RANDOLPH _ Alexa Shello didn't exert one bit of energy when West Morris won its last Morris County Tournament championship in 2012.
A freshman back then, Shello sat in the stands and witnessed the action... and got caught up in reverie.
"I wanted to be out there," said Shello, a junior middle hitter. "My dream was to be right where I am now and winning the title."
A little after 8 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1, Shello could cross that item off her bucket list. The second-seeded Wolfpack, with Shello in the mix, got the better of defending champion and rival Mendham, prevailing, 25-20, 25-19, in the MCT final at County College of Morris.
It was the 12th time in MCT history that West Morris has come out on top. Wolfpack senior Gabby Savite, a standout outside hitter, was named Most Valuable Player. She also received the distinction as a freshman.
"I'm happy. Very, very happy," Shello said. "This is my first championship. I am so honored to play with these girls, to be a part of this. I just love this team."
Alexa Mataczynski (8 kills, 4 block, 5 digs) was a major force at the net along with Savite (13 kills) and Danielle Wohning (5 kills). Setter Katelyn Paxson ended with 21 assists for the Wolfpack (22-4).
Mataczynski, a senior middle, felt that the MCT championship was just a little more special because it came against the Minutemen, who were led by senior Jamie Shirtz (8 kills).
"This is exciting," Mataczynski said. "We talked about not being here last year. We wanted to move on. Playing Mendham is always a lot of fun. Playing them and beating them makes this extra nice."
In the first game, West Morris pulled away slowly after the score was tied, 5-5 and 6-6. A long serve enabled the Wolfpack to gain a 7-6 lead and they never looked back. Mendham remained within striking distance the rest of the way.
The Minutemen closed within three, 15-12, on Christina Silvestri's ace. Savite, who came into the match needing seven kills to bring her career total to 700, was dominant, coming up with a big play whenever one was required. A well-placed soft touch by Savite found open floor and put West Morris in front, 23-19. She hammered a kill to end the opening set.
"It was close but I felt like we were in control," Mataczynski said. "I wasn't worried, even in the second game, when Mendham was ahead. I felt we played consistently and that helped."
Savite agreed, saying the Wolfpack "did the little things right and that paid off."
West Morris fell behind early in the second game. Mendham was up, 7-4, before the Wolfpack reeled off six of the next seven points. Critical in the run that put West Morris ahead, 10-8, were two kills by Mataczynski. Errors and a double hit aided West Morris' cause.
Still, the Minutemen remained close behind. An ace by Silvestri pulled Mendham within one, 16-15. West Morris would widen its advantage then the Minutemen would gain only to commit a miscue or send a serve long or wide.
Savite, who also has 700-plus career digs, made a spectacular play late in the game, going 15 feet beyond the endline to save the ball. West Morris won the point for 23-19.
"I felt like that gave us a little more momentum," Savite said. "I love diving. I love doing that."
Two more kills, one by Mataczynski and one by Savite, sent the Wolfpack into a celebration.
"This is a great group of girls," Savite said. "I think we're the best team in the state. Our coach tells us we are. We can go as far as we want to go. It's in our hands."
West Morris coach Jim Balella heaped praise on his squad, namely the seniors who provided strong leadership.
"I'm happy for the seniors. They got the title back," he said. "Mendham is a great team and we respect them. It's always a highly competitive match. We had to stay calm and confident. We couldn't get too high or too low. It was important to take it all in and enjoy the atmosphere."
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