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Montville's Wax nets 1,000th point

MONTVILLE _ For some players, scoring 1,000 points in high school is a burning desire.

Not for Montville senior guard Emma Wax, who never zeroed in on the milestone. Sure, it crossed her mind a little bit but she's more about winning games than attaining personal accolades.

However, on Monday, Dec. 30, Wax accumulated 24 points, including the 1,000th of her career, when Montville recorded a 63-37 victory over Hillside in the Mustangs' third game at the Paterson Kennedy Holiday Tournament. Wax not only scored, she had seven rebounds, five assists and five steals in the game which pushed Montville's record to 5-0.

"It was definitely in the back of my head as it got closer but it was never a goal," Wax said. "If it comes, it comes. We want to win games and get a few championships this season. Still, scoring 1,000 points is extra special."

Wax fired in the first of her four 3-pointers in the opening period to join the O'Reilly sisters, Kelly and Katie, and Julianne Kowalski as the girls 1,000-point scorers at Montville. Kelly O'Reilly was the last player to hit the mark, accomplishing the feat on Feb. 3, 2015. Her sister did it the year before while Kowalski became the first to reach the coveted plateau in 2007.

"It's an honor," said Wax, who has committed to Marist.

To celebrate Wax and her family went out for pizza. When she surpassed 1,000, the game was stopped and she went to the bench area to hug her teammates and coaches.

Montville coach Derek Lynn was thrilled for Wax, the third player to land a spot on the banner in the gym that touts the names of the school's top offensive standouts. More than her physical abilities, Lynn said that Wax has the demeanor required to thrive in pressure situations.

"Emma's consistency is her strength," he said. "She's never high and never low. She stays right in the middle. Emma has been great for our program."

Wax, who plays AAU for the New Jersey Freedom out of Oakland, began playing basketball at the age of 4 in a West Orange park with her father, Adam, and her grandfather, Jerry. Her dad played the sport in high school and her grandfather competed on the collegiate level so she had plenty of encouragement and support.

She prides herself on being a good playmaker, although scoring is fine with her.

"It's not just scoring," Wax said. "It's making the plays. Other teams guard me hard. I'm faceguarded hard. I just keep trying to make good passes."

 

Cliff Back Invitational

MADISON _ Savanna Marcantonio's dad, Frank, a frequent supporter at her track meets, couldn't make it to the Cliff Back Invitational because he wasn't feeling well.

The elder Marcantonio, however, wanted his daughter to know he was thinking about her and sent her a text during the high jump competition.

You've got this, it read.

Marcantonio, a Whippany Park junior, proceeded to jump 5 feet, 2 inches, matching her personal record, and went on to claim first place in the high jump at the meet held on Thursday, Jan. 2 at Drew University.

"I'm more consistent now," Marcantonio said. "I've gotten 5-2 a few times this winter. I'm happy with it. I feel like it's going to be a good season."

Wildcats assistant coach Katie Karovic, a College of New Jersey graduate and Whippany Park alumnae, advised Marcantonio to "jump" and "reach up" after the two viewed videos of her earlier attempts. Marcantonio did just that, putting all of her concentration into her form.

The ability to plant her foot and utilize her speed make Marcantonio a strong high jumper. In addition, she said that playing other sports has helped her flexibility and athleticism. A three-year starter at forward for the soccer team, Marcantonio was responsible for throw ins. She played basketball as a freshman and has taken part in spring track since entering high school.

In the spring, javelin is another forte and she aspires to compete in that event in college, where she plans to major in physical education.

"I'm thinking of college so it's my first time doing winter track," she said. "I want to get better and get ready for the spring."

Marcantonio's teammate, senior Alexis Schauder, cleared 9 feet to take gold in the pole vault. It was Schauder's second meet this winter and, although she vaulted six inches less than her PR, she was satisfied.

"I'm happy with how I did," Schauder said. "The last meet didn't go very well. I'm getting back into vaulting. Today was the first day back to school after the break and I'm a little tired."

