ROXBURY _ It's not how you start, but how you finish and putting the ball in the net is something Roxbury was happy to see Caitlin Mertens accomplish.
Mertens, a sophomore forward, connected just 1:19 into the second half and it was enough to advance the fifth-seeded Gaels to the quarterfinal round of the Morris County Tournament with a 1-0 victory over Morris Hills on Sunday, Oct. 7.
Goalie Mel Lopez stopped three shots to earn the shutout for the Gaels (5-2-1). Roxbury advances to face fourth-seeded Villa Walsh, a 1-0 victor over Chatham on Saturday, in the next round. Morris Hills, the tournament's 12th-seed, drops to 6-8.
The fans at Roxbury high were just settling into their seats for the second half when Mertens took a pass from teammate Emily Turpin and knocked in her second goal of the year.
"It was there," Mertens said. "No one went to the ball so I ran up to it and hit it. I was right on the 18 and it went high to the right side. I wasn't thinking about where the goalie was. I just hit it."
Scoring more goals had been in the minds of the Gaels lately. Sometimes what separates winning soccer teams from losing ones is just finding athletes that have the knack for putting the ball into the net. The Gaels have been working hard on shooting in practices and are hoping that it starts paying off soon.
"We have great shooters," sophomore forward Paige Monaghan said. "No one is really a bad shooter. They all can shoot. It just needs to click. We have to relax. We're rushing to get there and we can't rush the shot. We have to be patient and just put it in the corners. When we get in that game situation, we just have to learn to relax and put it in the back of the net."
For this game, the Gaels moved Monaghan back toward a midfield position. The skillful sophomore has the knack for sending in tantalizing through balls into the penalty area at a good pace. The hope is that some of the Roxbury forwards turn those passes into goals.
"They were man-marking," Monaghan said. "We knew it was going to be difficult. They thought it would be better for other forwards to get the ball than just me getting it if I'm going to have players on me. It was great that the forwards stepped up."
The contest is one of the first where a former player of Roxbury coach Justin Renna came back to her former high school to coach against him. First-year coach Janel Jones, nee Cleffi, played for the Gaels in 2002 through 2004.
However, her homecoming was a difficult one. Roxbury won plenty of 50-50 balls in the midfield for most of the contest and used its pressure to keep it in the offensive end.
"Tia Mitchell, Nicolle Natali and Lexie Ackerman did very well and communicated," said Monaghan. "They did a very good job of relaxing and playing it wide. There were times they were caught up in the moment but then they took a step back and said let's play it and relax. We know how to do this."
The Gaels finally cashed in on the opportunity with Mertens' score. If they wish to keep rolling, they hope to find more ways to put the ball in the back of an opponents' net.
Pequannock 2, Morris Knolls 1
Goals by Kendall Machak and Kate DeLillis provided the difference in the Golden Panthers' victory on Sunday, Oct. 7.
The ninth-seeded team advances to play top-seeded West Morris in the quarterfinal round of the tournament next week. The win lifts Pequannock to 7-3.
Kim Felix scored on a feed from Alex Rankin for the eighth-seeded Golden Eagles (6-4).
Randolph 4, Whippany Park 0
The defending champion Rams improved to 7-1-1 with a victory on their home turf on Sunday, Oct. 7.
The third-seeded team plays sixth-seeded Kinnelon next in a rematch of last year's finalists. The 14th-seeded Wildcats are 7-4 on the season.
Morris Catholic 1, Parsippany 0
Amanda Migoya scored off a pass from Jessica Mangiafico to account for the game's only tally in this MCT game on Sunday, Oct. 7.
The second-seeded Crusaders advance to face 10th-seeded Morristown-Beard, a first time quarterfinal qualifier.
Kayla Murphy earned the shutout on seven saves for Morris Catholic (10-0-1). Lauren Scalfina stopped 13 shots for Parsippany (4-5-2).
Morristown-Beard 1, Mendham 0
MENDHAM _ Kristy Cotter's first-half goal held up in Morristown-Beard's historic 1-0 victory over Mendham on Saturday, Oct. 6.
