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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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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."

 

 

 

 

Stackhouse two strokes behind Lee6

GALLOWAY _ Mariah Stackhouse didn't engage in deep thought about what a win at the ShopRite LPGA Classic would mean.

Rather than dreaming about the possibility of being the first African American woman to win a title on the tour, Stackhouse only had visions of putts traveling the green and dropping consistently.

Stackhouse had another solid round on Saturday, June 8, shooting a 67 for a two-day total of 133, a mere two strokes behind Jeongeun Lee6 (63-69-132). In a three-way tie for third place behind Lee6 and Stackhouse with 134 were Ally McDonald, Lexi Thompson and Nanna Koerstz Madsen.

New Jersey native Marina Alex, who grew up in Wayne, shot a 66 and had a 136. Annie Park, the defending champion, whose win at the 2018 ShopRite Classic was the first of her career, did not make the cut. Park had a two-day score of 143.

What made Stackhouse so zoned in on her putting? A year ago, also at the ShopRite Classic, she was paired with Annie Park for the final round, which was held on the Bay Course at the Seaview Hotel and Golf Club. She witnessed Park drain putts at a dizzying pace en route to the championship.

"I was in a group with Annie last year for the final round," Stackhouse said. "I think we were the second-to-last or third-to-last group and I watched Annie drain putts from all over that green. So that's what I'm seeing out here this week is I'm putting the best that I've putted all year. It's because I'm just seeing Annie dropping them from everywhere last year. That's good. That's my last memory of this golf course. So it's a good thing to come in with it the back of your mind."

Stackhouse's putting, obviously, was foremost in her mind. She skirted around the prospect of making history.

"I would only really think about that after the tournament is up," Stackhouse said. "Every single shot, that’s all I’m concerned with. Getting that number right, putting the right club in my hand and executing a solid shot. So there’s just no time for your mind to wander to any other things until the round is up."

A graduate of Stanford University, Stackhouse enjoys the layout of the Bay Course and has found success on it. 

"I think that I am fairly accurate off the tee," Stackhouse said. "I think being in the fairway out here is helpful because you have some longer holes where you can come in with some longer irons and hybrids into the wind and, when you're doing that, it's much easier to come into those greens out of the fairway. I think that's the key out here is if you're hitting it well off the tee, the trouble is minimal. But if you're in the rough a little bit and you find yourself in some of that fescue, the up and downs are easy.

"Take a look at these greens. The beauty of them is that they are small, which makes putting fun. The other side of that is that if you miss, you probably are off on the side and have somewhat of a tricky shot, unless you have a lot of green to work with. I think it's a lot of fun to navigate this golf course and, with the experience that I got out here last year, I kind of knew what needed to be done on what holes."

Stackhouse noted that the par 5s "give you opportunities" and, just like on the men's tour, players can go for the par 5s with irons.

Lee6, the 2019 U.S. Women's Open champion, concluded her round on Saturday with a birdie and an eagle. A bogey on the 15th hole served as motivation. The birdie came on the 17th hole, a 119-yard, par-3. She left herself 17 feet from the pin with an accurate tee shot then dropped the putt. On No. 18, a 507-yard par 5, Lee6 holed a four-foot putt for the eagle. She used a 6-iron for her approach shot from 185 yards and was aided by a back wind.

"I kind of wanted to make a birdie as much as I can and so, after Hole 15, I just wanted to finish strong," said Lee6, who would be only the fifth female golfer to claim the U.S. Open crown and the tourney immediately following it if she triumphs tomorrow. "Especially on Hole 16, I made a par. On Hole 17, I made a birdie. Hole 18, I made an eagle. I kind of wanted to finish strong and I did. I'm pretty satisfied with it." 

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Lee6 leads at ShopRite Classic

GALLOWAY _ Fresh off her win at the U.S. Open, Jeongeun Lee6 is confident, focused, determined and well-rested.

On Friday, June 7, Lee6 got right back down to business, shooting an 8-under-par 63 at the 2019 ShopRite LPGA Classic and finds herself atop the leaderboard once again after the opening round of play.

Lee6 of South Korea, who had an impressive nine birdies and an eagle, was tied with Thailand's Pornanong Phatlum, whose first-round showing featured seven birdies and an eagle. Right behind them are Lexi Thompson, Muni He and Kristen Gillman, all with 64s.