Schauder, a club gymnast for 10 years, has greatly improved her swing. She's been working on her core and leg strength by lifting at the gym. She decided to try pole vault at the suggestion of her mother, who noted that other gymnasts had succeeded in the sport.

Undecided on a college, Schauder would like to study biology with a concentration in genetics.

Mendham's Megan Smith, a sophomore, took the 3,200-meter run in 11:56.32 despite experiencing lower back pain. She attributed the discomfort to "the pounding" caused by running.

"I was slower than I wanted to be," Smith said. "I'll take care of it and come back stronger. Everyone on our team worked super hard. My priority was to help the team."

Other first-place finishers were Randolph's Karen Hull (55-meter hurdles), Scotch Plains' Jenai Berry (800 meters), Chatham's Maya Lee (55-meter dash), Mount Olive's Sophia Redmond (400-meter dash), Scotch Plains' Julia Jackson (300-meter dash), Villa Walsh's Sara Hanifin (1,000-meter run), Mount Olive (4x100) and Melissa Aymil of Mendham (shot put).

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Crusaders thrive vs. HP in opener

EAST HANOVER _ The number "1" on the front and back of Tyonna Bailey's basketball uniform reveals much about Morris Catholic's freshman guard.

Bailey selected it for a reason and intends to live up to the lofty digit in every way imaginable.

"I want to be first in everything," Bailey said. "That's why I chose it."

In her high school debut, Bailey, already receiving attention from Division I colleges, put herself at the top, scoring 25 points and taking down 13 rebounds when the Crusaders defeated Hanover Park 71-42 in the NJAC-Liberty Division season opener for both teams on Friday, Dec. 20.

Two days later, the 5-foot-10 Bailey, who turned 14 last week, posted 27 points, 17 rebounds and five assists to pace Morris Catholic to a 74-61 victory over Paramus Catholic.

"Tyonna is going to be dominant," said Crusaders coach Billy Lovett of Bailey, who had nine points to help Morris Catholic to a 25-8 first-quarter lead versus the Hornets. "She's a highly skilled basketball player. Her motor and her basketball IQ are exceptional. Tyonna has the desire to get better every day. She works hard. She gets shots up. Tyonna wants to be the best."

Bailey, a Newark resident, continued to power Morris Catholic into the second period against Hanover Park and accumulated 16 points by halftime. Field goals came in a variety of ways - off of putbacks, 10-to-12-foot jumpers, layups, a 3-pointer.

Was Bailey, a member of the New Jersey Sparks AAU squad, nervous?

"I was during warmups," she said. "At the jumpball, my jitterbugs left and I just played."

Still, the double-double Bailey recorded didn't leave her satisfied. Aspects of her game, she noted, need to improve.

"I did OK," she said. "There are certain things I need to work on so I can dominate. I could be better on defense and get more rebounds."

Junior forward Jadyn Watson, a transfer from Hudson Catholic, made an impact, too, in the Crusaders' first two games. Watson had 17 points and 15 rebounds in the Hanover Park game and 17 points and 14 rebounds at Paramus Catholic. Mimi Rubino, the lone returning letterwinner, had 12 points and passed for 10 assists on Friday. Rubino, a senior guard, contributed 14 points and 5 assists on Sunday.

With a trio of players capable of double-doubles each time out, Morris Catholic is a strong contender for conference, county and state titles. Nicole Strumolo, a junior, also will be a force on offense. She had 18 points in the Crusaders' first two games.

One thing that didn't sit well with Lovett was the 19 turnovers Morris Catholic had on opening night.

"It was a good first game for us but I don't think we played well," he said. "If we clean up the turnovers, we'll be better. It was a good start to the season and to conference play."

Lovett indicated that defense will be the Crusaders' forte.

"We try to win every four minutes and challenge ourselves," Lovett said. "We want defensive stops and to execute on offense. Our main goal is to establish the defensive pace. We want to make people take tough shots and for the defense to help the offense."

