Mount Olive stays on the ball in MCT win

By Mark Kitchin


MOUNT OLIVE– Sometimes the best defense you can have against an opposing lacrosse team is just picking up a little white ball – over and over again.

Mount Olive won the ground ball battle against Montville and consequently a Morris County Tournament first round war.

Aaron Gonzalez scored seven goals to lift Mount Olive to a 14-9 triumph overMontville in opening round MCT action on Monday.

Peter Shaver, Tyler McEvoy and Teddy Muller added two goals apiece for the 10-1 Marauders. Mount Olive advances to play second-seeded Chatham, a 16-0 winner over Morris Knolls, on Thursday in the quarterfinal round. It’s the first time the seventh-seeded Marauders have reached past the first round in MCT history.

Jake Haimson fired a hat trick and Brian McCormack and Nick Mayse scored two goals apiece for 10th seeded Montville.

Overall, the Marauders fired 42 shots toward the Mustangs’ net and one of the reasons was the 34 ground balls that Mount Olive came up with throughout the game. Tyler Scheiss and Nick Verrone used their lacrosse sticks like vacuum cleaners and scooped up many of the loose balls that fueled the Marauders’ attack.

Midfielder Matt Henry scoops up one of Mount Olive’s 34 ground balls in Monday’s MCT win.

“You have to outhustle a team,’’ said Verrone, a defenseman. “Box them out, get a buddy in there, pick it up and send it to the offense.’’

When it comes to tournament play, loose balls are as precious as gold. Anytime a team can gain possession, it earns offensive opportunities. While Mount Olive’s Gonzalez seemed to fire at will on the Montville cage. Mustang scorers Mayse and Andrew Reynolds ran around helpless with empty sticks.

“We didn’t want those two guys to have the ball,’’Montville coach Dave Gallucci said. “The things they do with their sticks are pretty amazing. It was a matter of us controlling the ball and making sure they didn’t get as many chances.’’

Hard work at the face off also stoked Mount Olive’s momentum. As a wing-man, Scheiss, who averages nearly 10 ground balls a game, takes a cue from faceoff men Matt Henry or Chris Sanchez and often leaves the center circle with the ball in his pocket.

“We communicate with each other,’’ Scheiss said. “We have certain calls, certain taps on the body that tell us where we are going to go, but Henry won every single one for us today. It makes our job easy so we just have to pick it up.

“Sometimes you have signals but if (an opponent) does a good job locking off, you have to communicate where you are going to go. If I’m getting boxed out, (a teammate) may be just as open and you get the ground balls. It’s a team effort.’’

This pileup was eventually won by Montville during the first half of the  physical MCT contest.

Mount Olive also gets after it on the defensive end. The Marauders try to disrupt passes and can be aggressive on offensive opponents that are hesitant or don’t have a sure hand. Mount Olive coach Dave Gallucci has put his father John to work as a volunteer assistant on the defense. John Gallucci coached the Montville High varsity lacrosse and football team for years and after the game stopped to talk to some of the Mustangs he once coached in youth leagues. He knows something about helping defensive players use their athleticism to the fullest.

However, there are advantages and disadvantages to picking up ground balls with a long stick.

“I get my body behind it when I get the ground ball and then just run for my life to get the ball to the offense and let them take care of it,’’ Verrone admitted. “At times the long stick gives me the advantage to extend for further balls but you have less to hide. You can’t tuck it away like you can a short stick. It’s easier to check it (away).’’

Mount Olive defeated Montville 11-10 on April 11. In this contest their abilities to gain possessions and convert on their opportunities helped the Marauders open up a sizable lead in the second half.

Montville led 3-2 after the first period but Mount Olive took control with seven consecutive goals that were scored in a 21-minute span from the start of the second to late in the third quarter.

“It speaks to the experience of our team,’’ Dave Gallucci said. “We have a lot of returning starters from last year. Their ability to manage the game — to possess the ball —- play smart in certain situations — this team has grown up a lot this year. They’ve learned to be smarter with the ball. It speaks to the credit of the kids.’’

Montville defenseman Jared Mullin tries to knock Mount Olive’s Pete Shaver off balance.

Gonzalez took advantage of offensive opportunities the most. He is a physical, sure-handed attackman who uses his good size and some martial arts training to maintain focus and put the ball in the net.

Mount Olive led 5-3 at halftime and scored four consecutive third-quarter goals, two by Gonzalez and two by McEvoy to open up a 9-3 advantage with 3:33 left in the period. Montville showed some life later in the third with the help of a man-up goal by Brett Condurso and a tally by McCormack.

However, their momentum was completely broken late in the third quarter with a defensive play that created a transition goal forMount Olive.

Verrone used the length of his long stick to snag aMontville pass. He took a few steps before hitting attackman Conor Bouye at midfield. Bouye took the ball, drew defenders and found Gonzalez streaking down the left side. Gonzalez took the pass and beat Montville’s second-half keeper Ben Laub for his fifth goal of the game to make it 10-5.

The Marauders opened the fourth quarter with three more goals making their lead an insurmountable one and assuring a quarterfinal round contest. However, it all started with all those little ground-ball battles.

“It’s what we emphasize – winning ground balls between the restraining lines,’’ Gallucci said. “Ground balls always make a difference.’’

 Other MCT scores:

Delbarton 11, Roxbury 3 – Clay Haarmann and Pat Foley each had two goals and an assist for the top-seeded Green Wave.

Mountain Lakes12, Jefferson3 – Bill Burgoyne scored four times for the Lakers. Tim LaBeau added two goals and two assists for third-seeded MountainLakeswhich led 11-1 at half.

Morristown15, Pequannock 5 – The fourth-seeded Colonials remain unbeaten. Morristown built a 7-1 halftime advantage.


About mcvbb

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

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