Pleasant memories for Mountain Lakes in tournament opener

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

MOUNTAIN LAKES– A rainy day on a turf field has provided one really bad memory for Mountain Lakes’ Grace Newfrock but also a host of good ones. On what has been a very rainy season the Lakers’ senior midfielder and her teammates enjoyed yet another positive game in a steady drizzle.

Mountain Lakes dominated Verona 15-2 in a Group I state tournament game on Monday. Margot Fitzpatrick, Kaylor Davies, Steph Steinhauser, Maddy Siebold and Newfrock scored two goals apiece for Mountain Lakes which kept its scoring to a minimum after taking a 12-0 halftime lead. The Lakers will face Caldwell, an 11-10 winner overMadison in the next round.

It was in weather conditions like yesterday that Newfrock tore her anterior cruciate ligament as well as the medial and lateral meniscus in her right leg in a preseason contest last season. Her injuries made her miss the entire year and turned her into a surrogate coach. Now, she’s back on the field and having the senior season she’s dreamed of but she had to overcome some obstacles early on.

“I was a little nervous,’’ Newfrock said. “The first rainy game was on the turf. I was freaking out a little bit. After I got the first rainy game under my belt, I was fine for the rest of the season.

“It’s taken me a little bit to get 100 percent comfortable. Before the season I was doing some 7 v 7 work but playing full field in the midfield was a lot harder than I expected. I’ve been having a great season. I feel like I’m back. It’s nice because I can feel myself playing better and better every game.’’

In her sophomore year, her speed and skill on transition helped the Lakers to their best state tournament showing ever, which included a Group title and a Tournament of Champions final in which they eventually lost to Moorestown.

Without her presence on the field in 2010, they had to adjust in the midfield. The situation has given the Lakers more options this year in terms of getting the ball upfield after a save or a defensive stop.

“It’s nice because we had a lot of speed in the midfield with some young kids, so I’m not the only one who can run the ball from one end to the other,’’ Newfrock said. “Casey (Drollinger) does a great job. She takes care of the ball very well. I’m still there in the midfield trying to get from one end to the other.’’

The Lakers celebrate one of their 12 first-half goals in Monday’s state tournament win.

The Lakers have had no arguments about their ability to play defense this season. It has been the focal point of the team. 

“We have a really solid defense with Carli (Gniewek) in the net,’’ Drollinger said. “It’s a real young defense, too. Everyone plays like a really tight unit. From the very beginning, we’ve had a really strong defensive unit.’’

Gniewek has plenty of praise for her steadfast teammates.

“We have two sophomores Alexa Wilson and Sarah Bozzo and Gretchen Boehmcke is a senior starting low defense,’’ Gniewek said. “They communicate with me very well. We all know what we’re expecting. We all know when we want an 8-meter and when we want the girl to come down the middle. They listen very well. Even some of the kids like freshman Jackie Perry, She knows exactly what she’s doing. They all listen extremely well.’’

The image of Lakers’ Grace Newfrock is a little fuzzy but the ball is clearly in the back of the net.

The offense had no problems at all on Monday and seemed to click well even in slippery conditions. Mostly due to injuries,Verona (4-14) has had a difficult season and had trouble defending the quick and efficient Lakers from the beginning.

Center Lauren Lubowitz won the draws consistently, capturing many of them cleanly by herself and moving it to her attacking teammates which wasted no time pressing to the cage. Players like Fitzgerald and Steinhouser looked extremely confident while going to the goal.

“Margot is a lefty,’’ Newfrock said. “She’s been on varsity all four years so she has a lot of experience. She knows a lot about the game. She’s really good at helping other people. She sets a good example for what a good attacker is. She takes care of the ball.

“Stein is a solid, solid player. You don’t want to make her mad. She will get the ball back. She’s very fiery and she has a great shot.’’

A bevy of Verona players surround Mountain Lakes midfielder Casey Drollinger in Monday’s game.

The Lakers will have tougher foes in the upcoming games, but on Monday they were able to dispatch an opponent quickly and afterward enjoy a Senior Day celebration amid the rain drops. They are prepared for a long tournament run.

“I think were pretty good,’’ Gniewek said. “We’re ready to roll.’’

State Tournament Games of Note:

Villa Walsh 8, Kinnelon 7, 3OT – Candace Pallitto scored four goals including the game-winning goal with 2:13 left in triple overtime. Heidi Annaheim scored seven goals for the Colts.

Mendham 16, Fair Lawn 2 – Aly Messinger, Nicole Graziano and Gia Padavano scored four goals each for the top-seeded Minutemen in Group III.

Caldwell 11, Madison 10 – The Dodgers fall in Group I despite hat tricks by Amelia Murcott and Emily Rutland.

Northern Highlands 15, Montville 0 – Shelby Labe scored four times for the Mustangs.

Bernards 21, Morristown-Beard 12 – Hilary Smith scored five times for the Crimson.

West Windsor North 14, Mount Olive 5 – Sam Tillson and Gina Massoni scored two goals apiece for the Marauders.

Jefferson 17, Passaic Valley 1 – The Falcons win a state tournament game with Gabbie Sauickie notching three goals and three assists.

Kent Place 16, Pequannock 5 – Michelle Fallon has two goals and three assists for the Golden Panthers.

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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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