MOUNTAIN LAKES _ Anything can happen in girls lacrosse state tournament play. All a team needs is a hot goalie and the ability to execute and it can find itself with a title.
Michaela McMahon fired a hat trick, including the game-winning goal, in Saddle River Day's 6-5 overtime upset win of Mountain Lakes in the North 1, Group I girls lacrosse final on Friday, May 25.
Haley Tietjen scored twice and Sophia Holt and Sarah Monteleone and Kate Carolanza added goals for the top-seeded Lakers (12-8). The Rebels of Saddle River Day are 8-13 but have won their last five games.
When it counted, Mountain Lakes couldn't get the ball past keeper Isabella Garabo, who made 10 saves and used her aggressiveness to frustrate the Lakers on the offensive end. It is the second consecutive year that Saddle River Day defeated Mountain Lakes in the sectional final.
"She played fantastic," said Mountain Lakes coach Jen Topakas about the Saddle River Day netminder. "You can't win a championship game when you only score five goals. She played great. She stood on her head. She made saves. She did an awesome job."
Garabo surprised even her own teammates with her aggressiveness in the title game. Several times, she came out of the net to disrupt Mountain Lakes' passes or initiate clears. Even though her overaggressiveness led to Carolanza's goal off a ground ball at 7:22 to tie the game at 5-5, it didn't affect her play.
"We have never seen her make that many saves, such aggressive saves,'' Saddle River Day coach Lindsay Parent said. "She was playing the field aggressively and looking for the ball. This was totally all her keeping us in the game. She comes out on the field aggressively but, on the saves, we saw a lot more energy out of her. The confidence was in her today. She had a couple of flubs but she didn't let it take her down.''
As for the Lakers, Topakas was happy with their effort but was disappointed with her team's level of execution and lack of tough mindedness.
"We try to teach (mental toughness) all the time,'' Topakas said. "Who wants the ball? Who wants to be in charge? Who wants to step up and make that happen? I feel like the effort was there but they just didn't perform.''
The game was tied 5-5 and the Lakers, after calling a timeout, had possession the final two minutes but did not get a shot on net.
"It was absolutely poor execution,'' Topakas said. "We didn't execute all day. That was the bottom line. When you can't finish, you can't win a game. We had plenty of opportunities to score. We just couldn't put the ball in the net.''
In the overtime, Saddle River Day won the draw. Coach Parent preached patience in order to get a good shot. That meant getting the ball in McMahon's hands.
"Michaela is totally the quarterback,'' Parent said. "She has a huge responsibility being a midfielder, taking the draw. A lot of the girls look for her to have the ball. She certainly stepped up.''
It took about a minute into the overtime for the Rebels to find an opening. McMahon found her chance and buried the ball with a lefty shot into the upper left corner of the net with 1:41 left on the clock. She was quickly pounced on by her thrilled teammates.
"I remember passing it to my little sister, Sophia, who was open in the middle,'' McMahon said. "She passed it back out to me. I saw a lane on my left side and i just went for it. I shot it and I saw it go in. It feels amazing. After the season that we had (a 3-13 start) we never expected to come out on top again. This is such an amazing feeling. I can't even explain it. We worked so hard.''
The shot ended the season for the Lakers and the varsity careers of seven seniors, five of which will be playing collegiately next spring.
"I taught a lot of them in fourth grade and I'm going to be sad to see them go,'' Topakas said. "They have been around since I started coaching little kids camps. We definitely have some talent returning which is positive. We will certainly miss those guys."