The win helped Morristown-Beard (7-2-2) advance to the quarterfinal round of the MCT for the first time in school history.
Tori Gonzalez stopped 11 shots to earn the shutout for the Crimson, who haven't surrendered a goal in six games. The 10th-seeded team plays the winner of Sunday's game between 15th-seeded Parsippany and second-seeded Morris Catholic.
"We definitely wanted to do this for our seniors,'' sophomore forward Gianna Bustamante said. " It took a lot of work to win this game.''
Cotter, who is a transfer from West Morris, collected her unassisted tally around the 20th minute to provide the only goal of the game. She got the ball off a scramble and tucked it into the left corner of the net. Overall, Cotter and Bustamante have complementary skills and their execution gives the Crimson some offensive chemistry.
"(Cotter) has good chemistry with everyone,'' Gonzalez said. "She and Gianna play club ball together. Watching them play together is just great. She really gets everyone going.''
"It's a yin yang kind of thing,'' Bustamante added. "We just do it together.''
In the second half, the Crimson concentrated a bit more on defense and taking full advantage of time-consuming possessions. The Minutemen pressured them hard in the final 20 minutes and, despite a barrage of shots, Mendham could not break through to even the score.
"We didn't want them to get a chance,'' Gonzalez said. "Getting the early goal was really important. They were a really good team. We got the goal so we had to defend."
The overall play of the Morristown-Beard defense has been amazing this season. Central defenders Erica Atkinson, Carson Fleno and outside defender Allie Aiello made their presence felt during the contest.
"I couldn't have done it without my defense,'' Gonzalez said.
Mendham, the seventh seed, dropped to 4-5-2.
West Morris 2, Mountain Lakes 0
A pair of second-half goals by Sydney Sapir was enough for the top-seeded Wolfpack to advance to the quarterfinal round of the MCT on Saturday, Oct. 6.
Both of Sapir's scores (in the 46th and the 55th minute) were assisted by Kendall Ballotti. Goalkeeper Ilissa Webb earned a shutout on two saves for West Morris (9-0-1).
Mountain Lakes, which received seven saves from Zoe Rankin, dropped to 5-7.
Hackettstown 10, Mount Olive 2
Sally Sturm and Katie Hutton finished with two goals each to help Hackettstown to a win over Mount Olive on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
Sturm had two assists and Hutton had three for the Chiefs. Emily Slaman also had two assists for the Tigers (8-0-1).
Hopatcong goalies Catelyn Pisano and Mariah Given had one and 10 saves, respectively.
Mendham 4, St. Elizabeth 0
Paige Russell opened the scoring for Mendham five minutes into the first half on a breakaway off a free kick from Tina Yerdon on Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Russell finished the scoring with a header off a cross from Becky Gohsler with two seconds left in the half. In between, Mendham got goals from Gohsler and Julie Calabrese. Russell assisted Calabrese's goal.
Hopatcong 4, Sussex Tech 0
The Chiefs, who received two goals apiece from Barbara Ortiz and Courtney Macaluso, shut out Sussex Tech on Tuesday, Oct. 2.
Ortiz also had an assist. Hopatcong goalie Catelyn Pisano made 12 saves.
Mountain Lakes 3, Mount Olive 1
Brooke Bakewell had a goal and an assist and Peyton Annese and freshman Chloe Harris also tallied to lift 16th-seeded Mountain Lakes over Mount Olive 3-1 in Morris County Tournament preliminary-round play on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Zoe Rankin stopped nine shots for Mountain Lakes (4-6).
The Lakers play top-seeded West Morris next. Mount Olive falls to 2-6-1.
Parsippany 2, Hanover Park 0
Second-half goals by Sam Pignatelli and Amanda Nardella proved to be the difference for the Red Hawks in MCT action on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Danielle Spillart earned the shutout on five saves for the 15th-seeded Red Hawks (4-4-1).
Parsippany plays second-seeded Morris Catholic in the opening round. The 18th-seeded Hornets drop to 3-4-1.
Chatham 3, Montville 0
Morgan Maltby earned a shutout on six saves for the Cougars (3-5) when they defeated Montville in the MCT.
