year, Madison, which graduated a dozen seniors from the squad that claimed the Group II crown in 2015, made an unlikely run to the Group I title game. This time, the Dodgers, seasoned and highly skilled, expected to come out on top and recorded the first two goals just to demonstrate how driven they were.

"It was a great hockey game. It could have gone either way," Madison coach Ann Marie Davies said. "I'm proud of the team. They never gave up. They played hard. It was tough. Haddonfield's a good team. They capitalized on corners and we made a few mistakes. We ran out of time. It is what it is."

Goals by Romano, the standout headed for UConn, and Chase Cmaylo put the Dodgers in front, 2-0. Romano converted 9:16 before halftime assisted by Maddie Farrell. Cmaylo knocked in her goal with 1:32 left in the opening half. Bridget McCormick, a sophomore, put in the first of her three goals 19 seconds before the break to bring the Dawgs within one, 2-1.

McCormick also had the next two goals, drawing Haddonfield even, 2-2, three minutes into the second half and putting them ahead, 3-2, with 14:33 remaining. Sophie Popp then scored off a corner at 8:45. That's when Madison put on a late push. After Romano's second goal, the Dodgers sent two shots wide left in the last two minutes.

"It's not really that we were too confident. Maybe we were too comfortable," said Geyer. "We couldn't hold on. We got sloppy then we were out of time. The third goal was nice. We wanted to tie it and go to overtime."

According to one of Madison's coaches, Clarissa Sacco, Geyer, a three-year starter, played "the game of her life" in the finale of her high school career. Geyer, said Davies, "made very skilled choices" and "played her heart out."

The hat trick by McCormick was her third this fall and Dawgs coach Lindsay Kocher was pleased she came up with a supreme performance at the right time.

"We've been down but not by two goals," Kocher said. "We fight back. That's this team. They're geared to fight until the end. Scoring right before halftime helped us and showed we're still in it. We had 30 minutes more."

Kocher admitted to being a bit on edge after Romano notched her second goal.

"I was a little nervous," Kocher said. "We had to play smart and try to keep the ball away from Romano. She popped two in on us so we stressed playing together. We had to keep going and play smart. It's not over until the final whistle."


Madison moves into final; Colonials fall

BOONTON _ Madison's Maddie Farrell hasn't chosen her college yet but she has made a critical decision regarding her short-term future and it was a difficult one.

Farrell won't play field hockey after high school, opting to focus on her studies. That's why every game is so important to the senior back. Each time Farrell has taken the field since the Dodgers began their bid for sectional and group titles 10 days ago, she knows it could be her last game. Prior to Madison's Group I semifinal versus Wallkill Valley on Wednesday, Nov. 8, Farrell experienced her usual uneasiness.

A little before halftime, Farrell and the rest of the Dodgers' seniors were confident their season was going to be extended as Madison built a 5-0 lead on the way to a 9-0 shutout of the Rangers at Boonton High School.

The victory, highlighted by Kerrianne McClay's four goals and two scores apiece by Isabella Fragomeni and Elizabeth Romano, earned Madison a trip to Group I final, which will be held at Bordentown High School on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. The Dodgers, appearing in the title game for the fourth consecutive time, will clash with Haddonfield.

"When we were doing drills and warming up, I thought about this possibly being my last game," Farrell said. "I stepped on the field and got butterflies. But, as soon as the whistle blew, we knew what we had to do. We wanted it so much. We didn't doubt ourselves."

Serving as motivation for Farrell and the rest of the seniors were the words spoken by their coach, Ann Marie Davies, before the contest began.

"Our coach pulls the seniors aside and tells us 'I'm not ready to let go of you yet,'" Farrell said.

The plea once again served as incentive for the Dodgers, who had an aggressive mindset on attack and an unyielding one when it came to defense. The Dodgers gained a 3-0 lead in just 10:33 on a pair of goals by McClay and one by Fragomeni, the standout transfer from Mountain Lakes. The UConn-bound Romano assisted on every goal, four of which came off corners, in the opening half. Romano finished with five assists.

