Balance, defense lift Morris Knolls past Roxbury

By Mark Kitchin


DENVILLE — The player that wins the ground ball is not always the one that gets there first but the one that secures it and turns it into a possession for his team. On Tuesday, Morris Knolls made sure that when they got it, they kept it.

Dimitri Paleocostas had a goal and two assists and seven different players scored goals to lift Morris Knolls to a 7-4 triumph over Roxbury in boys lacrosse action on Tuesday.

The Golden Eagles defense shut out the Gaels in the second half and the offense rallied from a 4-3 halftime deficit.

Dan Rosone scored twice and Mike Ireland and Phil Caltigirone added goals for Roxbury (5-5). Morris Knolls improved to 8-5 which also helped their seed in the Morris County Tournament at the coaches meeting that evening.

Roxbury’s Brendan Riefberg (8) puts a check on Morris Knolls’ Jon Engels (44) in the first half of Tuesday’s game.

“We work on that every day,’’ Morris Knolls coach Mark Grilo said. “We work on ground balls every day and here at home we want to be the winners of ground balls. That’s our attitude going in and the guys work very hard at that.

“It showed in the second half. I wasn’t very happy in the first half with the ground ball output. In the second half they really turned it around. We seem to be a second half team.’’

Morris Knolls rallied with four second-half goals. It has been a trend for the Golden Eagles to bounce back with a vengeance after slow starts.

“We kind of get our legs under us and we get more comfortable,’’ Grilo said. “The guys were pretty determined in the second half. They weren’t really happy with how we started and they really came to play. I think this is our best defensive effort in the second half — this season. I was pretty happy with it.’’

Roxbury attackman Mike Ireland (38) dodges Morris Knolls defender Dom Gaudioso (9) in first half action.

Roxbury does have weapons. Morris Knolls was concerned about some of the Gaels playmakers – especially versatile Brendan Riefberg.

“He played defense most of the game and then they moved him to attack,’’ Grilo said. “We figured if we could keep the ball away from them then we could pretty much dictate what we wanted them to do. We were pretty fortunate.’’

Roxbury scored all its goals in the first half including a tally by Caltagirone with one second left in the first quarter to make it a 3-1 game. The contest overall was intense and emotional befitting a game between the two traditional rivals.

“I don’t need to give them any extra motivation for Roxbury,’’ Grilo said. “It’s a division game. It’s a local rivalry right down Route 10. We know a lot of these guys from summer programs. Roxbury is an intense game in every sport.’’    

Morris Knolls defenseman Dom Gaudioso (9) tries to keep Roxbury’s Sean Wilson (14)  from the cage.

Scores by Mike Campman and Ryan Hanright cut the Golden Eagles’ deficit to 4-3 before the half. Hanright is a midfielder that has become the pulse of the team.

“He does so many things for us,’’ Grilo said. “He gets us started in transition and he’s such an emotional leader for us. When he’s going the whole team lifts up.’’

Jon Engels’ low, swooping lefty shot with 9:28 left in the third quarter knotted the game at 4-all. Rob McCormick connected on a Paleocostas pass with 1:26 left in the third quarter to give Morris Knolls the lead for good. A fast break goal by Jess Kopecky with 36 seconds left gave the Golden Eagles a 6-4 edge going into the fourth quarter.

Morris Knolls uses versatility on offense to its advantage. Opposing defenses have to account for everyone wearing the green and gold.

“We’re very balanced,’’ Grilo said. “That’s a team strength. That’s how I like to think of it. If you shut one of our guys off, somebody else is going to step up.’’

Roxbury’s Sean Smith (1) puts a check on Morris Knolls Jon Engels (44) during Tuesday’s game.

Midfielder Jared Houston finished the scoring run by placing Engles’ crease feed in the net with 4:34 left in the game to make it 7-4. It was more than enough for the Golden Eagles. Defenders Dom Gaudioso, Ryan Sweeney and Joe Leonardis and goalkeeper Tim Zangara kept the Gaels from putting another ball in the back of the net.

Now Grilo is hoping that Morris Knolls can put forth this type of effort for a full game and not just a half especially with the upcoming tournament games.

“We know that in our division every other game is going to be a battle,’’ Grilo said. “We had some hiccups on the road. We are much better at home. I’m hoping we can change that because we’re going to have to go on the road for counties and see what happens from there.’’

Other scores:

Montville 17, Wayne Valley 3 – The Mustangs went on a 10-2 third-quarter run to fuel the romp. Ryan O’Lear had six goals and four assists, Jake Haimson had five goals and one assist and Brian McCormack had two goals and five assists forMontville.



About mcvbb

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

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