Kelsey Burke scored twice and Nina Proska had two assists. McCall Moore also added a goal for 13th-seeded Chatham. Fourth-seeded Villa Walsh is next for the Cougars.
Montville, the No. 20 seed, falls to 4-4.
Morris Hills 1, Dover 0
Casarah Morales registered the only tally to lift the 12th-seeded Scarlet Knights to the next round.
Melanie Marotta stopped four shots to earn the shutout for Morris Hills.
The Scarlet Knights (6-5) will play Roxbury in opening-round competition. Andrea Morales stopped 13 shots for 21st-seeded Dover (4-6).
Parsippany Hills 6, Boonton 0
Sally Campuzano and Carolyn Warner scored two goals apiece to vault the Vikings (5-3-1) in a preliminary-round MCT game.
Sixth-seeded Kinnelon is Parsippany Hills' opening-round opponent.
he 22nd-seeded Bombers dropped to 4-6.
Morris Knolls 2, Morristown 0
The eighth-seeded Golden Eagles received goals from Isabel Katz and Emily Kritharis in MCT play on Sunday, Sept. 30.
Diana Mikula and Nicole Nemeth had assists and Ann George stopped a single shot for Morris Knolls.
The Golden Eagles will play Pequannock, a 3-0 victor over Madison, on Saturday in the opening round.
Mendham 2, Parsippany 1
Tina Yerdon's goal from 25 yards out at 12:25 of the first half proved to be the gamewinner when Mendham trimmed Parsippany on Friday, Sept. 28.
Shannon Horan opened the scoring off a pass from Paige Seavey five minutes into the first half to give the Minutemen (3-4-1) a 1-0 lead.
Parsippany's Elena Figueroa finished a corner from Samantha Pignatelli with one minute left to end the shutout bid.
Mendham goalie Brianna Scarola made seven saves for Mendham. Parsippany is 3-4-1.
Whippany Park 1, Madison 0
Dina Sheira's goal following a breakaway was the lone score, spurring Whippany Park to a 1-0 win over Madison on Thursday, Sept. 27.
Sheira converted in the 68th minute on a long ball from Ashley Granato.
Alexa Cozzarelli made five saves for the Wildcats (6-3).
Villa Walsh 3, Kinnelon 2
Kerri Clifford's goal with 10 minutes remaining snapped a 2-2 deadlock and propelled Villa Walsh to a win over Kinnelon on Monday, Sept. 24.
Also scoring for the Vikings (5-0) were Lauren Pacewicz and Juliana Strelec. Assists for Villa Walsh were by Milannah Aguirre and Megan Lawlor.
The Colts (4-3) received both goals from Dani deTorres.
Newton 7, Hopatcong 0
Alyssa Cronin and Hannah Buckley finished with two goals apiece when the Braves blanked Hopatcong on Thursday, Sept. 27.
Cronin also had an assist for Newton (5-3-1).
Chiefs goalie Catelyn Pisano had 13 saves.
Pequannock 1, Jefferson 0
Junior Kendall Machak came into this game with three hat tricks in a row for Pequannock. Machak didn't have multiple goals but she did register the decisive score in the second half, sending the Golden Panthers to victory on Monday, Sept. 24.
Another junior, goalie Olivia Schreiber, also excelled, making four saves for the shutout. Schreiber was aided by fellow defenders Caroline Wood, Abby Carlon, Gabby Can and Taylor Cucci. The Golden Panthers are 5-1.
Falcons goalie Danielle Beniulis amassed 28 saves.
Mendham 3, Morristown 0
Paige Russell opened the scoring for the Minutemen, converting off a corner after taking a pass from Tina Yerdon at 11:37 of the second half.
Russell completed her hat trick with scores at 18:35 and 26:27 for Mendham, now 2-4-1, in this game played on Monday, Sept. 24.
Paige Terwilliger picked up the shutout in goal, her first of the season, by saving two shots.
Newark Academy 2, Whippany Park 0
Goals by Kelly Lazarus and Amalya Johnson sparked the Minutemen on Monday, Sept. 24.
Wildcats goalie Alexa Cozzarelli made three saves. Newark Academy netminder Rebecca Butler had seven saves.
