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Lee, Morris Hills rise to top

RANDOLPH _ Described as bubbly and effervescent by one of her coaches, Morris Hills' Frances Lee is the perfect fencer to start off dual meets.

"Frances is the first bout and it sets the tone for everything," said Lisa Campi-Sapery. "On old-fashioned teams, she'd be called a spitfire. She's all energy and gives everyone energy. Frances is exciting to watch. She's vibrant and galvanizes the team, male and female. She's our inspirational leader."

On Saturday, Jan. 6, the Cornell-bound Lee was all of those superlatives and more.

Lee claimed individual honors in sabre, leading the Scarlet Knights to their second team title at the Morris County Fencing Championships held at Randolph High School. Morris Hills, which had 59 points, edged out Mendham (57 points) to capture the team crown for the second time in five years.

"I can't believe it," Lee said. "I really can't. I had the entire team behind me. I was fencing for myself and the team. It's never just me."

Mendham's Sara Persau, a senior, was top notch in foil, securing the third MCFC title of her high school career. In 2017, Persau was second. Junior Abby Gringeri of Morristown emerged as epee champion after a fence off.

In the afternoon, Lee posted a 5-0 record to finish atop the field in her weapon. Although her record indicates perfection, she did not breeze through her bouts. During the morning session, she fell to Chatham freshman Kailing Sathyanath and had to face her again after the break. She fell behind, 4-2, before rallying and prevailing, 5-4. Lee, who attained the decisive point with a touch to her opponent's mask, had to dig extra deep to pull out the victory over Sathyanath.

"I got scared when it was 4-2," Lee said. "I had to fight. I took a breath and cleared my head. I said 'Let's do this.'" I knew she'd come right at me. I took some steps forward then I retreated and kept my distance. I went back again and she fell short. That's when I hit her on the mask."

Second individual as a sophomore, Lee, hoping to major in mechanical engineering or aerospace at Cornell, felt she had it in her to take first place and she was right. The Morris Hills girls sabre squad, comprised of Lee, Katie Zhang and Anastasia Herren, was first, too.

"It was nice to see," said Campi-Sapery. "They've all been working so hard. They put quite a bit of pressure on themselves."

Later that night, the Lee and several of her teammates planned to bake for Campi-Sapery's birthday.

Persau met her objectives - not doing anything complicated and fencing clean - in her MCFC finale.

"This is the last time I'll compete in counties so it was a good ending," Persau said. "I had fun. I had a good run in the counties. I didn't overdo it. I fenced smart. Simplicity was my goal."

Gingeri, a district champion last fall, engaged in a fence off with Mendham's Sophia Glasner. The bout was her second of the day versus Glasner and it put her on edge.

"It was difficult because I fenced (Glasner) already and I lost," Gingeri said. "My dad helped calm me down. I stuck to single attacks and didn't do anything too crazy."

Her father, John, and mother, Melissa, serve as coaches for the Colonials program. Her parents were both standout fencers at Rutgers University.

Gingeri, a cross country runner and participant in track in the spring, did not plan to celebrate after notching her first MCFC title. She had another idea.

"I'm going to take a nap," she said. 

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Rams repeat at Morris Relays

MADISON _ Claire Doto ran into one of her former youth basketball coaches at a Randolph girls basketball game and he asked why she was seated in the bleachers.

"What are you doing over here?" he inquired, expecting that Doto, a freshman, would be out on the hardwood running the offense as point guard.

Doto explained that she had taken up indoor track and would no longer be playing basketball, only watching. Her decision surprised him.

Apparently, Doto knew exactly what she was doing. On Friday, Jan. 5, Doto, who chose running because she wanted to take part in an individual sport, helped the Rams repeat at the Morris County Girls Winter Track Relay Championships by being a part of the first-place shuttle hurdles and distance medley teams.

Randolph dominated, amassing 70 points and triumphing for the 18th time since the relays began in 1981. The second-place finishers, Roxbury and West Morris, had 28 points apiece.

"This is all very unexpected," Doto said. "I never thought I'd be on varsity. I couldn't imagine that I'd be on the winning team."