"It's really amazing, especially because it's my last year," Farrell said. "I'm so excited. We've got a lot of chemistry and talent. We knew what we had to do and were so together."

McClay, a junior forward, opened the scoring, taking a pass from Romano and converting 3:18 into the first half. Romano was on the assist side of two more of McClay's goals. Fragomeni made it a two-goal lead 4:40 later. McClay then knocked in two more goals. With 12:26 remaining before halftime, Fragomeni notched the fifth goal.

"We just played the way we're capable of playing," Davies said. "We moved the ball well. We got in, got shots and got corners. Everyone did what they had to do."

The attack remained explosive in the second half. Madison (22-2) received scores from Romano (twice), Farrell and McClay.

Goalie Nicole Ducey only had to make three saves for the Dodgers. She had a bird's-eye view of the field and watched as her teammates worked the ball upfield.

"There was definitely a lot of passing and open space to run into," Ducey said. "The speed of the ball was really good."

Ducey, of course, is very much looking forward to the rematch with Haddonfield, which edged Madison, 2-1, in the 2016 Group I final. The Dodgers last brought home a group trophy in 2015 after blanking Wall. Madison claimed three other group championships (2003, 2006, 2009).

"It's so important for the seniors. We want to go out and get it," Ducey said. "We've put in a lot of work. I'm super excited. We're ready to go."

Bridgewater-Raritan 2, Morristown 1

Madison Bray's goal off a corner with two minutes left snapped a 1-1 deadlock and lifted Bridgewater-Raritan over Morristown in a Group IV semifinal on Thursday, Nov. 8 at Boonton High School.

Martina Kampel assisted on the game-winning goal.

Bridgewater-Raritan moves into the Group IV final, where it will meet Eastern.

The Colonials successfully defended three corners before taking the ball upfield into Bridgewater-Raritan territory. Olivia Graham connected for the Colonials, putting them up, 1-0, with 6:47 remaining before halftime. Rachel White scored in the second half for Bridgewater-Raritan to tie the score, 1-1.


Morristown elated to retain title

MORRISTOWN _ Losing an important game by a wide margin is one thing. Having a standout player hurt in that same game is a dual setback.

Morristown experienced the latter when it was blanked by Madison in the Morris County Tournament final and Devon Colquhoun sustained a deep gash on her left hand, just under her thumb, with 11:41 remaining in the opening half and left the game.

The eight-goal defeat and Colquhoun's injury, which caused her to be sidelined for two weeks, deeply affected the Colonials, who admitted to spending some time moping. The funk got worse when Morristown lost two of its next three games.

On Friday, Nov. 3, Morristown, buoyed by strong offensive performances by Callie Sundin and Olivia Graham, put all of the misery behind it when it repeated as North Jersey Section 1, Group IV champion with a 4-2 triumph over Randolph.

"We had to rebuild after the loss to Madison," senior left back Kei Murphy said. "It showed us we're not invincible. We knew what we had to do to get back to this place. We had to give 110, even 120 percent. Our morale was low. We were frustrated with ourselves and with Devon getting hurt. Losing her took a big chunk out of our team. Devon brings positive energy every day."

Colquhoun, a senior midfielder, was out on the field and shared in the victory with her teammates. She returned to action two days earlier when Morristown battled Phillipsburg in a sectional semifinal. Having Colquhoun back after missing three games has the Colonials (19-3) fired up.

"This twopeat is great," said Sundin, who scored Morristown's first two goals. "I'm thrilled that we get to hold on to the trophy. We weren't happy with our play in the MCT final. We tried to patch up our errors. We started out flat and Madison wanted it more. We wanted to forget all that happened in the counties. That's in the past."

"It took us awhile to regroup," Colonials coach Diane DeSalvo noted. "Not having Devon was tough. We got back on our feet."