Relaxed and experiencing no bouts of nervousness, Lee6 said she was satisfied with her round. Lee6's short game was on and she was in command as she navigated the Bay Course at the Seaview Resort during her afternoon round.

"I try to remind myself to just make my shots, to think about the rhythyms and everything and just to be consistent with all my shots and my short game," said the 23-year-old Lee6. "That's what I've been focusing on and that's why I feel more confident. Then I focus more on the putting, the green speed."

The Korean community came out in support of Lee6 and she was grateful for their presence as well as the other fans.

"I feel pretty happy that so many people are watching me," she said. "It feels pretty weird sometimes because I won the U.S. Open... I feel pretty good about it."

She mentioned that the ShopRite Classic, a three-day event, allowed her to get more rest and she was appreciative of that. The U.S. Open was played over four days in Charleston, S.C. and it was marked by a lightning strike, storms and intense heat. It was much more comfortable on the Seaview layout. It was a bit windy during Lee6's round but she was aware of that after practicing here.

"I've been balancing myself to be physically and mentally stable," Lee6 said. "I've been working on that. The weather was better than last week's weather."

Phatlum, 29, produced seven birdies and she, too, was successful with her putter. She ended her round with a 12-foot eagle putt.

"I think I put no pressure on myself," Phatlum said of the eagle putt. "It was almost a straight putt. It was relaxed for me and I just made it."

Last week, Phatlum was 16th at the U.S. Open and that she feels is carrying over.

"I feel like I got more confident," she said. "I try to play my game and not put pressure on myself. It makes me more relaxed and I have more good results."

At the Open, Thompson tied for second. She played a steady round on Friday, penciling in seven birdies.

"This is a very gettable golf course," Thompson said. "A lot of birdies out there, I think, because it is playing a bit shorter. The defense on this golf course is basically the wind. If it gets blowing out there, it plays a bit harder. A lot of wedges into the greens so a lot of birdie opportunities."

Marina Alex, a native of Wayne, N.J., struggled and had a double bogey and two bogeys to go along with five birdies. She fired a 1-under 70. Annie Park, last year's champion, posted a 69.

 

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Marauders' memorable journey comes to an end

UNION _ The dirt stain on the right side of Lindsey Walter's uniform stretched from chest to knee, the result of several head-first slides and representative of another all-out Mount Olive effort.

Walter's post-game face expressed sadness then a smile. There were some tears mixed in. Despite what the scoreboard at Kean University displayed at the conclusion of the Group IV title game: Hightstown 9, Mount Olive 4, Walter and her Marauder teammates felt very much like winners.

A six-game winning streak, which commenced five days after a setback to Morris Knolls in the Morris County Tournament final, was a magical journey for Mount Olive and provided it with its first opportunity to vie for a softball group championship.

"It's really been a lot of fun," said Walter, a junior shortstop/pitcher. "Our team has so much energy. We wanted this so badly. I love playing with my teammates. They're great. We don't want to let go. I, all of us, didn't want it to end."

The Marauders were stung by three errors and were left reeling after Hightstown's four-run sixth inning that featured a two-run homer to centerfield by No. 7 batter Abby Bell, a freshman catcher, and a two-out double by winning pitcher Allie Bridgman. In the top of the sixth, Mount Olive had rallied from a four-run deficit by plating three runs, two of them on Alyssa Segnello's triple to right field and trailed, 5-4.

"I was extremely hopeful when we came back in the sixth," said Segnello, a senior right fielder and quad-captain. "We've come back so many times. I thought we'd win it after that."

Bridgman, however, squashed Mount Olive's hopes in the seventh with a groundout, a strikeout and a popup.

"We beat ourselves," Marauders coach Bill Romano said. "What are you going to do? It happens. Too many errors today. That's all. We weren't charging the ball. I think we got a little too caught up (in the enormity of the game). Their home run brought us down a bit but we never gave up. The girls continued cheering and had the pitcher's back.

"I'm proud that we came back. I'm proud of what we've done this season. These kids don't quit. They keep battling. Unfortunately, a win today was not in the cards."

Walter believes the errors may have been committed because "we put so much pressure on ourselves."

Mount Olive (19-8) recorded the game's first run in the top of the third inning. Bella Salafia led off with a double off a 1-1 pitch and moved to third on a groundout. Walter, facing an 0-2 count, poked the ball to left field to drive Salafia in. Prior to that, Romano felt his players were "taking too many pitches."