The Crusaders had a nine-point run in the opening quarter, which featured 3-pointers by Rubino and Strumolo, to take control and attain a 14-4 advantage 3:28 into the game. Ahead 18-8, Morris Catholic ran off seven unanswered points in the last 52.3 seconds of the first period to pull in front, 25-8. In the second quarter, the visitors had a six-point run.

Hanover Park, under the direction of first-year coach Tara Kelly, never yielded and battled for the duration. Brielle Junda, a senior guard, fueled the Hornets with a 21-point effort. The spirited and speedy Junda recorded 15 in the first half. She netted a pair of 3s in the second period and made a three-point play.

"We played against the best and we gave our all," Kelly said. "The girls work hard. As a coach, I'm extremely proud of them."

Kelly commended Francesca DiMaiolo for her nine points and Olivia Cosenzo for her 10 rebounds.

"Francesca gave 100 percent. She was great," Kelly said. "Olivia is maybe 5-foot-7 and got her rebounds against a monster team."

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Pequannock ends lengthy title drought

PEQUANNOCK TWP. _ There was no specific reason for Brynn Kelly's promotion to Pequannock's starting lineup.

The decision was made on Oct. 24, the day the Golden Panthers opened play in the state tournament. Since then, Kelly, a junior forward, has had a major impact on the attack, scoring a goal in each of Pequannock's postseason games.

On Friday, Nov. 1, nine days after earning her spot among the top 11, Kelly struck first, converting off a corner with 5:42 remaining in the opening half to help the Golden Panthers to a 3-0 victory over Boonton in the North Jersey Section 1, Group I final.

"This is so unreal," said Kelly of the sectional title, Pequannock's first since 2003. "We worked long and hard for it and we finally did it. This is amazing."

The Golden Panthers, slated to meet Shore Regional in a Group I semifinal on Tuesday, put in all three of their goals off corners. Charlotte Hardie scored the other goal in the first half, converting 1:09 before the break. Victoria Chavez made it 3-0 in the second half by sending the ball across the goal line with only 2:37 elapsed.

Pequannock coach Diane Bolchune was elated by the  win because of the 16-year stretch without a sectional championship. She was happy as well for Kelly, previously one of the first players off the bench.

"It's awesome. Unbelievable," Bolchune said. "The girls earned it. They deserve it. All we had to do was keep our composure and play the way we know how to play. If we get things in our heads, it shuts us down. It psyches us out. Brynn has been doing so well. She started clicking recently and is doing what we needed her to do. She's always in the right spot at the right time."

Kelly's goal came off an assist by Hardie. Kelly ran into the circle from the right side and went to the right post. Hardie sent the ball in and Kelly, also a member of the swimming and lacrosse teams, deflected it into the left side of the goalcage.

"It's been really exciting to start," Kelly said. "Right before our first state game, our coach told me I'd be starting. I was like 'OK. I've got to do this.'"

Junior center back Emily Deitch stood out on defense along with Alex Charenson and Molly Dolan. Deitch was intent on being part of a sectional title squad after hearing her batting coach, Emily Ringen, talk about the 2003 title run. Ringen, now the dean of students and head softball coach at Lyndhurst, was a freshman in high school when the Golden Panthers claimed their eighth sectional crown under legendary coach Carole Schoen.

"(Ringen) showed me some photos of her playing," Deitch said. "She told me it was great. We've lost to Boonton a lot over the last three years and, today, we didn't know what to expect. We just had to play our best and to put everything out there."

To get fired up for the game, each Pequannock player chose a quote that would be read during warmups. Deitch picked "Talent wins games but teamwork and inspiration win championships." They also wrote PEQ on the inside of their wrists.

"Each time we looked at the letters, we were reminded that we were playing for each other," Deitch said.

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Chatham lands berth in final

CHATHAM _ The members of the Chatham field hockey team couldn't contain themselves as they navigated the hallways of the high school prior to their North Jersey Section 2, Group III semifinal.