Morristown, which will face Bridgewater-Raritan in a Group IV semifinal on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at Boonton High School, received goals from Sundin in a span of 3:39 in the first half. She scored 13:19 into the game off a corner with assists from Graham and Savannah Familo. The ball was sitting at the left post after coming off the goalie's pads. Sundin came in from the left and knocked it in. For the second one, Sundin pulled left, the goalie dove to her right and Sundin lifted the ball over her.

Graham and Colquhoun teamed up for the third goal with 3:50 left before halftime, giving the Colonials a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead.

The Rams survived 15 penalty corners in the second half and applied more and more pressure as the game progressed. Randolph took all four of its shots on goal in the second half with less than 10 minutes remaining and converted on two. Olivia Meyers scored both, connecting with 9:14 and 3:29 left, and, suddenly, Morristown was feeling very uneasy. In the timeout that ensued the second goal, DeSalvo told her squad to relax.

"Four shots and two go in? That's a pretty high percentage and it was right in front of me," DeSalvo said. "It wasn't OK. It's never OK. I told the girls to forget about it during the timeout. I told them to let the mental mistakes go and to keep the ball at the other end. It's much safer there."

Colquhoun had an assist versus the Rams and turned in her usual reliable effort on defense. Murphy, said DeSalvo, has picked up her already high-level game in the last week.

"This is a good way to end our senior year and we're not done," said Familo, a midfielder and one of six 12th graders starting for Morristown. "We had a close game with Randolph last time and we knew they'd be coming for us. I'm glad we showed what we can do."

Murphy considered a second sectional title "amazing."

"We played our hearts out," she said. "We wanted it. We knew we could come out on top. It's nice to win again."


Vikings triumph in state opener

PARSIPPANY _ It was an unlikely but glorious run and it would be understandable if Parsippany Hills went into the 2016 state tournament trying to recreate last year's success.

Rarely do the Vikings mention the Group II and sectional titles they garnered after going into postseason play with four victories. Prior to their North Jersey Section 2, Group II quarterfinal on Thursday, Nov. 2, the magical season wasn't brought up.

Parsippany Hills, which opened the tourney with a 1-0 win over sister school Parsippany, the 10th seed, is operating under different circumstances so it is taking a new approach.

"No one really talks about last year," said first-year coach Stephanie Andolino. "We don't want to rest on that. We've been taking it game by game."

So, instead of harkening back, the Vikings, who received their lone goal from Lauren McLaughlin in the first half, charged one another up saying "Play for the seniors" and "Play for each other." They also yelled out "We want this!" prior to the game.

Then second-seeded Parsippany Hills simply got down to business. The Vikings did think back of a game versus the Red Hawks earlier this fall when they didn't communicate or pass very well. They had to keep a close eye on Parsippany standout Luisa Barone, who was up top rather than playing defense. McLaughlin, Sam Kievit and Rebecca Warner were assigned to Barone.

"Luisa is incredible," McLaughlin said. "She's super dangerous. It's tough to contain her."

"She's fast and is a top player," said Parsippany Hills junior center back Rebecca Warner. "We came in more organized. We couldn't let her have the ball."

The Vikings (10-8-3) had a passing game that flowed and kept chatting. Barone had her moments but Parsippany Hills continually denied her.

McLaughlin, a senior center midfielder, provided the game's only goal in the first half. McLaughlin had a throw-in from the corner an Lauren Geiger tapped the ball back to her. McLaughlin then curved the ball into the top left of the net.

That score would be be enough. The midfield, comprised of McLaughlin, Gabby Gilgorri and Sarah Costanza, was solid, moving the ball and controlling the action. The Vikings' senior goalie, Aytana Muschajew, was crucial to the win, finishing with 12 saves.

"We were better today than the last time we played Parsippany," Andolino said. "We were more aggressive and possessed the ball better. Aytana had another good game."

McLaughlin noted that once the Vikings, who had a bye in the opening round, got past the nerves associated with their first state tournament game, they were fine.

"We stayed composed," she said. "We kept the ball on the ground. There were definitely some nerves today. We're hoping to prove ourselves, show we deserve to win." 

