Mendham tops West Morris in sectional semifinals

By Mark Kitchin


MENDHAM — Everyone who has seen Mendham girls play lacrosse knows the scoring ability of Aly Messinger. This season she’s found a brand new way to influence the outcome of games that has little to do with her scoring touch.

Messinger had six goals and three assists and Maggie Sinzer scored five times to lift Mendham to a 15-5 triumph over West Morris in the North Group III state tournament action on Tuesday.

Paige Russell scored twice and Devon Russell and Gia Padovino also notched goals for the Minutemen. Mendham advances to play the winner of Princeton and West Windsor North in the sectional final on Thursday.

Megan Monaco had three goals and an assist for West Morris. Mendham took control early by scoring six of the first seven goals. The Minutemen built a 10-2 halftime lead and were in control the rest of the way.

Messinger has become more active on the draw. Against West Morris it was clearly evident that the University of North Carolina-bound senior is taking a more assertive role in the circle when it comes to earning draw controls and helping her team win possessions.

Mendham’s Aly Messinger (5), Maggie Sinzer (22) and Devon Russell (2) celebrated early and often during Tuesday’s triumph.

“We work on draw controls every practice and I’ve been working a lot with coach (Catherine) Seals,’’ Messinger said. “She’s been teaching me to basically to go through it more because in the past I was veering off.  Now I’m getting more involved in the draw so I’m kind of happy with it.’’

In past years it might not have been as necessary for Messinger, who was chosen All-American as a junior last year, to be busy in the circle. This year the Minutemen are making good use of her quickness and instincts. Her aggressiveness has also helped Paige Russell, who is essentially learning to take the draws at the varsity level.

“I try to get the ball to her area as much as I can,’’ Russell said. “She’s just great – getting off the line before everyone else and also boxing out. She is a great asset on the circle. In the past she played behind the restraining line. She’s been huge on the circle, getting forward and helping us gain possession.’’

Mendham’s Paige Russell (1) and West Morris’ Emily Delaney (6) take a tumble while trying to get the ball.

On Tuesday, Mendham used its speed to score transition goals including a few right off the draw. Having Messinger win draw controls and push the ball down field helps create offense and energy.

 “We’ve been working on transition a lot on the draws and even on clears from (goalie) Abby (WItczak),’’ Russell said. “In the midfield we have Devon (Russell) and Sarah (Gillespie) with speed just taking the ball up the field. Down low we have Gia (Padovano) and Maggie (Sinzer) and they recognize the cuts every single time.

“We just take it all the way down. We want to play as fast as possible, but still getting those good shots and knowing when to pull it out and settle it. We work just on knowing the right times and seeing the seams, seeing the cutters and its just taking that extra second and making good decisions.’’

Mendham’s Aly Messinger (5) has become more active on the faceoff circle this year.

Mendham had two 3-goal runs and a 4-goal run to build a 10-2 advantage at the half on Tuesday.  Back-to-back goals by Monaco gave the Wolfpack a little energy and cut their deficit to 12-4 early in the second half but the Minutemen answered with back-to-back goals by Messinger, one on a free possession at 18:32 and another on a hip-high shot that she zipped into the right side of the net at the 11-minute mark to make it 14-4.

The teams exchanged goals to end the game. West Morris’ Emily Delaney completed her 4-year varsity career by scoring on a feed from Sydney Sapir with 13:57 left. Messinger completed the scoring with another free position at the five-minute mark. It would be her final goal against the rival Wolfpack.

“I’ve played with a couple of their players on our club team and I know a couple of them,’’ Messinger said. “It feels really good to win. It’s our rival school and we really wanted to beat them

West Morris’ Megan Monaco (21) and Mendham’s Paige Russell (7) battled on the draw all day.

 Other games

North Group II semifinal

Chatham 13, West Essex 8 — Jaclyn Leto scored five goals to lift the Cougars. Kallen Murray, Kelsey Perselay and Lauren Maiorano scored two goals apiece for Chatham (20-1). The Cougars will play Summit, a 9-7 victor over Rumson in the North Group II final on Thursday.

North Group I semifinal

Mountain Lakes 18, Kinnelon 11 — Allie LaBeau had five goals and two assists and Casey Drollinger and Victoria Kalamaras fired hat tricks for the Lakers. Heidi Annaheim scored four goals for the Colts. Mountain Lakes took control with an 11-6 first half surge.



About mcvbb

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

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