BOONTON _ Nervous energy was evident when Boonton played Madison in its bid to secure a share of the NJAC-Liberty Division title.
Flying high but a bit on edge, the Bombers edged out the Dodgers to ensure they'd split top honors in the conference.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, Boonton went into its North Jersey Group I semifinal with even more energy and replaced its jitters with a mega dose of confidence and the result was a 2-0 shutout of Mountain Lakes.
The goals, off of corners, were scored by Jocelyn Martinez and Ani Myers in the second quarter less than five minutes apart and launched the third-seeded Bombers into the sectional final versus Shore Regional.
"There was a different kind of energy today," Boonton coach Cindy Tserkis-Schlitt said. "The team was pumped when we played Madison for the conference but there was some nervousness. We played Mountain Lakes for the third time and the girls knew what they had to do."
Confidence, in the form of courage, tenacity and fearlessness, was at the forefront of the Bombers' 18th victory, their third against Mountain Lakes. The players and fans celebrated the win and the team's final home game as the sirens sounded from the fire engines in the parking lot. Tuesday's sectional championship game will be contested at Shore Regional at 4 p.m.
"This was a big win for our team and we all rallied together," said Myers, a sophomore left midfielder. "This will boost us and give us momentum. Mountain Lakes came in here with a lot of intensity. I think we did well handling it. If someone gets beat, someone hustles back or gets the ball up to a teammate."
For senior inner Tania Zeb, the victory was the ultimate birthday present. Zeb, one of four seniors on Boonton's roster, planned to go to dinner with her family to celebrate her 18th birthday.
"This feels amazing. It feels surreal," said Zeb, while eating a cupcake. "This is the best birthday gift."
Boonton, whose last sectional crown was attained in 2004, came out on top but not without a challenge by the neighboring rival Lakers. Mountain Lakes, seeded 10th, had three corners in a span of 1:05 commencing 1:20 into the closing quarter. The Lakers' Kaylin Oey had several breakaways and Hannah Lees is always a threat. The Bombers, however, denied them.
"It was a full team effort, front to back," Tserkis-Schlitt said. "The defense handled the passing lanes and the big ball Mountain Lakes was trying to send through. Tayla Szmak, our goalie, shut down Lees. Kaylee (Hughen) and Lila (Maggio) kept the ball on our strong side. We can always rely on them to do their jobs."
Martinez, a junior, put Boonton up, 1-0, by converting 1:50 into the second period. The ball was put into play off the corner by Myers. Martinez received it and passed to Maggio, who took a shot. Lakers goalie Arianna Fragomeni made the stop and Liz Harbeson kept up the pressure by trying to control the ball. Hughen got her stick on the ball and sent it toward the goalcage before Martinez swept it in.
Myers, a sophomore left midfielder, isn't accustomed to scoring goals because she's the inserter on corners yet she got herself into position to capitalize and knocked in her second goal with 8:46 remaining in the second period.
"The ball was bouncing around and I was on the left post," said Myers, a triplet, whose sister, Phoebe, assisted on her score. "I just chipped it in. I needed a hard hit to get the ball to the top so I could go to the post. Sometimes, I don't hit the ball hard enough or it gets in my head."
No doubt, the Myers' ability to work so well together comes from time spent practicing on their own on weekends.
"Ani is hard working and she's really hard on herself," Tserkis-Schlitt said. "She's mentally tough and highly motivated."
The shutout was the 17th this fall for Szmak (9 saves).
"Tayla gives the defense confidence to move up," Tserkis-Schlitt said. "If she didn't, they'd hang back."
Right now, no one is holding back. The Bombers have a sectional title to vie for.
On Nov. 11, 2004, Boonton nipped Mountain Lakes 1-0 in a dramatic shootout which was highlighted by goals by Lauren Troiano, Nikki Prill and Roxanne Calandra.
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