"We'd see each other and we'd yell. We'd shake each other," said Alexa Lee, whose second-half goals powered the second-seeded Cougars past Colts Neck 3-1 on Tuesday, Oct. 29. "Everyone was so excited."

The players, who wore their shooting shirts and uniforms to school, had an abundant amount of energy during the day and managed to turn it up even more at game time. That exuberance meant extra hustle and determination.

Lee, a junior forward, knocked in what proved to be the game-winning goal 6:11 after halftime. Lee, a first-year starter, received a pass from Gabby Cutlip and deflected the ball into the right post from close range.

"It's been a very long time since we've been to the sectional final and the girls deserve it," Chatham coach Kaitlin Leyden said. "The girls brought a lot of energy and it was hard to compete with it. It was their mindset... Their passing and technique were on and they were determined to win. They were all over the field."

Those factors kept Colts Neck at bay for much of the game. The Cougars' tenacity and focus halted the visitors nearly every time they had possession. Carlin Chazen, a junior, and Ella DuRie, a senior, were two of Chatham's standouts on defense.

Jess Thesing was the lone Colts Neck player to break through, connecting off a corner three minutes into the second half. Thesing's goal knotted the score, 1-1. The Cougars, however, did not get rattled.

"We worked so hard for it," Chazen said. "We were so pumped up for this. We worked together and communicated. We run a lot in practice. We condition every day and are disciplined. We knew what to do and knew we had to hustle."

After Colts Neck scored, Chatham, which has won three of its last four games after a three-game losing streak, allowed few opportunities. The players' minds were on moving to the sectional final and nothing was going to stop them. Lee ensured the trip to Friday's title game versus Middletown South, registering her second goal with 4:17 remaining. Lee dribbled into the circle, dodging two defenders on the way and took a shot. The Colts Neck goalie, Steph Lonano, dove to her left to make the save but Lee got a stick on it and sent the ball into the center of the goalcage.

In the opening half, the Cougars, who outshot Colts Neck, 11-6, received a goal off a corner from Avery Buckman with 9:37 left.

DuRie, one of nine seniors on Chatham's roster, described the win as "one of the best feelings."

"We all jelled," she said. "We're playing well. We've improved so much as the season has gone on."

According to Lee, the Cougars (13-4-2) likely will dress up for Halloween on Thursday and perhaps do some skits to stay loose. Last Friday, one day before their quarterfinal state tournament game against Somerville, Chatham went to a salon, Luxe on Main, and all of the players got cornrows, a bonding activity that lasted three hours.

"We're very close," Lee said. "We have great respect and an understanding of each other. We want this for each other. We want to keep playing."

Leyden is looking forward to the final as are her players.

"Being in the final is a great feeling," Leyden said. "We've been working on winning a sectional title since I got here. Win or lose, the girls are going to be proud of themselves."

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West Morris notches first MCT title

BOONTON _ Alex Belen said the slip of paper, carefully placed between her shinguard and her sock, was meant to be a reminder of what West Morris sought to accomplish in the Morris County Tournament final.

Champion, it read.

The eight-letter word, however, became more of a mandate, at least that's the way the top-seeded Wolfpack viewed it.

Belen, a senior right back, and her West Morris teammates channeled the word into a into their first MCT title on Tuesday, Oct. 15 by prevailing over Morristown-Beard, 2-1, in overtime.

"It was part of our locker room talk," Belen said. "We always do something special before every big game. Each letter in champion stands for something, like courage, hustle, perserverance. It's what we are as a team."

The Crimson, after a sluggish first half, displayed the same qualities, making for an epic title game between two squads vying for their first county title. Morristown-Beard was appearing in the final for the second consecutive year. Sarah Bietka snapped the 1-1 deadlock 1:38 into the first extra period, sending the Wolfpack into a spirited celebration in front of the Crimson goalcage.