"I think it was nerves mainly," Segnello said of the Marauders not being more aggressive at the plate at the start. "I tried to loosen everyone up. We finally calmed down. Their pitcher was throwing strikes and we needed to adjust."

Hightstown loaded the bases and put up four runs, two on Morgan Fleisher's double and the others on Bell's sacrifice fly and a miscue, in the lower half of the fourth inning to pull in front, 4-1. Walter took over for Mount Olive starting pitcher Anna Callahan after they were filled. Many times this spring, the Marauders have benefited from having two solid pitchers but, on this particular day, their Mercer County opponent was simply better.

The Marauders had several standout individual performances. Mount Olive's Kaitlin Pettenger had the defensive play of the game, making a diving catch in left-center field for the third out in the bottom of the first inning. Walter went 4 for 4 with two RBIs and swiped two bases. Bri Segnello rapped out two singles.

Mount Olive, of course, was sad that their season come to a halt. Many of the girls have played on travel and Babe Ruth squads together, advancing to the World Series several times.

"I'm so proud of everyone. We've been through so much together," Alyssa Segnello said. "It didn't turn out the way we wanted but we accomplished a lot. This is an amazing team. We've been together so long. The bond is unbreakable."

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Mt. Olive triumphs; Wildcats exit

NEWARK _ Mount Olive's pitchers have been the epitome of stingy during the team's state tournament run.

Anna Callahan and Lindsey Walter have not given up an earned run in the Marauders' last five games, certainly an impressive feat. Their efforts may have been a bit overlooked because Mount Olive's bats are booming and have produced 33 runs during that stretch.

On Friday, May 31, Walter came on in relief of Callahan and allowed one hit over the last 2 1/3 innings when the Marauders defeated North Hunterdon 5-2 in a Group IV semifinal at Ivy Hill Park. The victory earned Mount Olive its first berth in a group title game.

"It's incredible what these pitchers are doing," Romano said. "It really is. Anna's been awesome. So has Lindsay. They're doing a great job."

Versus North Hunterdon, which ousted Mount Olive from the state tournament last year, the performances of Callahan and Walter were exceptional. Callahan started and went the first 4 1/3 innings and yielded three hits before encountering some trouble in the fifth. Walter came in from shortstop with one out and two on. She got the last two outs in the fifth inning then retired the side in order in the sixth. In the seventh, Walter gave up a hit but no harm was done. Within minutes, the Marauders (19-6) were celebrating the win that propelled them into the final opposite Hightstown.

Also pleased with Callahan (seven hits allowed over the last three games) and Walter was assistant coach Christy Vetere.

"Both pitchers hit their spots," Vetere said. "What's great about both is they take ownership and learn from their mistakes. Lindsay has a little more finesse than Anna. They've both been great. It's a good switch because teams have already seen Anna three times when Lindsay comes in. It gives the batters something different to look at."

Initially, the two junior pitchers were going to split the responsibilities. However, by mid-April, right after the Randolph Challenge, it was decided that Callahan would get the bulk of the work and Walter, a slick fielder and speedy leadoff batter, would relieve and start here and there. The rest literally is history as evidenced by the upcoming final appearance.

Mount Olive, which blanked Bergen Tech 7-0 to take the North Jersey Section 1, Group IV crown, received RBI hits from Gabby Grillo, Kaitlin Pettenger, Isabella Salafia, Alyssa Segnello and Walter and put across all of its runs in the third and fourth innings. Segnello smacked a two-out double and Walter finished with a pair of base hits.

"This is a great win," Romano said. "We're not done yet. We're not finished. We're not just happy to be there. We want to win."

Wildcats shut out by Cedar Grove

Whippany Park knew what it was up against in its Group I semifinal.

The young Wildcats weren't intimidated by the prospect of facing Cedar Grove ace Mia Faieta and went into the game at Ivy Hill Park hoping to score an upset.

Faieta, however, was in command and struck out 14 to power Cedar Grove to a 6-0 victory over Whippany Park on Friday, May 31.

"We knew their pitcher was one of the best in the state," Wildcats coach Todd Callaghan said. "It was going to be a challenge. Cedar Grove is more experienced right now. Their pitcher has been here. Ours is a sophomore. It was a good experience for us. We're young and we're only going to get better."

Cedar Grove took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on two-out hits by Katie Peterson and Gianna Bocchino. Peterson drove in the first run with a base hit before Bocchino laced a two-run single to left field. A sacrifice fly in the fourth inning made it 4-0. The final two runs came home in the fifth.