Whippany Park's record is 5-3.
Pequannock 5, St. Elizabeth 0
Kendall Machak, a junior, recorded her third consecutive hat trick when Pequannock defeated St. Elizabeth on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Machak now has 11 goals and five assists for the season. Also scoring for the Golden Panthers (4-1) were Nicole Benway and Megan Kennedy.
Olivia Schreiber had five saves for Pequannock. St. Elizabeth is 1-5-1.
Whippany Park 3, Dover 0
Christina Boyadjis, Dina Sheira and Ashley Granato scored goals for the Wildcats when they shut out Dover on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Granato also recorded an assist for Whippany Park (5-2) as did Courtney Simon and Jenna Freda.
Alexa Cozzarelli made two saves for the shutout in goal.
Boonton 5, Hopatcong 0
Olivia Demeri had two goals and Rhiannon Groll contributed three assists to highlight the Bombers' win over Hopatcong on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Sihana Asani, Stephanie Hess and Allie Scucci also booted in goals for Boonton, which improved to 3-5.
Catelyn Pisano, Hoptcong's goalie, had a busy day, finishing with 14 saves.
Mendham 2, Chatham 1
Paige Russell finished a cross at the near post from Emily Saliterman at 5:32 of the second overtime, propelling Mendham to victory over Chatham on Friday, Sept. 21.
It was the first win of the season for the Minutemen (1-4-1).
Shannon Horan opened the scoring for Mendham off a rebound 2:30 into the second half. Kelsey Burke knotted the score for Chatham (2-4), scoring from 25 yards out at 24:55.
Randolph 2, Roxbury 0
The Rams used second-half goals by Dana Shalit and Rachel Leiberman to blank the Gaels on Friday, Sept. 21.
Shalit scored from a pack in front of the net to put Randolph up, 1-0. Leibermann converted a pass from Anna Conklin.
The Rams' defense, led by goalie Rachel Fennel, earned their second consecutive shutout.
Kittatinny 7, Hopatcong 1
Alex Tczap played a large role in the Wildcats' victory on Thursday, Sept. 20, erupting for four goals.
Delaney Koch added two goals for Kittatinny (2-1-2). Gabby Sarni had two assists.
Donya Forst scored for the Chiefs.
Pequannock 4, Butler 0
The Golden Panthers, behind Kendall Machak's second consecutive hat trick, improved their record to 3-1 on Thursday, Sept. 20.
Megan Kennedy had Pequannock's other goal and an assist.
Olivia Schreiber made 10 saves in goal for the Golden Panthers (3-1).
Roxbury 1, Mendham 0
Paige Monaghan fired in a tough angle shot just under the crossbar at 31:44 of the first half, boosting Roxbury to a 1-0 victory over Mendham on Wednesday, Sept. 19.
Gaels goalie Melanie Lopez had six saves as did Mendham netminder Paige Terwilliger.
Roxbury is 2-1. The Minutemen are 0-4-1.
West Morris 3, Chatham 1
Autumn Webb had two goals and Sydney Sapir had a goal and an assist for West Morris, which remained undefeated after five games with a win over Chatham on Wednesday, Sept. 19.
Kelsey Burke scored off a 30-yard shot with an assist by McCall Moore to give the Cougars the early lead. Webb scored her first goal unassisted at 11:40. She stole the ball from a defender and dribbled to the goal, finishing on the far post from 15 yards out.
Sapir won a header at 22:37 and fed Webb a through ball for Webb to finish. Sapir touched in a rebound off a Kendall Ballotti free kick 5:42 into the second half. Burke scored Chatham's goal 12:42 into the second half.
Whippany Park 8, Timothy Christian 0
Ashley Granato's two goals and two assists paced Whippany Park when it recorded a victory over Timothy Christian on Wednesday, Sept. 19.
Gina Dello Russo, Megan Lee, Megan Gallagher, Dina Sheira, Kristin Alwell and Courtney Simon had a goal apiece for the Wildcats, now 4-1.
Alexa Cozzarelli (one save) picked up the shutout in goal. Timothy Christian is 3-1.