On Monday, Nov. 6, Parsippany Hills will host 11th-seeded Madison in a sectional semifinal. No. 4 Hanover Park will travel to top-seeded Livingston the same day.

"We're ready for our next game," Warner said. "This is all deja vu. We hope to keep it up."

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West Morris gains final with OT win

WASHINGTON TWP. (Morris) _ West Morris didn't recognize the team it faced in the North Jersey Section 1, Group III semifinals.

The opposing team's jerseys were navy blue and bore white block letters that read "Chatham" but no way could it be the team the Wolfpack clashed with a week earlier on the same field. The Cougars squad West Morris faced on Tuesday, Oct. 31 was markedly different than the one they blanked, 5-0. Chatham was aggressive, driven and clearly seeking an upset.

It was no coincidence that is was Halloween as the Cougars put several scares into the Wolfpack, scoring first and coming dangerously close to recording the winning goal in overtime.

Second-seeded West Morris, however, came out on top, 2-1, when Faith Spaziano knocked in the decisive score 2:46 into OT, ending a game that was highly competitive.

"They put more pressure on us than last time," said the Wolfpack's Maddie Ligos, a sophomore defender. "We had to make adjustments. Chatham brought its 'A' game. They were loud and much more confident."

That's exactly what West Morris coach Courtney Barnett thought, too. These were not the Cougars they played in a non-conference game.

"Last week's game wasn't conference, county or state and that made us play looser," Barnett said. "Chatham had a lot more urgency. We played the first half tense. We were nervous. We were a little too reactive."

Chatham got on the scoreboard first, taking a 1-0 lead on Lauren Mumby's goal 9:54 before halftime. The score by the junior forward jolted the Wolfpack. It took more than 30 minutes for the Wolfpack to come up with the equalizer. Sarah Bietka, assisted by Spaziano, knotted the score, 1-1, with 9:39 remaining in regulation.

West Morris (15-5-1) did not relish going into OT. A little less than two minutes into the extra period, the Cougars' Noelle Bessette got off a shot but it went wide left - by a few inches. Ligos, on the sideline for the 7 on 7s, actually thought that the ball went in.

"I thought that was it. My heart dropped," Ligos said. "It was the best feeling when I realized there was no goal."

West Morris, which will face top-seeded Warren Hills for the sectional title on Thursday, Nov. 2, was well aware how fortunate it was and took the ball the other way. Spaziano's gamewinner was scored off a corner. Bietka, a sophomore, assisted. Spaziano cut in front of the goalie near the stroke line and exchanged a few passes with Bietka before converting.

"This is so exciting," said Spaziano, a senior center forward. "This was definitely a big game and we wanted to move on, especially the seniors. We all stepped up. They came out more on fire today and we had to pick it up. It was pretty scary. Chatham definitely did a good job."

Barnett felt that Spaziano would come through with a score, just like she did 20 other times this season.

"Faith does a lot for us," said Barnett, who will give birth to twin boys next week. "She's marked more and is often double teamed. She dishes as well as shoots. Faith isn't the most vocal player but her game speaks volumes. We have many sophomores and she's helped raise their level of play."

Kaitlin Leyden praised the Cougars' effort and noted that "the game could have gone either way." Goalie Abby Walrond put in a top-notch showing, making 11 saves.

"It was a good game. West Morris just got lucky," Leyden said. "The ball hit by Noelle was an inch off.

"We had a good season. Our seniors had so much heart and led us on and off the field. Their voices... Their leadership. They got the team going. They knew what to do." 

Bombers trim rival Panthers

BOONTON _ Any team but Pequannock...

That was the thought after fourth-seeded Boonton looked at the North Jersey Section 1, Group I bracket.

The Bombers' dread was justified, stemming from past games against the Golden Panthers. It was an uncomfortable feeling to have fifth-seeded Pequannock, a fierce rival, staring down at them.

Boonton, which had tied and edged the Golden Panthers earlier this season, emerged with another win on Monday, Oct. 30, nipping the Bombers, 1-0, on Nicole Krozser's second-half goal.

