MONTVILLE _ Scoring a goal just before halftime always gives the lacrosse team that scored it a boost.
On Thursday, May 3, it helped elevate Mountain Lakes to a 9-6 Morris County Tournament semifinal victory over Mendham.
Sarah Monteleone scored six goals to pace the Lakers. Breanna Wilson notched five assists and Faith Reilly added two goals and one assist.
Second-seeded Mountain Lakes, the two-time defending MCT champ, advances to play top-seeded Morristown in the MCT final scheduled for Saturday, also at Montville. The Colonials earned their first appearance in the championship game with a 14-6 win over fourth-seeded Chatham in a contest that had a 45-minute lightning delay.
Megan Graziano and Ashley Peck scored two goals apiece for third-seeded Mendham. It was the second time this year that the Lakers have beaten the Minutemen. Mountain Lakes won 13-11 in a game on March 28.
"I'm extremely excited," Monteleone said. "I'm excited personally and for the team as a whole. We worked extremely hard this season improving ourselves and working together to get here. I really do think we deserve it.''
The turning point of the game came just before the half with the score tied, 4-4. The Lakers called a timeout in the final seconds to set up a play.
"Brenna and I were talking as we were walking back out,'' Monteleone said. "She asked me if there was time, should we risk (a scoring opportunity) it and I said 'Yes'. She fed me an awesome pass and we ended up scoring off of it.''
Monteleone was inside the eight-meter line when she caught the pass and fired a lefty shot into the upper left corner of the net. Her score made it a 5-4 and gave the Lakers an emotional and psychological boost.
"It was very important,'' senior Faith Reilly said. "It kept us on top and kept our momentum strong. In the second half, we kept working on plays and running through them and keeping the ball in our sticks.''
The score gave the Lakers energy and they proceeded to score four of the next five goals, including two by Monteleone, to help Mountain Lakes build a 9-5 advantage at the 15-minute mark.
"We wanted to take the lead going into the half if we could get it,'' Monteleone said. "We knew that we had to keep that same intensity and match the intensity of the first half.''
Part of the reason they built momentum was because of the Lakers' success on the draw. Mountain Lakes won 11-of-17 faceoffs, most of them taken by Monteleone. Those wins amounted to lengthy possessions that kept Mendham on its defensive end and ran time off the clock.
"They had a good lefty pull (Kelly McIntyre),'' Monteleone said. "I'm a lefty and that was why I was taking it so I could pull against her. Our girls (Reilly, Sophia Holt) did a really good job boxing out on the circle.''
Reilly and Haley Tietjen also connected or goals during the run. Exceptional conditioning on the part of the Lakes, who made sure they were hydrated in preparation for the game, and the 90-degree heat made it difficult for Mendham to mount a successful comeback.
A score by Peck, a freshman, cut the advantage to 9-6 with 1:48 left in the game, but the Lakers won the next draw and a Minutemen player was carded for a slash which secured the victory.
Morristown 14, Chatham 6
Junior Nicole Ferrara scored seven goals to earn the Colonials a berth in the championship game for the first time in school history. The triumph provided a little revenge since Chatham defeated Morristown in the opening game of the season.
Ferrara scored five consecutive second-half goals, her last coming at the eight-minute mark to give the Colonials a 12-6 advantage. Sundin and Begley combined to capture 17 draw controls and give Morristown plenty of possessions in which to score.
***PHOTO GALLERY OF MOUNTAIN LAKES VS. MENDHAM GAME BELOW***