"This is one of the best feelings ever," said Bietka, a senior inner. "We worked for years to have this feeling. To do what no other field hockey team in our school has done is..."

Bietka's goal materialized on the right side of the field. Sophia Prata brought the ball down and crossed to Bietka, who shot on goal. Morristown-Beard repelled it and Bietka picked up the rebound then sent the ball past three defenders and into the left side of the goalcage.

Bietka, the offensive MVP, deemed the score "my best ever" and noted that she had never converted in overtime.

"I've always loved to score but it's never been just me," she said. "Never. It's a team effort each time."

Twenty minutes after the decisive goal, West Morris lingered on the turf field at Boonton High School, taking photos and savoring what they had accomplished. In the midst of the post-game revelry, West Morris coach Courtney Barnett, elated by the win, did what she promised her players she'd do if they won - her eighth grade cheerleader dance.

"I'm so excited for them," said Barnett, a standout three-sport athlete at Morris Knolls High School before starring in field hockey at Rider University. "This is something we believed we could do after losing in the quarterfinals last season. The girls worked for it and it wasn't easy. To do it in dramatic fashion shows their heart and grit.

"The title has eluded us and we wanted it. It was a matter of executing. I know Morristown-Beard wanted it as much. Both teams were exhausted by overtime. Somehow, we were able to take it to another level and get the job done."

Prata posted the lone goal of the first half, knocking the ball in 13:01 before halftime. West Morris was in control from the start but was denied again and again by the Crimson (11-2).

Morristown-Beard emerged from the break driven and determined to pull even. Ella Singer, the transfer from Millburn High School who had the lone goal in the Crimson's upset of two-time defending champion Madison in the semifinals, connected off a corner 8:49 into the second half.

The goal jarred the Wolfpack, intent on staying calm and focused. Each team had multiple corner opportunities yet was unable to capitalize.

"For a split second, there was some worry," Belen said. "Then we said 'We've got this.' Our coach tells us never to get down on ourselves. We were resilient. We kept playing with a lot of heart."

Bietka thought "What will we do now?" when the Crimson knotted the score.

What they ended up doing was standing tall despite threats posed by Morristown-Beard. Victoria Bodnar, the goalie, with much assistance from the defense, was highly effective and ended with 11 saves. Sophomore forward Julia Carbone was stellar throughout, pressuring, cutting back and in front and redirecting the ball.

Crimson goalie Josie Ashton, who made eight saves, was named the defensive MVP. Defender Jesslyn Patricia was a presence, often thwarting the Wolfpack's attackers.

"Overtime is always tough," Morristown-Beard coach Kate Alderman said. "I'm incredibly proud of what this team did out there tonight. We picked up our play in the second half and played our game. We worked hard and were more aggressive."

Belen was elated to leave the field a winner. After all, it was only a year ago that West Morris, top-seeded again, was ousted in the quarterfinals.

"It's amazing, especially because of overtime," Belen said. "Morristown-Beard is great. They put up a fight. I can't believe this. It's so good to get the county title."

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West Morris blanks Cougars in MCT

BOONTON _ West Morris coach Courtney Barnett advised her players not to forget the game that brought their hopes of a Morris County Tournament title to an abrupt end.

Seeded second in 2018, the Wolfpack appeared likely to gain a berth in the semifinals and advice to the final. Tenth-seeded Parsippany had different plans and ousted West Morris 1-0 in the quarterfinal round.

Remembering the pain and disappointment of that early exit, West Morris, the top seed, blanked Chatham 4-0 in a MCT semifinal on Saturday, Oct. 12.

"That was awful," said Sophia Prata, who knocked in two goals against the Cougars, when recalling the upset. "Our coach told us to hold onto that feeling and use it when it was most needed. We were out for revenge today. To capitalize on that... I'm just speechless."