The Bombers advance to the sectional semifinals and will travel to top-seeded Ramsey on Wednesday, Nov. 1 for a 4 p.m. matchup.

"Pequannock is a rival so we knew it'd be competitive," said Kroszer, the junior midfielder who converted off a corner with 13:59 remaining. "They came in hard. We were extra hyped during school. We knew they'd want to win. We had to want it more."

Senior center midfielder Makenna Sweeney kept hoping the game wouldn't go into overtime. Five of Boonton's last nine games versus Pequannock have been OT affairs. The two teams are very evenly matched as evidenced by the 3-3-3 record dating back to fall of 2014.

"I'm so glad we didn't have to go into overtime," Sweeney said. "Pequannock's a good team. This is very, very exciting. For me, it's my senior year so it's great to win today. And, I truly believe we can win the section."

Cindy Tserkis-Schlitt, the Bombers' coach, was thrilled that Kroszer came through, noting that "we can rely on her to get intense when we need it."

Krozser used a reverse sweep to knock the ball in off a corner and was assisted by Angela Viruet. Krozser has scored all four of Boonton's goals against Pequannock this season.

"Angela made a perfect pass," Krozser said. "It was really nice."

That goal provided relief yet the Bombers (14-5-1) didn't become overconfident, realizing that the Golden Panthers would be intent on driving into their end.

"This is always a tough game," Tserkis-Schlitt said. "My girls were a little overamped today. We began to break down a bit. They're excited and want to win. That's half the battle. They're not ready for their season to be over yet."

Junior midfielder Kristen Gallo held Boonton's backfield together. Goalie Charlie Wagner made three saves but that wasnot indicative of the Golden Panthers' determined play.

"I think just about every transitional play went off of Kristen's stick," noted Tserkis-Schlitt.

Pequannock, of course, was sad to see its state run and season come to a close.

"We expected a game like this and our girls played their hearts out," Golden Panthers coach Diane Bolchune said. "It was a great game. We just couldn't put the ball in. Sometimes, you connect. Sometimes, you don't."

Freshman midfielder Franki Dygos stood our for Pequannock as did senior Maria McLaughlin and goalie Sami Cherenson (5 saves).


Two in a row for Mount Olive

RANDOLPH _ There's usually laughter, joking and singing when the Mount Olive volleyball team takes to the road for a game.

On Saturday, Oct. 28 prior to the Morris County Tournament final, the bus transporting the Marauders was uncharacteristically quiet with the majority of the players listening to music.

"We're usually so silly," said Mount Olive senior setter and defensive specialist Lauren Miller. "We have fun on the bus. When we got here, we were calm, collected, in the zone. We were so focused. Laser focused."

Being ultra honed in benefited top-seeded Mount Olive as it repeated as MCT champion by beating seventh-seeded Randolph, 25-17, 22-25, 25-17.

At the core of the victory was MVP Annie Karle, the senior outside hitter who accumulated 22 kills and 12 digs. Of course, it wasn't all Karle. In all three games, most notably the second, the Marauders, hurt by double hit and in-the-net calls, battled before regaining control and closing out the match.

"It feels amazing. Honestly, it does," Mount Olive's Ally Dombrowski said. "Losing the second game pushed us. We didn't back down. We never stopped fighting."

The decisive third set was a tense one, just like the other two. Following three early deadlocks, the Marauders (24-2) began to pull away. Karle and Britney Rivera ruled at the net, putting down kill after kill. Leading 11-8, Mount Olive reeled off five straight points to go up, 16-8.

Randolph got within four and five points, 18-14 and 20-15, respectively, near the end. However, the Rams made some costly errors, sending serves and kill attempts long. Meanwhile, Mount Olive thrived with with better communication and teamwork.

"We had a rough second set so it was really nice to win," Miller said. "We had a lot of energy in the third set and brought home the title. Our communication, which lacked in the second game, improved a lot. We didn't move well, either, and that got better. We had a few bad spots. Energy pieced us back together."

