MONTVILLE _ Morristown needs to work a little bit on its celebrations.
Other than that, everything went just as the Colonials dreamed it would when they made their first appearance in the Morris County Girls Lacrosse Tournament final.
Annika Begley scored four goals and Ava Plott had a hat trick in Morristown's 10-6 triumph over Mountain Lakes in the MCT final held at Montville High School on Saturday, May 5.
Sarah Chupak scored twice and Callie Sundin had a goal and two assists for the top-seeded Colonials. Faith Reilly fired a hat trick for second-seeded Mountain Lakes, which was seeking its third consecutive county title and seventh county title overall.
Morristown joins Mountain Lakes, Chatham, Mendham and West Morris Central as the only schools to win the MCT girls lacrosse title in the 22-year history of the tournament.
It was sweet revenge for Morristown, the top seed in 2017. The Colonials were eliminated in the semifinals by Mountain Lakes. Despite earning the win, the Colonials seemed a little dazed by their victory and not quite sure how to celebrate.
"It doesn't feel real,'' tournament MVP Nicole Ferrara said. "We came in knowing that we were the No. 1 team and we were ready to go but it just doesn't seem real. Compared to last year, this was a completely different story.''
The Colonials knew they could do it and they reminded themselves of the middle school title they won when they were members of the Frelinghuysen School four years ago. Still, capturing something you've dreamed about winning for years is quite an accomplishment.
"We've been working for this for so long,'' Begley said. "The fact that we really achieved it is so shocking. We just started dominating in every aspect of the field. Defense, draw, attack was just being more composed. We turned up our game in the second half. We really stepped it up.''
Morristown coach Evan Mager believed that the unselfishness and versatility of captains Begley, Sundin and Ferrara and the growth of the younger members of the squad helped Morristown achieve its goal.
"The best thing that I learned this year is it's not just the three of them supporting each other,'' Mager said. "It's our bench and it's everybody on the field. Eva Plott, Sarah Chupak, our entire attack, defensive unit. Everybody stepped up and supported each other. It's an amazing thing for me as a coach.''
Second-half adjustments and the rock-hard firm belief that victory was at hand was what helped Morristown break away from the 4-4 halftime tie. Morristown connected for four goals in a 12-minute span. Once it was determined that Mountain Lakes was focusing it energies on stopping Ferrara, who was the top scorer in Morristown's semifinal win over Chatham, the Colonials were able to make some adjustments.
"We had to adjust our game slightly but we were working out kinks in the first half. We realized what we needed to do,'' Sundin said. "We adjusted to the defensive style, the backer (zone) and we were able to see the opportunities to make smart finishes. Getting adjusted to it was hard at first but Nicole was great off ball and Annika did a great job driving and everyone was cutting where they needed to be.''
The draw was also crucial and Begley was able to win consecutive faceoffs and Morristown built its lead off of those possessions.
"When it goes up in the air, I know my main job is to box out,'' Sundin said. "Annika has the jump one-handed and it works every time. Sarah (Chupak) did a great job boxing out and being ready for ground balls. We know how to help one another succeed.''
Morristown ended up winning 12 of the last 16 draws which helped it build momentum and also take time off the clock once it established a substantial lead.
"Just being able to modify what we were doing, alter the direction where the ball was going and how it was setting up, that was really important,'' Begley said. "We were really working together off the draw. The girls in the center were really hustling on ground balls. It was really big for us and it gave us confidence on attack.''
Sundin picked up the draw control that started the second half. Begley converted It on a free-position opportunity. She planted in the top right corner of the net to make it 5-4 at 20:38. The Lakers won the next draw but turned the ball over. Then a Mountain Lakes player was carded for a slash. Morristown took advantage on a restart when Plott, a sophomore, converted on freshman Katie Siverson's feed to make it 6-4 for a man-advantage goal at 16:30.
"Ava stepped up, Katie (Siverson) stepped up, Logan (Heher) stepped up,'' Ferrara said. "They did what they had to do. They took my role.''
Mager agreed and has been pleased with the growth of the underclassmen.
"Ava was huge,'' Mager said. "She is taking her opportunities. She is becoming a very, very smart player. She is not forcing things. Her shot has been incredible the last couple of games. She is learning to place the ball. For us seeing her, Sarah Chupak and Logan (Heher) and Katie Siverson, step up has been great. They are freshmen and sophomores but they are not playing like that. They are stepping up and growing at the level. The other three are pushing them to be better and that's a great thing to see.''
Begley won the next faceoff by herself and pushed the ball again toward the cage. After another restart, Begley would get the ball back and score unassisted on another righty shot to make it 7-4 at 14:41.The Lakers did win the next draw but a hard Sarah Monteleone shot was blocked by Morristown goalie Kara O'Brien. While trying to get the ball back, the Lakers were hit with another slashing call. The Colonials took advantage of it when Chupak, a sophomore, connected after getting a pass from Sundin to make it 8-4 at 12:08.
Twice, the Lakers made it a three-goal game and threatened a rally of their own. However, their momentum was thwarted with goals by Plott at 6:02 and 2:23. Her final tallied provided the last goal of the game.
Begley won another draw after that and the Colonials were able to seal the victory and make history.
"The only difference was we knew we had to win it,'' Sundin said. "We deserved to win it. This was our chance and we weren't going to not let it happen. It was just the mindset.''