DENVILLE _ Seniors always view tournament time with a sense of urgency.
On Morris Catholic, soccer players Rachel Mills and Stella Johnson know that it's now or never for them to earn a spot in the Crusaders' Morris County Tournament legacy.
Mills and sophomore Emily Schum each headed in goals and Sarah Racine notched a pair of assists to lift Morris Catholic to a 2-0 victory over Morris Hills in quarterfinal round play on the Crusaders' lower turf field on Sunday, Oct. 11.
Junior goalkeeper Gabby Maggio earned a shutout on five saves for Morris Catholic (10-2). Morris Hills, the fifth seed, dropped to 6-5-2.
Morris Catholic faces top-seeded West Morris, a 3-1 victor over Hanover Park, in next week's semifinal at Randolph High School. Roxbury and Kinnelon are the other MCT semifinalists.
There was a time Morris Catholic was a perennial finalist in the MCT. It has been an astounding 16 years since the Crusaders last played in the title game.
When players like Mills and Johnson were freshmen, it was thought that this might be the group to bring Morris Catholic back to prominence. They know that time is running out for them to make an impact. They also know they can't do it by themselves.
"Last year, we lost in the semis and we are going back for some redemption," Mills said. "There is more passion and intensity when you are a senior. I want to go out with a bang. I want to win it all. I know I can't do it on my own. I definitely rely on my teammates. I trust them so much."
Morris Catholic seems to be a more confident and settled crew than in past years. The inclusion of two talented freshmen and the growth of some of its other starters really shows in their play.
"There is a definite difference in the maturing of Rachel and Stella," Morris Catholic coach Andy Rotsides said. "It is basically the same team as last year. The biggest difference is the addition of freshmen Bailey Chant at midfield and Danielle Mills in the back."
Morris Catholic was challenged by a talented Morris Hills team which played better as the game progressed. Complicating matters was the fact that this weekend was the Crusaders' homecoming.
"I was worried about our players," Rotsides said. "They had a homecoming dance. Now it's out of the way and that game was a big one."
The Crusaders had to deal with Morris Hills' overall quickness and skillful forwards Frankie Perna and Adrianna Diaz. They were also aware of the Scarlet Knights' defensive capabilities.
"We expected it to be a very tough game," Mills said. "We knew Casarah (Morales) in the back was very good. We had to play our game and on offense get the ball to Stella up front and play off her."
It helped that Morris Catholic got off to an early lead. Just three minutes in, Mills got her head on a Racine corner kick and put the ball in the net. She made a run in the middle of the goal and out jumped an opponent in front of her. Morris Hills goalie Victoria Aspiazu got a piece of the ball but not enough to stop it from hitting the net.
"We've practiced those a lot especially in the last couple of days," Mills said. "Coach (Rotsides) said that you are not going to score off set plays all the time but if you score at the right time - when it counts - that's all you need. We really needed to score right off the bat to maintain that level of play and intensity."
Racine, who had 12 goals going into the game, is also skillful in triggering the team's set pieces with her great control and accurate kicks. She has 13 assists on the season.
"She makes really great corner kicks," Schum said. "She puts them right where we need them. She's a very consistent player. You always know that she is going to get it there."
Morris Catholic led 1-0 at the half. They possessed the ball more and defenders Schum and Danielle Mills on the inside and the Driscoll sisters, Halley and Hannah, kept the Morris Hills forwards from creating dangerous situations. The Scarlet Knights had better opportunities in the second half but nothing Crusaders keeper Maggio couldn't handle.
"We had to play a little faster today," Schum said. "We couldn't hold it too long in the back."
Schum gave the Crusaders a much-needed boost in the 60th minute when she headed in another Racine corner kick on her run to the left side of the net.
"I'm on the far post," Schum said. "I usually catch anything that comes out. It was just a split-second reaction."
Schum, a sophomore, has developed in importance on both the offense and defense for Morris Catholic.
"She plays mainly in the back but in set pieces we have a place for her," Rotsides said. "What she did today was very typical of her. She played quite a bit last year and she directs everybody in the back."
Morris Catholic knows what it will be up against next week against a physical West Morris squad. They did well in a preseason scrimmage against the Wolfpack. However, they know this is a game that counts. They will have to tweak the usual game plan and put in a much better performance.
"They are very good," Rotsides said of West Morris. "We are going to have to play a completely different game against them."
MCT quarterfinal results
Kinnelon 3, Villa Walsh 0
Ida DiClemente had two goals and an assist for the third-seeded Colts.
Julia Kleczkowski added a goal and an assist for Kinnelon (9-4-1). Sixth-seeded Villa Walsh drops to 11-4.
Roxbury 1, Randolph 0 (4-3 in a shootout)
The second-seeded Gaels advanced on penalty kicks.
Roxbury is 6-3-2 while seventh-seeded and defending co-champion Randolph drops to (7-4-2).
West Morris 3, Hanover Park 1
Emily DeGeyter had a goal and an assist and Cassandra Montgomery and Casey Lisa added goals for the top-seeded Wolfpack.
Emily Leyson and Emily Driscoll added assists for West Morris. Sam DeFina connected for eighth-seeded Hanover Park (9-4).
Last modified onMonday, 12 October 2015 11:29