Seniors Jenna Leonhardt and Sarah Bietka also converted for the Wolfpack, intent on living up to their No. 1 seed. West Morris struck twice in a span of one minute, 38 seconds in the first half. The goal that put the Wolfpack up 1-0 came off the stick of Leonhardt 12:55 into the opening half. Lauren Compoli, who sprinted to get to the ball after it was cleared out of the circle following the corner, picked up the first of her two assists on the score.

Compoli, a midfielder, then set up Prata's goal which staked West Morris to a 2-0 lead less than two minutes later. Prata said there was "a lot of commotion in front of the goal" before she put the ball into the right side of the cage.

"There were relentless efforts and second efforts," Barnett said. "Lauren was one of the ones putting in the extra effort. That hustle makes a difference. Efforts like that take a lot off of one or two individuals doing it all."

Everyone was doing everything for the Wolfpack and there was simply no quit.

"We were very, very confident," Prata said. "We play as a team. Everything we do, we do as a team. It's so amazing to win. We have another opportunity to showcase our skills. That's because we did it together."

West Morris, which last appeared in the MCT final in 2016, falling 1-0 to Morristown, was intent on capitalizing early and it did. However, Chatham had its share of surges for the remainder of the first half and did not let up after the break either.

After halftime, Bietka and Prata knocked in goals off corners. Bietka put the Wolfpack up 3-0 three minutes into the second half. Prata closed it out with 2:17 remaining.

"It's tough to see an opponent three times and to win three times," Barnett said. "Chatham is one of the best in the conference. It was huge to score first and to get on the scoreboard early."

The Bodnars, Victoria, the goalie, and Brittany, the left back, were solid on defense for West Morris (15-1-1). 

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Crimson shock Madison in MCT semifinals

BOONTON _ Morristown-Beard wasn't playing for a title - that's next - but the feeling was nearly the same, maybe even better.

The Crimson, buoyed by Ella Singer's goal off a corner 7:02 into the second half, edged two-time defending champion Madison, 1-0, in a Morris County Tournament semifinal on Saturday, Oct. 12 at Boonton High School.

It was Morristown-Beard's first win over the Dodgers in school history and earned it a return trip to the MCT final, where it will square off against top-seeded West Morris. Although Singer is a transfer from Millburn High School, she knows well the significance of the third-seeded Crimson ousting second-seeded Madison. It would be equivalent to the Millers stunning powerhouse West Essex.

"This is amazing," said Singer, a junior center midfielder. "It was great. It was just our time to show that we could do it."

Last fall, Singer had another exhilarating moment, registering the tying and winning goals when Millburn defeated Middletown South 3-2 to claim the North Jersey Section 2, Group III crown. It was special because it was the Millers' first sectional championship in 25 years.

Singer, the inserter on corners, sent the ball to Emma Karrat at the top of the circle. Karrat passed to Singer, who scored into the right side. It was a tense 22 minutes and 58 seconds before Morristown-Beard could exhale and soak in the historic victory.

"We've been so close and we've not quite done it," Crimson coach Kate Alderman said. "The girls have worked hard. They wanted it. It was a team effort all around. Beating Madison has been a goal of ours. We'll celebrate today then focus on what's next. We want to win the counties."

Annabel Plante, also a junior midfielder, considered the win over Madison, which had captured 23 MCT titles overall and 11 of the last 13, "surreal."

"Since freshman year, we've wanted to beat Madison," Plante said. "I think it happened because of the way we work together. We wanted it badly. It's incredible."

Apparently, so was the dance party that the Plante family hosted on Friday night. Not only did the Morristown-Beard players show off their dance moves, they feasted on pasta, chicken fingers and Halloween cookies. Despite the early start time - 9 a.m. - and some restless sleep, the Crimson were ready to go.

Singer admitted to being "a little nervous" about playing at 9 a.m. She rose at 6:30 and ate a protein bar. Plante had her mother, Kara, drive her to Time For A Bagel in Morris Plains before heading to the game.

A center forward before switching to the midfield, Singer has been invaluable to Morristown-Beard this season.