The game was Dombrowski's first since spraining her left ankle a week and a half ago while making a block during practice. The sprain made the senior middle blocker fear the worst. As a sophomore, Dombrowski twisted her right ankle at a practice after the team's first game and sat out the entire season.

"I was there for senior night on Tuesday but today is my first hardcore comeback game," Dombrowski said. "I wanted to be back, needed to be back. All of could think of was this game. It's big. I had to be there for the team. They've been there for me."

Randolph was superb in the second game fueled by Stephanie Renna, who fueled the team's bursts with a number of well-placed kills. Also strong was Caileigh Cox (8 kills, 11 digs). At 10-10, the Rams pulled in front and never trailed. On top, 18-16, Randolph scored the next three points. Two of those points were kills by Renna (12 kills, 10 digs, 10 service points). Clinging to a 22-21 advantage after a Karle kill, the Rams received a block from Cox then won three of the next four points to take the game.

"We play pretty clean," Miller said. "I think we won the first game and thought we were in a good situation and that they'd shut down. But this is Randolph and they're a great comeback team. We had to stay grounded."

Dombrowski said the second game "got in our heads and we were overwhelmed."

"We just played harder in the third game," Dombrowski said. "I'm glad we can do what we do. I'm astonished by all of this. To be here a second time is great and to win is the best."

Rivera finished with eight kills and seven digs and Isabella Soriano amassed 24 assists for Mount Olive. Catarina Dubeux contributed 17 digs for the winners. Randolph's Alexis Kemp had 27 assists. 

Loveys repeats at Morris XC Championships

PARSIPPANY _ Mount Olive's Sydney Bradle didn't see Randolph's Abby Loveys after the first mile of the Morris County Girls Cross Country Championships.

That's amazing because Bradle finished second to Loveys, who claimed her second consecutive title at Central Park on Wednesday, Oct. 25 with a time of 17:49.65. It didn't take long for Loveys, a junior, to pull away from the pack, become a speck in the distance and, ultimately, disappear.

"You think you'll close in on Abby or maybe catch her," said Bradle, who traversed the course in 18:31.08, said. "Then she's gone."

Loveys is one of 13 girls to garner two or more championships. The Rams scored 50 points to take top team honors for the ninth time since 1997. Randolph runners in the top 10 were Olson (third, 18:35.02) and Meredith Finley (sixth, 18:47.97).

Julia Trethaway or West Morris and Lucy Jeffs of Mendham took fourth and fifth place, respectively. Jamie Habib of Madison was seventh. Villa Walsh's Morgan Mehmel and Sarah Hanifin took the eight and ninth spots. Izzi Gengaro of Mountain Lakes was 10th.

"It's definitely a really nice feeling," Loveys said. "There are so many talented runners in this county, so many to look out for. I'm happy and very proud of my team."

Heavy rain on Tuesday postponed the race but Loveys, who set the record (17:35.48) for the new course when the NJAC races were held last week, found the conditions nearly perfect. It didn't bother her that she had to wait a day.

"I was a little soft, a tad bit soft," Loveys said of the course. "I don't think it affected anything. I didn't mind that it was today. Our coach (Len Pietriewicz) told us it was going to rain and guessed we probably wouldn't have the meet on Tuesday."

For the first mile, which Loveys completed in 5:24, she noted that she "had company." But, just like Bradle said, Loveys was quickly out of reach.

How did Loveys know she was all alone?

"I heard people cheer me on," she said. "I kept running then I heard the cheers again. The voices were in the distance."

Bradle's time was personal record and that's exactly what she wanted. Coming in, she was aiming for the top five.

"I felt really good today," Bradle said. "I was running with my teammate, Laura Green, in a pack at the start. I began to speed up at the third mile and broke away. I worked on the next girl (Olson) in front of me. I got past her with 600 meters left and tried to stay where I was. I gave it all I had."