Doto, who enjoyed track events during field days in elementary and middle school, ran the shuttle hurdles with Stefany Heiberger, Jordyn Kranis and Meghan O'Malley. For the distance medley, she teamed with Brooke Olson, Meredith Finley and Abby Loveys. 

Everyone who questioned Doto's decision to give up basketball now knows she is a talented runner. Since the indoor track season began, she has competed in hurdles, the 600 and 1,000 meters and the 400 sprint medley.

"It's exhilirating to run," she explained. "In basketball, you have an entire game to change things. Track is decided more quickly. I guess that's why it's more exciting."

Doto's family supported her decision to participate in track. They discussed Randolph's indoor program with other families in town.

Cross country and spring track will not be on Doto's radar in the future. She competed in soccer last fall and will play lacrosse in the spring. She said she will not be persuaded.

"Lacrosse is my big sport," Doto said. "I will kindly tell them no."

Randolph garnered gold in three additional events - 4x800, high jump and pole vault. Olson, Kate Gihorski, Amanda Houston and Loveys comprised the 4x800 team. O'Malley and Kranis prevailed in the high jump while Paige Zangara and Kranis 

Roxbury prevailed in the 4x100 and sprint medley. Jefferson won shotput. 

Ferrara, Colonials defeat Chatham

CHATHAM _ Nicole Ferrara had been coming off the bench for Morristown while waiting for a sprained ankle to heal.

Given her first career start, Ferrara, a junior guard, sought to make an impact against Chatham, a formidable foe in the United Division of the NJAC.

Ferrara, best known for her exploits on the lacrosse field, scored seven points to key a 14-point run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and had a significant impact on the Colonials' 36-26 victory over the Cougars on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

"I am so happy to be back," Ferrara said. "It was great to start. It was awesome. My teammates and coach are great. This was a huge win for us. Chatham is very good. They came out strong. We had to really step up our offensive intensity."

After a first half punctuated by errant shots and turnovers on both sides, Morristown (5-1) commenced what would turn out to be a decisive string of unanswered points. The Cougars led 17-16 following Michaela Ford's free throw with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter. Forty-five seconds later, was about 23 feet away from the basket with the ball in her hands.

Ferrara, admittedly "not a big dribbler," let go of her long-range attempt quickly, netting a 3-pointer at 4:06 to put Morristown ahead for good, 19-17. The next play, two minutes later, was even more rewarding for Ferrara because it required teamwork.

Jessica Willette passed to Ferrara, who traversed a wide-open path for a layup to move the lead to 21-17. Getting Ferrara open for the back screen was Elizabeth Strambi, who finished with 17 points.

"We ran it through," Ferrara said of the play that culminated in the layup. "Jess gave me a fantastic pass and I was able to finish. Elizabeth's screen was perfect. The 3-pointer was the first basket I made in the game. Our coach told us to keep shooting and the shots would fall eventually. That's pretty normal range for me. I put it up and hoped for the best."

Strambi, too, was satisfied with the well-executed play and the no-fear approach taken by Ferrara, committed to play lacrosse for Ohio State, when it was needed most.

"Nicole's a great player," Strambi said. "She's a huge part of our team. She's back and better than ever. I knew that 3-pointer was going in. We were agressive during that run. We all wanted to win. We got a lot of big baskets from everyone during that run."

Colonials coach Jim Pisciotto was elated to have Ferrara among his top five for the Chatham game. Ferrara was anxious to be in the mix after turning her ankle while rebounding during a preseason scrimmage against the JV squad.

"We're just getting healthy," Pisciotto noted. "We've had some girls out. Nicole has been good off the bench. She does a lot of good things for us." 

Ferrara has played in four games, reaching double figures (13) versus Montclair Immaculate. She is one of the team's sharpshooters and has six 3-pointers. Scoring is her forte has evidenced by the 109 goals and 63 assists she has accumulated in two seasons of lacrosse.

The opening half of the game was frenzied with both teams exhibiting high energy levels that led to rushed and, ultimately, missed shots. Veronica Kelly scored both of Chatham's first-period baskets, including a 3-pointer from the right corner. Strambi had a bit of difficulty getting on track and made a layup with 33.5 seconds left in the first quarter to put Morristown, playing without 6-foot-2 center Kate Kolb, sidelined with a concussion, ahead, 6-5.