The only player to reach Faieta for a hit was Alexa DiGiorgio.

Claiming a sectional title was the highlight of Whippany Park's season. Callaghan thought the Wildcats, who start three freshman and a sophomore, had the talent to make it to the sectional final.

"Being in that final was great. Anything after that was a bonus," he said. "Roselle Park was a challenge. If we got past them, anything could happen."

Julia Swan went the distance for Whippany Park, striking out seven and walking three.

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Cougars avenge loss to Wolfpack

CHATHAM _ Anna Lengner battled until the very end and she benefitted from some excellent glovework behind her, too.

Lengner threw a shutout for five innings and then stranded three base runners in scoring position in the final two frames to help Chatham edge West Morris Central, 3-2, in a North Jersey Section 2, Group III quarterfinal at Shunpike Field on Monday, May 20.

The third-seeded Cougars (16-8) have won five of their last six games and will host seventh-seeded Cranford, a 10-3 winner over second-seeded Belleville, in a state sectional semifinal game Thursday, May 23, at 4 p.m.

A senior right-hander, Lengner threw a complete game six-hitter, striking out 12 and walking one to propel the Cougars against the never-say-die Highlanders.

Sixth-seeded West Morris (12-9), which had won six of nine games coming in, trailed, 3-0 entering the top of the sixth inning. But leadoff hitter Olivia Malone, a junior catcher, belted a leadoff double into the right-center field gap, and one out later, senior center fielder Jocelyn Johannesen tripled home courtesy runner Madi Weese to make it 3-1. Then Lengner bore down and struck out the last two batters of the inning as the Cougars held on to a two-run advantage.

In the top of the seventh, junior shortstop Maddie Staley singled to left field to lead off for the resilient Highlanders. Then, after Lengner recorded a strikeout for the first out, Staley advanced to third on two wild pitches and junior left fielder Julie Dunn walked on a 3-and-2 delivery to put runners on the corners with one out.

After Dunn stole second base to put runners on second and third, West Morris sophomore and No. 9 batter Hayden Fehnel reached on a fielder's choice. No outs were recorded on the play when a rundown evolved into an errant throw past the plate and Staley scored to make it 3-2. Dunn was waved to third and Fehnel to second after the throw went out of play.

The potential tying run was now on third base and the possible go-ahead run was on second base with one out. But sophomore shortstop Kayla Friedman, with the infield in all the way around the diamond, came up big when she fielded a one-hop grounder perfectly and threw to senior catcher Kaitlin Pinaire, a converted infielder, who applied the tag for the second out of the inning.

With runners on first and third and two outs, Lengner induced a ground ball to sophomore second baseman Sara Iuzzulino, who made a nice play on a cue-shot to her right and threw to first base for the final out of the game.

Also playing solid defense for the Cougars were Hailey Coates and Jocelyn Spencer, who helped to keep the Highlanders from tying the score or taking the lead in the intense final two innings.

"I have a great deal of faith in my defense. I always know they will come up with the big play," said Lengner. "Whenever a ball is hit, I am always confident that the defense will manage to turn it into an out with some stellar fielding work."

Earlier in the season, West Morris Central defeated Chatham, 4-0, in a Morris County Tournament second-round game. Junior right-hander Lauren Mistkowski threw a no-hitter for the Wolfpack, striking out three and walking three versus second-seeded Chatham.
On Thursday, Mistkowski scattered eight hits over six innings, striking out one and walking one and helping to keep her team in the game.

"I just wanted to try as hard as I could to stop the run from scoring," said Friedman about her excellent defensive reaction and throw in the top of the seventh. "Earlier, I had not really done a good job on that relay-rundown play in which they scored a run and I wanted to bounce back from that and help my team out."

Chatham took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a leadoff walk to Lengner, a single by Friedman and a sacrifice fly by senior Sarah McCabe to score courtesy runner Lauren Sullivan.

"We wanted to try to try to get on the scoreboard first to kind of try to erase the feeling from that county game," said McCabe, who also played well defensively. "Getting ahead early was very important for us."

The Cougars added two runs in the bottom of the third inning on a leadoff single by sophomore Julia Yukniewicz, a one-out single by Spencer, a senior, and then an error that plated one run and an RBI grounder by Coates that made it 3-0.

Chatham defeated 14th-seeded Colonia, 9-1, in a state first-round game on Thursday, May 16. West Morris turned back 11th-seeded Snyder of Jersey City, 3-0, in the opening round last Thursday.