At the NJACs, Bradle fell at the two-mile mark, just before the bridge. She recovered and finished. Coming in second more than made up for it.

"Sydney was upset after the fall because she knew she could do better," Marauders coach Mike Behre said. "Sydney did very well. Her time was the fastest any Mount Olive girl has run here."

Bradle came into the race very optimistic, of course, but knew Loveys' times were better than hers.

"I know the times. Abby's are faster than mine," Bradle said. "I never count myself out. I don't think that way. This is my biggest achievement in running. Abby winning is great. She's so sweet. She's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet."


Rivera, Marauders roll into final

RANDOLPH _ A bout of vertigo left Mount Olive's Britney Rivera exhausted.

Rivera rested for four days during the week then attended a short practice on Friday. The Marauders Morris County Tournament semifinal versus Roxbury was looming and nothing was going to keep the senior outside hitter off the court. Family bragging rights were at stake, too. Rivera's cousin, Amber Chen, plays for the opposing Gaels.

Being sidelined didn't cause Rivera's skills to slump. She was in fine form in the semifinals, helping top-seeded and defending champion Mount Olive defeat fourth-seeded Roxbury, 25-13, 25-9, on Saturday, Oct. 21 by making eight kills and exhibiting maximum hustle.

"We did it with determination and motivation," Rivera said. "We don't want to lose our reputation. I had to be here. I was pretty confident I'd be back. I didn't want to miss this."

"Britney's competitiveness with her cousin had something to do with it," Mount Olive coach Lee Clowers said. "That was a big part of it."

The 5-foot-5 Rivera has a 30-inch vertical jump along with plenty of enthusiasm. She was airborne often and felt no effects of the vertigo.

"I had to eat, hydrate and sleep," Rivera said.

Something else put a bit more spring into Rivera's leaps, power into her kill attempts and desire to be wearing her familiar No. 4 jersey. For every match that the Marauders (19-2) win in under an hour, her mother, Cindy, owes her $20. The Marauders (19-2) dispatched the Gaels in 38 minutes so the younger Rivera was anxious to collect.

In the early semifinal, seventh-seeded Randolph was a 20-25, 25-18, 25-22 victor over third-seeded West Morris. Another Rivera cousin, Catherine Stingle, played for the Wolfpack. 

Isabella Soriano, a junior setter, also reveled in the victory, which vaulted Mount Olive back into the final. Soriano, who had 23 assists in the semifinal, returned to action a week and a half ago after sitting out two games with a sprained ankle.

"It's definitely good that Britney's back," Soriano said. "I was glad to be back. We've had a lot of injuries and other players have filled in. Being able to defend is so great. I don't know how to describe it. Getting to defend our title motivates us even more."

Senior Ally Dombrowski is yet another player on the mend. Dombrowski, nursing a sprained ankle, looked on from the bench.

"When you have a lot of great kids, someone always picks up the slack," Clowers said. "That is what's been happening."

Mount Olive, which received 13 kills and six digs from Annie Karle, went up 4-0 in the first game and quickly extended its lead to 7-2. Karle was responsible for four of those points, making three kills and serving an ace.

The Gaels came within one twice, 8-7 on a kill by Kendall Torpin and 9-8 when a Marauders serve was long. Mount Olive was up 17-13 then reeled off the last eight points to take the opening game. The eight-point run began with a Rivera kill and was aided by several Roxbury errors. Lauren Miller had seven service points, one of them an ace, to finish the game.

In the second game, the Marauders held two, three and four-point leads before taking command. Karle put Mount Olive up 9-5 not with a kill but with a well-placed dink. From there, the Marauders scored seven of the next 10 points to widen their advantage to 16-8. Following a long serve by the Gaels, Mount Olive commenced a nine-point run which was highlighted by three kills and a block by Karle.

"Roxbury put up a great fight," Karle said. "I wasn't sure how they'd be. We haven't played them or seen them. I think our energy helped us a lot. We stayed within ourselves. When we weren't passing well, we brought energy. When we weren't hitting well, we brought energy."

