Mendham retains Pooley Trophy with strong second half

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

MENDHAM – When Jeff Seals played lacrosse at West Morris he never came close to holding the Pooley Trophy in his hands. He had to become a Mendham coach to have the opportunity.

Mendham opened up a 5-0 second-half run to earn an 8-3 victory over West Morris to retain the David W. Pooley trophy for the second consecutive year.

Dreyer Van Orden fired a hat trick and Liam McAdams had two goals and two assists to propel West Morris to victory on the school’s turf field. A. J. Caruso scored twice for West Morris.

When Seals played for the Wolfpack from 1994-96 the trophy was dominated by Minutemen teams that were among the best in the state. On Saturday, he looked comfortable nestling it in his arms on the way to the Minutemen trophy case for another season.

“Mendham was a stacked program then,’’ Seals said, admiring the statuette of a lacrosse player on the move. “They were always good games but we didn’t pull one out when I was there.’’

The Mendham boys lacrosse team celebrates with the Pooley Trophy raised up top. (photo courtesy of Karen Fucito)

The trophy is named after an administrator who worked for both schools at different times in his career. He helped bring the sport to West Morris and Mendham as well as initiating the Morris County Tournament, which is the oldest county tournament for lacrosse in the state of New Jersey. Since the early 90s the lacrosse rivalry between the sister schools has gained in luster because the trophy gives them something extra to play for.

“It means everything,’’ Van Orden said. “I don’t even care about any other games except this one. I don’t care if we win the state championship as long as we win this trophy.’’

“The rivalry is huge,’’ second-half goalie Tyler Avallone added. “Last year was the first time in a long time that we won. Getting it back this year and keeping it is awesome.’’

Emotions were so high early in the contest that it took a half for the Minutemen to settle down.

“Basically we had to calm down and stop playing like football and start playing lacrosse,’’ Van Orden said. “There was too much hitting and too much bickering back-and-forth. We had to just start playing lacrosse.’’

Tied 3-3 at the half, Mendham wanted to keep their intensity but be more focused on their responsibilities.

“Emotionally, I don’t think you ever want to bring your kids down,’’ Seals said. “You want to keep them up and positive and things seem to go our way when were focused on what were trying to do.’’

Van Orden helped by scoring all three of his goals in the second half. He was the finisher on a breakaway when he converted on an Anthony Lombardo dish for the eventual game-winner to make it 4-3 with 8:09 left in the third quarter.

“I was on the back side of the fast break,’’ Van Orden said. “I knew that once my guy left me, it was going to be a goal because he left me wide open and I was one-on-one with the goalie.’’

Mendham players race onto the field to celebrate their victory over rival West Morris. (photo courtesy of Karen Fucito).

Freshman Will Robinson made it a two-goal game early in the fourth quarter with an unassisted goal with 9:31 remaining.

“We have a couple of young guys stepping up like Will,’’ Van Orden said. “He plays like a senior. He can play Division I if he keeps it up.’’

Back-to-back goals by Van Orden on feeds from McAdams in a 13-second span around the seven-minute mark helped Mendham cement the win. His strength around the crease makes Van Orden a dangerous offensive performer.

“We ask a lot of him,’’ Seals said. “We ask him to dodge a lot, He responds well. He gets some transition for us and scores some big goals.’’

Avallone, who took over in the second half after John Haumersen got the start on Mendham’s Senior Day, was on his game. He shut West Morris out nine saves and directed the team’s defense to frustrate the Wolfpack scorers.

“They have some big shooters from up top so we needed to get in on their hands,’’ Avallone said. “Other than that we just played good, solid defense.

“We put pressure on the ball all the time, playing smart and avoiding stupid penalties. It’s just breaking down the defense. No penalties. Over the last few games we’ve been playing very well on defense.’’

Such an emotional victory might boost the Minutemen to bigger and even better things. Then again a victory like this is one the Mendham players will remember long after all the players have hung up their sticks.

“This is the game of a lifetime for us,’’ Van Orden said. “Senior year — playing our archrivals — it’s all emotion.’’

Games of note:

Summit 9, Delbarton 5 – Hilltoppers win streak stands at 58 consecutive games.

MCT prelims

Morris Knolls 10, Park Regional 4 – Mike Campman had three goals and two assists.

Jefferson 8, Boonton 4 – Dyland Pickard scored five goals. The Falcons led 5-2 at half.

Pequannock 18, Morris Catholic 2

Roxbury 11, Morris Hills 0 – Aaron Bossard and John Vandenham had hat tricks.

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About mcvbb

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

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