Park Regional earns season’s first triumph

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

DENVILLE — There’s only one team in Morris County lacrosse that makes two schools happy when they win. A Park Regional triumph is always double the fun for both its players and fans.

Senior midfielder Nick Falcone had two goals and one assist and three of his teammates also notched a pair of scores in Park Regional’s 12-6 triumph over Morris Catholic on the Crusaders’ upper turf field on Thursday. Ryan Hamtil, Rob Evanik and Terry O’Connor also had two-goal games for the Sparks (1-3). ** (see below)

Mike Purcell scored five goals and John Dunn had four assists for Morris Catholic which also finished the game with a 1-3 mark.

Park Regional is one of the few co-op lacrosse teams in the state. It consists of players from both Hanover Park and WhippanyPark High School. While the boys lacrosse team holds its practices and games at Hanover Park, the girls squad uses WhippanyPark as its home base.

 Park Regional goalie A. J. Dean (15) looks the ball into his stick with defenseman Nick Fano (44) in support.

“It’s pretty exciting,’’ senior goalkeeper A. J. Dean said of the win. “In the first three games we weren’t as good as we thought. We came around and started playing well.

“We found our shots. The defense shut things down a little bit and offense started taking over.’’

It’s easy to understand why it might take Park Regional a little more time to jell. In past years the mix might favor more players from one of the schools. This year’s group of varsity players is about half  Hanover Park and half WhippanyPark. The athletes that attend Whippany Park have a few more obstacles to overcome.

“The commute stinks,’’ said Park Regional defender Nick Fano. “Route 10 traffic is always bad. … The younger kids get bussed and the older kids drive (to Hanover Park). Sometimes we’re late but the coaches understand. Our practices are pretty accommodating.’’

 Park Regional teammates congratulate Ryan Hamtil (10) after scoring the opening goal of the second quarter that would change the scoreboard to 2-0.

All the players are trying to get used to the style and strategies of Brian Evans. Their demanding first-year coach seems determined to get the players to expect more from themselves.

“He just has more of a work ethic than our previous coaches,’’ Dean said. “He expects you to get everything down right away and use your legs and not just your stick which is a big plus for us because we’re a fast team and we want to run.’’

“He believes in us,’’ Falcone added. “That’s the main thing.’’

It was a strong second quarter that ignited the Sparks. Park Regional scored six times to take an 8-2 lead at the half.

“We were all hitting our cuts,’’ Falcone said. “Everyone seemed to be catching and shooting. Everything was going our way.’’

Park Regional defenseman Nick Fano (44) tracks down a ground ball with Morris Catholic’s Mike Purcell (22) in hot pursuit.

Midfielder Terry O’Connor scored twice during a five-goal run. Connor Krueger connected on a goal with less than a second remaining to make it a six-goal margin and give the Sparks a big boost going into the second half.

It is to Morris Catholic’s credit that it didn’t give up. The duo of attackmen John Dunn and Mike Purcell stood out. Dunn had four assists and hit Purcell with some passes in tight spots. Purcell is a strong bull dodger who forces his way to the cage like a bowling ball knocking down pins. Their efforts made the game competitive in the second half but it wasn’t enough to catch Park Regional.

Now that the Sparks have their first win in the books, they are looking for more. 

“Everybody has been stepping up for us,’’ Falcone said. “We got a big win and now we have to get that big win on Saturday (at home against West Orange).’’

Morris Catholic defenseman Jack Clendenny (4) draws plenty of unwanted attention while trying to clear the ball.

**Editor’s Note – The Park Regional lacrosse teams have never had a nickname or a mascot. Hanover Park teams are known as the Hornets and Whippany Park squads are Wildcats. The combination of the two invites any sort of unsatisfying and undignified mutations. There have been times that the co-op teams have been called Hanover Park or Whippany Park depending upon where they practice and play but it is unfair to those athletes that play on the team but don’t belong to the school.

Since the school administration has never insisted on a nickname and the coaches and players in the past have never specified how they want to be called other than Park which is printed prominently on their uniforms, it has raised nothing but problems for local sportswriters (especially me) over the past decade that want to give the team a little bit of personality and make it consistent with its opponents which all have nicknames. So Morriscountylacrosse is going to start calling the Park Regional teams the Sparks to see if the nickname catches on.

Definitions of the word Spark includes: 1) Any ignited or fiery particle. 2) Traces of life or vitality. 3) (As a verb) to kindle animate or stimulate (interest, activity, spirit).

Other boys lacrosse results

Chatham 10, Ridge 6 – The Cougars improve to 6-0. Kyle Howard-Johnson scored four goals, Sam Carson dished four assists and Joey Rittner and David Gills notched two goals each for Chatham. The Cougars led 8-4 at the half.

Delbarton 16, Mendham 3; Morris Hills 7, Newton 5; Kittatinny 8, Boonton 3; Montclair-Kimberley 7, Morristown-Beard 2, Mahwah 13, Jefferson 4; Millburn 15, Randolph 7

Girls lacrosse results

Villa Walsh 13, Montclair Kimberley 10The Vikings are 6-0. Candace Pallitto had four goals and one assist. Taylor Medd added three goals and one assist and Nicole Baiocco also had a hat trick for Villa Walsh.

Mount Olive 15, Lenape Valley 3; Caldwell 10, Madison 9; Pope John 19, St. Elizabeth 6.

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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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