"Ella is used to being an attacker and our formation is different than what she's used to," Alderman noted. "Having her on the post to get tips is critical. She's really bought into our system. It's been great having her."

Alderman said that the entire defense stood out, so much so that it was difficult to fete a few players.

"We were recovering back," she said. "We had a quick counterattack. I think we caught them off guard with that. The defense supported one another. They were great at double teaming. Madison likes to dribble. We had to use our speed and quick passes."

Plante, a Harding resident, knows several of the Madison players, including goalie Charlotte Villano, a close friend, well. She and Villano went to kindergarten through middle school together at the Peck School. The triumph left her elated but she took time to think how Villano and the Dodgers must have felt.

Now it's on to Tuesday's final, slated for Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Boonton High School.

"It's helpful that we went last year," Alderman said. "We know what to expect and will have more confidence. There was nervous energy last year but we've already had the experience and will benefit from it."

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Nwankwo solid in first start for Falcons

JEFFERSON _ Always six inches taller than most girls her age, Jefferson's Amanda Nwankwo was rarely challenged when driving the lane during basketball games in middle school.

Nwankwo would make her way into the key and encountered little or no resistance.

"Everyone would back up," Nwankwo said. "They didn't want to get run over."

Three years later, Nwankwo, now 6 foot 3, remains an intimidating presence and is making an impact on a different court during her first year in high school. On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Nwankwo excelled in the first varsity volleyball start of her career, making eight kills and six blocks to pace the Falcons to a 2-1 win over Kinnelon in NJAC-Freedom Division match.

The victory was a monumental one for Jefferson because the Colts came into the match with a perfect record in league play and had not lost to a Morris County team. So, when Jefferson took the third game, 29-27, the Falcons felt a great sense of accomplishment, celebrating as if they had captured a championship.

"This is very rewarding," said Jefferson sophomore setter Emily Carcich, who had 21 assists and three aces. "From the start, we needed a lot of energy. We came together so well. We played the best we've played this year. We kept our heads in the game. We didn't think of past mistakes. We played every point like it was the last. We gave it our all."

Prior to the match, Falcons coach Gino Rose met in the hall with his quad captains - Carcich, Antonella Maffei, Kailyn Kerr and Amanda Novack. He told them "to fire up the team and keep them going for the entire match." In the locker room, Carcich, Maffei, Kerr and Novack did what they were instructed to do. They charged up their teammates and went out and prevailed in the first game, 25-19.

Nwankwo, making her debut, did not play like a freshman, exuding confidence and coming through with several kills and blocks.

"I wasn't really nervous," Nwankwo said. "I was ready. The coaches have been teaching me well. I worked my hardest. I think I did OK."

Rose made the decision to start Nwankwo, who had been playing junior varsity and seeing some varsity action, because he felt she was capable of a dominant performance.

"We needed a taller, bigger block in the middle," Rose said. "It's nothing against the other blockers but Amanda is a physical presence."

Carcich was happy for Nwankwo and said "she showed up and did what she had to do."

The two teams engaged in a hard-fought battle in the second game, too. Kinnelon had the upper hand in that one, 25-21. Jefferson trailed by three or four points early on in the decisive third game but was able to pull even, 22-22, on a Colts error. With Kinnelon up, 24-22, and seeking game and match point, the Falcons scored the next two points for 24-24. Neither squad would yield and there were three more deadlocks. Jefferson closed out by tallying three of the last four points.

The pressure of the close games didn't bother the Falcons, who are anxious to get some type of title this season or in the near future so their banner hanging in the gym won't be bare.

"It didn't get to me," Carcich said. "I think everyone else did fine, too. It was the excitement and the will to win. Everybody was loud. We were saying 'Always give your all' and 'Let's get it.' We really, really wanted this win."

As for Nwankwo, she intends "to keep swinging."

"I'm never going to back away," she said. "I'm very proud of everyone. I'm glad to be on this team."

