MORRISTOWN _ The sprints and timed miles drew groans from the members of the Morristown-Beard field hockey players at recent practices.
Of course, no one questioned the extra running, not with the Morris County Tournament looming.
Senior center back Katie Wright actually sounded like a fan of the added endurance workouts after the fifth-seeded Crimson emerged with a hard-fought 1-0 win over 12th-seeded Mount Olive in a Morris County Tournament first-round game on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
"We've been working on getting back," Wright said. "We've been doing a lot of running. This made it worth it. It was definitely worth it."
Right back Ali Palazetti noted that "everyone had better times" and realized the value of the increased running ordered by coach Kate Alderman.
But that was only part of the reason behind Morristown-Beard's victory, which also came to be because of Jenna Pych's goal with 4:28 remaining. Pych, a senior forward, and freshman Joele Russomanno drove toward the goalcage from midfield, exchanging several passes. Pych used a reverse-stick shot to send the ball into the left corner of the goalcage, relieving an immense amount of tension. When Pych converted, the Crimson were a player down because one of their players had received a yellow card a minute before.
"It was nice to get that goal," Pych said. "It was a good feeling. I'm not a fan of overtime so there was a lot of relief in scoring."
Alderman enjoyed watching Pych and Russomanno advance toward the circle.
"We were a player down so to see that type of intensity at that point was great," Alderman said. "The girls worked hard to score using quick passes to the goal. We knew going in that it was going to be a tough game. We have similar styles. We were going to have to step it up. We kept the effort up and stayed strong."
Over the last two minutes, the Marauders attempted to draw even, bringing the ball deep into Morristown-Beard territory. Over the final 1:22, Mount Olive was awarded two corners but was denied by Crimson goalie Lindsay Pych (9 saves) and the stalwart defense.
The horn sounded, signaling the end of the game. However, several seconds were added. At that juncture, Mount Olive (6-4) was still hoping to force OT.
"I was pretty nervous then," Wright said.
"We held them today on the corners," Palazzetti said. "Sometimes, we struggle with them. They put a wall around us at the very end."
Marauders coach Kelly Livingston deemed her squad's first half better than the second. Mount Olive went into halftime with a slight edge in shots on goal, 5-4.
"We were a little off overall," Livingston said. "In the first half, we were passing stick to stick, communicating and winning 50-50 balls. We could've been better. We were not on our game."
Livingston called a timeout following Morristown-Beard's goal and asked "Who's ready?"
"My players were excited. They had a positive mindset but didn't finish," she said. "We're going to reflect back and we'll be frustrated. We'll be mad. We felt it could've been us. We'll take this momentum and use it to carry us into our next game."
Standouts for the Marauders were three seniors - back Annalee Smith and midfielders Gina Verrone and Alyssa Borozan. Hallie Schwartzstein also excelled on defense for Morristown-Beard (7-1).
At halftime, Alderman challenged the Crimson, telling them "it would come down to fitness and how much you want to win the game."
"It was nice to see them not give up," Alderman said. "If you keep working, it'll come."
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