For the Rams, standouts were Alexis Kemp (30 assists, 6 digs), Stephanie Renna (11 kills, 8 digs) and Caileigh Cox (12 service points, 8 kills, 11 digs).

Madison nabs 22nd MCT title

BOONTON _ It wasn't long ago that Isabella Fragomeni was intimidated by the Madison field hockey team.

Every aspect of the Dodgers' game left her in awe - their passing, high talent level, their connections, the tradition.

On Sept. 19, about two weeks into the school year, Fragomeni became one of "them" when she moved to Madison from Mountain Lakes. She had the typical concerns most transfer students have: Will I fit in? Will I get any playing time?

Both of those questions were answered quickly as Fragomeni, who had to sit out six practices before becoming eligible, made the transition with ease and earned a starting spot on the forward line.

On Tuesday, Oct. 17, Fragomeni experienced one of the greatest benefits that come with wearing a Dodgers uniform when third-seeded Madison captured its 22nd Morris County Tournament title with an 8-0 shutout of undefeated and defending champion Morristown, the top seed, at Boonton High School.

"This is a big rush," said Fragomeni, who scored the Dodgers' third goal. "This is such an accomplishment. I'm very happy that I got to share it with everyone. It's been great. I like my new teammates. I was welcomed with open arms. The coaching staff mae everything go smoothly. It's a great field hockey family. School has been fun for me, too."

Fragomeni, of course, still has strong ties to Mountain Lakes. She started for two seasons for the Lakers and had 12 goals and five assists as a sophomore. The goal she scored versus the Colonials was her ninth this fall. Fragomeni has had a goal or an assist in all eight games she has played for Madison, which received a hat trick and two assists from Kerrianne McClay in the MCT final.

"Isabella is the puzzle piece we've been missing," McClay said. "She's got a lot of energy. She works hard. Isabella has great skills and a good attitude. She fit right in. Not many would be able to fit in and bond like she did."

Dodgers coach Ann Marie Davies praised Fragomeni for being "tough, aggressive and able to finish."

"She's still developing," Davies said. "Isabella is a vital part of our line."

Madison (15-2) was out for revenge after being blanked 2-0 by Morristown in the 2016 MCT semifinals. Davies made it clear to her team that she didn't enjoy the view from the stands.

That may have provided motivation for the dominant showing by the Dodgers, winners of six of the last seven MCT crowns and 10 of the last 12. Davies felt Madison, which knocked in its initial four goals in a span of 6:05 in the first half, played its best game of the season.

Elizabeth Romano, the offensive MVP, struck first, putting in two goals. Romano gave the Dodgers a 1-0 edge when she converted 5:05 into the first half. Her second came off a corner and was assisted by Maddie Farrell. Then it was Fragomeni's turn. She entered the circle on the left side, received a pass from McClay and directed the ball into the left corner of the goalcage.

McClay boosted Madison's lead to 4-0 by scoring off a breakaway that began at the Morristown 40. She dodged several players before sweeping the ball into the right side.

"We came out here and put it all on the field," McClay said. "We've been waiting for this for months. Everyone played their part. We used all of our energy. I don't think we'll ever forget this. It was true Madison field hockey."

After halftime, McClay connected before Chase Cmaylo, a sophomore forward, scored to push the Dodgers' advantage to 6-0. Cmaylo tipped the ball in after Romano took a shot and McClay picked up the rebound.

Cmaylo considered the victory "super exciting." She wasn't on varsity last year but was brought up for the MCT and saw some minutes in the 2016 semifinals.

"To be a part of this was so great," Cmaylo said. "It was good to be back."

McClay and Maddie Farrell closed out the scoring with 16:43 and 7:37 remaining, respectively.

The Colonials (14-1) broke through for three shots on goal. Madison's defense, anchored by Caroline Blount, Margaret Sheeleigh and Sage Geyer, repeatedly denied Morristown, whose attack was paced by Olivia Graham.

Kei Murphy of Morristown was named defensive MVP. 

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