The victory over Kinnelon commenced a five-game winning streak. The Falcons' mini run was halted by a setback to Roxbury in the MCT quarterfinals on Oct. 19.

Bombers in search of great moments

BOONTON _ Every team begins the season in search of something: Improved defense, an uptick in offensive output, more cohesive teamwork.

As for the Boonton field hockey team, they are seeking great moments. The Bombers know there may be only few at times. Ultimately, they'd like to string them together endlessly and knock off a few of Morris County's top squads.

On Monday, Sept. 9, the Bombers didn't have an excess of great moments but had enough to shut out Parsippany 1-0 in a game, whose outcome was determined by a second-half goal by Rebecca Deffler.

"We want to have more and more great moments every game," Boonton coach Cindy Tserkis-Schlitt said. "If we have solid passing combinations, it's going to be a great season. We have a lot of skilled individuals. We're meshing now."

That's absolutely true. After edging the Red Hawks, the Bombers, who have only four starters back, have gone 3-2-1. The two setbacks were by one goal to defending Morris County Tournament champion Madison (1-0) and MCT runner-up Morristown-Beard (2-1). According to Deffler, a senior left wing and two-year starter, Boonton possesses many noteworthy attributes.

"We've really connected this year," Deffler said. "We're focusing on team bonding and staying positive. There's constructive criticism as opposed to just criticism. We've got amazing players."

Deffler, too, mentioned assistant coach Tina Londino, indicating she's made a major impact. Londino guided Wayne Hills to three consecutive Passaic County titles from 2013-15.

"Coach Londino changed the team," she said. "We're playing together, not as 11 separate players."

Unselfishness and those highly desirable great moments have been on display over the last few weeks. Versus Parsippany, Deffler converted off a corner, snapping a scoreless deadlock with 9:34 remaining. Deffler inserted the ball, sending it to Rainey Clark at the top of the circle. Clark passed to Mya Russo, who tapped it into the right post.

Tserkis-Schlitt praised Clark, a senior offensive midfielder, for her "great vision and ability to set up the transitions upfield." Clark, a center back and center midfielder as a junior, certainly was active, bringing energy to the attack. Sophomore Bella Viruet was effective at forward as was her senior sister Angela, the center back.

In keeping with the theme of teamwork, everyone on the field for the Bombers did their part, denying Parsippany throughout, including late in the second half when it was determined to pull even.

"We're developing and regrouping," Tserkis-Schlitt said. "We graduated 13 seniors but we still have 12. Only a handful started. Everyone's got a phenomenal attitude. They grow every time they're on the field."

The Red Hawks dropped to 0-3 with the loss to the Bombers but coach Rebecca Lilienthal and her squad remain positive.

"We played much more together today," Lilienthal said. "We're moving in the right direction. They're listening to what we're saying and putting it together. Next, we need to convert on our opportunities."

Junior wings Lindsey DePetris and Priscilla Wong powered the attack for Parsippany, which was edged by one goal in each of its first four games, while senior Alex Bond and Kaitlyn Fang were effective in the midfield. Fang, one of five captains, sees many good signs and vowed that the team was not discouraged by the loss or being winless.

"I feel like we're communicating more," Fang said. "We're playing as a team and encouraging each other. We're covering back and moving up. We're growing as a team. We're not going to let past events get us down. We're going to use this as motivation to move us forward."

Two days after blanking Parsippany, Boonton fell to Madison. On Sept. 20, the Bombers turned in an excellent showing versus the Crimson.

"It felt good to come close," said Deffler, referring to the Madison game. "That's the cloest we've been in awhile. It motivated us and proved we can play against those teams."

Senior forward Sammy Brancato attributes some of the Bombers' success to a revamped offense. Their formation was changed prior to the first game and it didn't take long for Boonton to become acclimated to it.

"There's better support for the forwards," Brancato said. "We've adapted well. I think the team is doing really well, maybe a little better than expected."

 

 

 

 

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