In the second quarter, the Cougars received four points from Tess Ford while the Colonials got four from Strambi.

"When you get into conference play, it's always like this," Pisciotto said. "It's a rivalry. Us vs. Montville. Morristown vs. Chatham. Morristown against Mendham. Emotions lead to silly things. We got some pretty good looks but we rushed it at first. Our shots didn't fall. Overall, we played well. We settled down and got a little breather when we had our run."

With 2:43 remaining in the game, Chatham cut its deficit to eight, 31-23, on Emma Frohnapfel's basket. Two more times, in the last 38.5 seconds, the Cougars trailed by eight yet could cut no further into Morristown's lead.

"We were all over the place at the beginning," Strambi said. "We finally relaxed and good defense kept us in the game. That's the heart of our game. Defense. We buy into it and that's good when we're not executing on offense."

Veronica Kelly ended with 7 points for Chatham (2-5) while Hannah Kelly had five.

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Meyers, Mendham stay on track

BASKING RIDGE _ Mendham's first game, marred by turnovers, lack of hustle and ineffective boxing out, was beyond ugly.

Montville put up 60 points against the Minutemen and held them to single digits in the middle two quarters. The outcome was upsetting to Mendham coach Mark Gnapp and, of course, his players.

Since then, the Minutemen have toiled to right themselves, posting wins in three of their last four games, including a 50-39 defeat of Pingry in first-round action at the Len Sepanak Memorial Holiday Basketball Tournament at Ridge High School on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

"We played very well in our last four games," Gnapp said. "We didn't play hard against Montville. We weren't prepared. That game helped us get better. It's going to benefit us in the long run."

Mendham (3-2) entered the tournament coming off a five-point setback to West Orange but shook it off and pulled away over the last 16 minutes after being tied, 19-19, with the Big Blue at halftime. Junior guard Joey Meyers fueled the Minutemen in the second half, scoring 17 of her game-high 25 points.

Many other elements contributed to Mendham's second-half showing, most notably the team's unwillingness to feel the way it felt following the 29-point loss to Montville.

"Once we start playing our game, we're fine," Meyers said. "We pushed the ball. We played tight 1-3-1 defense which pressures other teams a lot, especially the point guard. Our offense is aggressive. We made layups and had good looks. We don't want what happened against Montville to happen again. We've played so much harder after that."

The fourth period, in which Mendham outscored Pingry, 20-13, was key. The Big Blue was within striking distance for awhile and, with sophomore standout Kelsey Ransom pacing the attack, anything was possible. Meyers went into highly-driven mode in the fourth quarter, registering 11 points. Paige Kaplan had four points. The Minutemen netted 5-of-7 free throws over the last 4:26.

"Joey played great," Gnapp said. "Ransom was on her and they went at it all game. Joey toughed it out and came through for us."

The Meyers-Ransom matchup was intense. The two premier players had gone at it before, clashing during AAU. Meyers is on New Jersey United while Ransom is on the New Jersey Panthers.

"Joey is very, very good and plays at a high level," said Ransom, who had 18 points and took down 7 rebounds. "This was like AAU. It was more mental than physical and I love that. We were nitpicking. There was some pushing here and there."

Meyers, too, relished the chance to go up against Ransom.

"Kelsey was denying me hard," Meyers said. "That's why it was good to get points in transition." 

Pingry (2-2) fell behind by four points in the third quarter. While that doesn't seem like much, Ransom detected the Big Blue might be waning.

"We were foggy mentally and that transfers to the way you play," Ransom noted. "If one player is lethargic, we all fall to that level. We weren't very energized at halftime. We needed to come out with a bang like Mendham did."

Meyer may have taken the game into her hands in the second half but her teammates certainly contributed. Kaplan finished with eight points as did Jessica Hall. Kaplan was adept as well at rebounding. Nikki Surella aided the Minutemen's fast start with five first-quarter points. Beyond that, Surella rebounded and went all out on defense.

