PARSIPPANY _ Sometimes, it's important to change things up, even in a sectional final.
A switch in defense and little perseverance worked wonders for sixth-seeded Whippany Park on Thursday, Nov. 13.
Junior striker Silvana Poulter scored twice and Whippany Park rallied from an early deficit to earn a 4-1 triumph over Parsippany in the North Jersey Section 2, Group II final.
Mayada Ahmed and Nicole Verdi added goals and Gina Dello Russo, Tania Bilanych and Devon McArthur registered assists for the Wildcats, who claimed their first sectional title since 2004 on the turf at Parsippany High School. Salena LeDonne scored a first-half goal for fourth-seeded Parsippany (11-10-2).
The win, which gave Whippany Park its first N2, GII championship, also tied a school record for victories in a season with 17. Whippany Park advances to play Ramapo, a 5-3 winner over Mahwah, on Tuesday, Nov. 18 in a Group II semifinal contest at Indian Hills.
The Wildcats trailed 1-0 before scoring four consecutive goals. A low-angle shot by Poulter, a worm burner that found the low left corner of the net, proved to be the eventual game-winner at the 55-minute mark.
"It was amazing," Ahmed said. "It was great. A lot of people didn't expect it from us as the sixth seed. We came out and did it. We just have really good teamwork."
Whippany Park controlled the balance of play and outshot Parsippany, 15-6. The Wildcats credit their season's success to solid defense and timely scoring.
"Fantastic," Whippany Park coach Marc Dovico said. "They have worked so hard. We started our preseason on Aug. 12. Now, on Nov. 12, we are sectional champions. This was the goal to start."
It may have been a defensive change that triggered the victory. On Sept. 25, LeDonne scored four goals in a 4-2 regular season victory against Whippany Park. Because of her speed and some injuries in the Wildcats' defense, Whippany Park changed to a sweeper-stopper format.
"She scored three goals in six minutes against us," Dovico said of LeDonne. "When we went stopper-sweeper, it was with her in mind. ... We had Kristen Hall in front of her and we dropped our sweeper (sophomore Devon McArthur) deep. We cut the field in half."
The alignment neutralized the Red Hawks standout after an early goal. The Wildcats gained more possessions and gathered their confidence. They earned the equalizer with Ahmed's goal in the 27th minute.
"She was a partial JV player last year," Dovico said. "She moved up to varsity and she was a second team all conference player. She is a tremendous kid. She worked her butt off in the preseason and the offseason. That's why she is one of our most important players."
Ahmed scored on a set piece the team calls "Bookend." A service by McArthur deflected off a Parsippany defender and bounced out to the top of the box.
"I hit a lefty shot right over the top of the goalie's head," Ahmed said. "It was the first time we got a goal off it. It was nice (to get it). It was just motivation. We just kept going."
The contest was tied 1-1 at the half. Both of Poulter's goals were similar shots. Placed from the low left corner, they found their mark inside the left goalpost. They seemed so matter of fact, she had little to say about them except that she was happy to put them in.
"I was a little nervous (at the half) but I said in my head 'Let's win this,''' Poulter said. "Beating the seeds that were higher than we were felt really good."
She said Whippany Park's 1-0 win over Hanover Park in the sectional semifinal earlier in the week provided a huge boost to the team.
"Beating Hanover Park gave us a lot of confidence," Poulter said. "There was a lot of smack talk. We are big rivals and sister schools."
Scores by Verdi, in the 75th minute, and Poulter, a minute or two later, soon wrapped the game up. Now, Whippany Park waits for Tuesday where it will be challenged by Ramapo, a top-seed in its section.
"Ramapo is consistently one of the best teams in the state," Dovico said. "We will be ready."