Chatham, with a roster of six seniors, two juniors and seven sophomores, has been competing well in the NJAC-American Division. Powers like Morris Knolls, Mount Olive, Pope John and Randolph are also in the division, along with usually talented clubs like Roxbury and Sparta.

"I think we've played well this year and are well-balanced and have competed hard in almost every game. We're especially tough at home," said Chatham fourth-year coach Brian Figueiredo. "We've been playing solid softball - offensively, defensive and pitching - so far in the states and we want that to continue."

West Morris Central has been making steady progress under third-year coach Katie Patella. The Highlanders were 1-20 in 2016, the season before Patella arrived, and then in her first season West Morris went 4-12 in 2017 before going 8-14 last year and then making it over the .500 mark at 12-9 so far this season.

The Wolfpack has only two seniors on this year's team and competes hard in the NJAC-National Division against Mendham, Morristown, Montville, Parsippany Hills and Morris Hills.

"We're going to keep battling in every game we have," said Patella. "I believe the best is still in front of us."

Loveys shatters 36-year-old record

BOONTON _ For the entire 3,200 at the Morris County Track Championship, Julia Trethaway was right behind Randolph's Abby Loveys.

Trethaway, of West Morris, pushed Loveys, staying right with her. She didn't let her pull away.

At the conclusion of the race, which ended with a state-record-time of 10:10.24 for Loveys, Trethaway remained close, hugging the Rams star over and over again. Trethaway and Loveys did a did a double high five then clasped hands after crossing the finish line. They embraced, stepped back before hugging again.

"I'm hugging a state recordholder," Trethaway said to Loveys.

In Loveys opinion, the accomplishment, which broke a record set by Washington Township's Michelle Rowen in 1983, was shared. The record, she insisted, belonged to both of them.

"I knew I could get the record but I didn't do it on my own," Loveys said. "The best accomplishments happen with other people. I'm grateful for the opportunity. The conditions were perfect."

Loveys indicated that the post-race celebration was "a special moment."

"I couldn't have done it if Julia wasn't on my back," said Loveys, bound for Princeton, where she intends to be a pre-med major. "When I crossed the line, my face lit up. I knew I got it. I've been dreaming about this for a long time."

Randolph, ahead by just two points after the first day of the meet, had 110.5 points followed by West Morris with 75. Morris Catholic came in third with 41 points. It was an exceptional meet for Loveys and the Rams, who secured their third county title in a row. On the first day, Loveys became a four-time winner in the 1,600 and set a county record (4:50.12) in the process.

Also coming up big at Boonton High School on May 14 and 15 was Lovey's teammate, Meghan O'Malley, winner of gold medals in the 100-meter hurdles and in three jumps - high, long and triple. Karen Hull, a junior, boosted the Rams, too, by claiming gold in the 100 meters. 

"It's nice to win as a senior," Loveys said of the team championship. "This is really great. I've been running with these girls since I started. They're my sisters at this point."

Loveys ran the first part of the 3,200 in 5:06, one second off her goal. The last half of the race was in 5:04.

West Morris' Caroline Isemann topped the field in the 400-meter hurdles (1:03.78) and was part of the winning 4x400 team. Isemann was a field hockey player from sixth grade until sophomore year but then switched to track. She's certain she made the right decision.

"It was hard choosing. I struggled with it," Isemann said. "I knew that if I put in the work in track, it would pay off."

Her father, John, a hurdler at Rutgers, assisted her in transitioning to cross country and track. The duo spent nearly every day at the track, no matter what the weather.

"My dad told me that hard work beats talent," Isemann said. "We'd go to the track early every morning, in the rain and in the cold. It was to get ready for this. It was raining on the way here and I thought 'This is what I planned for. I'm ready to go.' I don't worry about the conditions."

Isemann said she was confident coming into the meet because she triumphed in the 400 hurdles at the sectional meet last winter. During cross country, she struggled with a back injury and only participated in four or five races.

"I went through a lot to get here so I feel like I really deserve it," she said.

Other winners were Butler's Rebecca Kneppel (200 meters), West Morris' Crystal Robinson (400 meters), Morris Catholic's Kate McAndrew (800 meters), Morristown's Kayla Morgan (shotput), Pequannock's Irene Park (pole vault), Pequannock's Alessandra D'Alessio (discus) and Morris Catholic's Danielle Mills (javelin). 

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