Confident Villa Walsh improves to 6-1

By Mark Kitchin


Jen Racanelli and Ali Catizone had to wonder if there was a little magic left in Roxbury artificial turf field for them. The answer was yes, but more than likely the Villa Walsh lacrosse team made its own luck.

Candace Pallito and Taylor Medd each registered hat tricks while Racanelli and Catizone also got in on the scoring in Villa Walsh’s 10-5 triumph over Roxbury on Thursday.

The win lifted Villa Walsh to 6-1 on the season. The Vikings scored four consecutive goals in the second half to outdistance the Gaels, which dropped to 0-4. Danielle Wilk fired a hat trick and Kellie Kucinski and Julie Colonia added goals for Roxbury.

Racanelli and Catizone were members of the Villa Walsh soccer team which defeated West Morris and captured the school’s first MCT title on the neutral field at Roxbury High last November. Along with Julia Esposito they returned to the scene of their triumph to add another one in a different sport.

“Oh my gosh, it was so funny,’’ Racanelli said. “It was nice to get back and come up with a win, too. Our (home field) is big too and we are used to playing on big fields and turf fields. I can definitely say that we were comfortable.’’

Villa Walsh’s Jen Racanelli battles the Roxbury center for the draw during  Thursday’s contest.

Just as pleasant for the Vikings is getting off to a 6-1 start, one of the best in school history. One of the reasons may simply be a matter of confidence.

“This year our focus is to believe,’’ Villa Walsh coach Kate  DesPlaines. “For these girls to actually show up confident and believe they can beat a Madison, a Morris Catholic, a big name team. That’s what they have done. Seeing that they can beat them has helped that confidence grow even further.’’

They also have players like Medd, a freshman, and Pallito, a sophomore, contributing on the offensive end.

“We’ve been working really hard and this has been our goal all along,’’ Pallito said. “We work on staying composed on offense and on defense we try to figure out what’s going wrong and fix it right away and try not to repeat the same mistake.’’

Although the varsity team is a good mix of all four grades, DesPlaines has noticed a certain maturity among her players and their skill sets.

“On attack there’s been a lot more confidence,’’ DesPlaines said. “The know how to run the attack — how to call plays–when to recognize opportunities, and go to goal — and to not just take a shot but a quality shot.’’

Much of the defensive effort is credited to sophomore Lucia Smircich’s skills in the back and goalkeeper Grace Hartley’s strong performances.

“Lucia is always in there working with a lot of the other defenders,’’ Racanelli said. “She doesn’t get enough credit. Grace is having a good year and she’s showing a lot more confidence in the cage which is what we need. She’s been in goal for three years on varsity so as a senior she’s definitely stepping it up.’’

Villa Walsh’s Daria Donato and her Roxbury opponent battle for the ball.

The first half was slow with Villa Walsh getting out to a 3-0 lead. Wilk finally connected with 22 seconds giving the Gaels some momentum going into a 3-1 halftime.

The Vikings built a 5-2 advantage with 20 minutes remaining but the Gaels came roaring back. Twice they got within a goal of the lead at 5-4 and 6-5, before the Vikings pulled away.

Candace Pallito has emerged as a steady offensive performer for the Vikings.

Villa Walsh was able to seize momentum with the help of a Roxbury slashing call. They also captured some draws and showed good patience on the offensive end. The Vikings scored four consecutive goals in the final nine minutes to put the game away. Medd started the surge with an unsassisted goal at 8:42.

“Tayloris definitely a speedy one,’’ Racanelli said. “She’s coming in with a lot of confidence. She has definitely helped our team. She’s scored a lot of key goals.’’

Racanelli added a goal followed by scores from Pallito and Catizone to seal the win and boost the Vikings’ spirits once again.


About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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