Mendham will meet Ridge on Thursday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. The winner of that game will play Saturday, Dec. 30 at 6 p.m.

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Vikings escape with opening-night win

ROCKAWAY _ Sixteen seconds before the final buzzer, Parsippany Hills' Corinne Diaz was scolded by coach Donnie Forster for attempting a 3-pointer.

At the time, the Vikings were up by one point and all Diaz could think of was widening the lead. Forster yelled out, "What are you doing?"

At the conclusion of the game, a 29-28 Parsippany Hills victory over Morris Hills on Friday, Dec. 15, Diaz, of course, had mixed emotions, bearing a smile on her face and proud that the Vikings had won their season opener and yet a bit upset and teary-eyed about the decision she had made.

"Coach got made at me for taking that 3," said Diaz, a junior guard. "If we had lost, it would be my fault. It feels good that we won. I'm happy."

The Vikings used a 12-point run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to pull ahead, 27-25, with 3:55 remaining in the closing period. Diaz helped fuel that string of unanswered string, scoring two baskets, including the 16-foot jumper that snapped a 25-25 deadlock and put Parsippany Hills ahead to stay. Junior forward Amanda Gurth also came up big during the decisive run with a pair of close-range field goals, one of them a putback.

"I told our girls at halftime that we needed to cut into the deficit," Forster said. "We needed to get to a manageable spot. We had a lot of steals. Corinne had an important one at halfcourt. We got some timely baskets. Morris Hills pressured us on the perimeter and they were controlling us on defense. We had to drive and put pressure on them."

Parsippany Hills switched to man-to-man defense in the second half and that, too, had a major impact on the outcome. Jillian Rogers stepped up and played superb defense on Morris Hills' Victoria Aspiazu, limiting her to three points after halftime. Aspiazu scored nine points over the first two quarters, propelling the Scarlet Knights to a 19-11 edge at the break. At the halftime buzzer, Aspiazu, who ended with a game-high 13 points, netted a 3-pointer, launching the ball from halfcourt.

The Vikings, however, did not let Morris Hills take momentum from that dramatic basket. They chipped away after the Scarlet Knights' Cristine Coiro dropped in a layup 2:57 into the third quarter to put the home team on top by 10 points, 25-15. Gurth kicked off the Vikings' 12-point burst with a basket with 3:21 remaining in the third period. 

"When Victoria made that 3-pointer (at the halftime buzzer), I thought it'd be a momentum booster," Morris Hills coach Brian Dillon said. "It did a little but we stalled. At 25-15, we let up a little. We're still learning to win. We're young and tentative. A lot of these girls were role players last season. The plays we made earlier, we didn't make down the stretch. That will come in time." 

In the fourth quarter, Parsippany Hills held the lead by outscoring Morris Hills, 8-2. The Scarlet Knights had no field goals over the final 11 minutes.

"We limited our mistakes in the second half," Diaz said. "We were more aggressive and played better defense. Our coach's main thing is for us to go to the basket. If we miss, we can get a foul or put it back." 

With 3:28 left and the Vikings ahead by one, 27-26, Gurth, a force inside, drew her fourth foul. That didn't stop her from battling for rebounds under both baskets. The Vikings were poised enough to hold on. There was the errant 3-pointer, though, by Diaz, who handled the ball with poise when point guard Sanjay Kao got into foul trouble quickly. 

"I'm like 'No!'" Forster said of the 3-point attempt put up by Diaz as the scoreboard wound down.

"That's OK," Forster said. "Corinne did a lot of things for us tonight. She did very well. Everyone was probably a little nervous tonight. It's the first game. We'll take better shots. We'll improve." 

Diaz and Janice Alverio-Rodriguez paced Parsippany Hills with eight points apiece. Samantha Hoff of Morris Hills followed Aspiazu with with six points.

Since then, the Vikings have struggled, losing three of their last four. Their win over Dover was another tense one as they triumphed by three points. Diaz and Gurth had 11 and 10 points, respectively. 

***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***

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."

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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.

***PHOTOS OF BOTH GAMES BELOW*** 

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."

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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."

  • Published in Soccer
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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." 

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