MOUNT OLIVE _ When a team has a dominant player for several years, sometimes it takes awhile to adjust to not having her on the field once she's gone.
Roxbury girls soccer is still trying to establish its chemistry without standout Paige Monaghan but the Gaels are working on it and winning along the way.
Goals by Alyssa Rose, Madison Martino and Deanna Graziani lifted Roxbury to a 3-0 triumph over Mount Olive on the Marauders' turf on Thursday, Sept. 24. Bethany Sansone registered two assists and also set up the final goal for the Gaels (3-2-1). The Marauders dropped to 0-6.
The Gaels put on a dominating performance overall, allowing their opponents only two shots on goal. Roxbury's record is deceptive since its two losses are against Watchung Hills and unbeaten West Morris. Still, the Gaels are only now just starting to find themselves and figuring out how good they can be.
Monaghan, last year's Player of the Year for Morris County, was an outstanding scorer and playmaker. The current Butler University freshman had 29 goals last year and 68 in the last three seasons for Roxbury. This season, the Gaels have to find other players to create offense and put the ball in the net.
"We are trying to figure out a formation right now and find out what is best for the team," senior midfielder Rose said. "Paige was a great player and such a leader on the team. She really united us. When she left, we wanted to continue the success that the program has had with her."
Roxbury has been balanced offensively most of the year. Rose scored in the 26th minute off a cross by Rachel Sansone.
"I'm usually in a holding position," Rose said. "No one was coming up the far side. I crept up a little bit when one of the players started to take it down line. I just kept going and when it came to me I tapped it in with my left foot from the six."
It was a well-paced through ball that Sansone launched from midfield that created Martino's goal midway through the second half. However, the sophomore had to work for the goal by dribbling to her left past an outstretched Mount Olive goalkeepers.
"Rachel played it to the corner flag," Martino said. "I beat the defender. When I went against the goalie I touched it right and shot it left."
Two minutes later, Graziani, a team captain, took the penalty kick after Sansone was fouled in the penalty area. She is not the team's designated kicker but her hard low shot connected to seal the win.
"She is a great leader on the team," Rose said. "When that chance happened, she started running down the field. She has the mentality to put it in for us."
The Gaels, last year's Morris County Tournament co-champions, feel like they are improving at just the right time. Winning a title outright is one of their goals.
"That (co-champions) part is really deep within us," Rose said. "We know what it feels like to have that slip through our fingers and we want to use that as motivation and take the title this year."