Mendham captures North Group III title

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

MENDHAM — There probably hasn’t been a shot invented that Mendham goalie Abby Witczak couldn’t find a way to stop. There isn’t a defensive problem Carley Horan hasn’t seen before. There may not be a trapping situation that Sarah Gillespie couldn’t solve with her sharp eyes and quick feet.

While most of the attention always seems to be focused on the Mendham girls lacrosse offense, don’t lose sight of the fact that the Minutemen defensive players work against the offensive players every day and being tested against such a group can only make a team stronger as a unit.

Mendham proved it again during a 16-5 victory over West Windsor Plainsboro North to capture the North Group III state title on Thursday.

Maggie Sinzer scored six goals,  Aly Messinger had three goals and five assists and Gia Padavano also registered a hat trick for the Minutemen. Paige Russell scored twice and Mariah Salerno and Sarah Gillespie also added goals for Mendham which will face Moorestown next for a rematch of last year’s multiple overtime extravaganza.

Mendham’s Abby Witczak stands tall against a West Windsor North attacker during Thursday’s game.

Devin Brakel had a hat trick and Analucia Dellien scored a pair of goals for the Knights of West Windsor North.

West Windsor North took a 2-1 edge before Mendham broke free with six consecutive goals. Mendham led 10-4 at the half and dominated the second half by scoring four goals in eight minutes to start the running clock and then orchestrating lengthy possessions to let the time run out.

The Knights defense had not had a chance to see Messinger and Sinzer up close until Thursday. Witczak knows their blistering shots and tricky maneuvers well.

“It is awesome because Ally can shoot at anywhere at any time,’’ Witczak, the junior keeper, said. “It is so much more fun for me. She is always keeping me guessing — always. And Maggie has that bounce shot that always makes me have to move. They can really rip, so it is always nice to get them shooting on me.’’

Mendham’s Gia Padavano registered a hat trick in Mendham’s state sectional title win.

Horan, who has been a starting defender for three years, feels that playing against a Division I caliber player like Messinger has been a blessing. It will make it easier for her when she has to defend those types of players at the University of Southern California next spring.

“The offense has really good chemistry and they are getting better and better,’’ Horan said. “It’s really fun to play against them, especially Ally because she’s crazy. It’s hard but it is a good challenge and it makes us better.’’

Mendham coach Jessica Shoulberg has always believed that her defenses are a work in progress and can always improve. She loves it that this year’s group always seems to be able to rise to the occasion.

“We always have to see what the matchups are and when they are listening and communicating – it’s great,’’ Shoulberg said. “With girls lacrosse — the rules and the way its set up — it is really hard to play defense so the kids are patient and working through it. I think they are getting much better. I think the better the team is on offense that we play, the better the defense we play.’’

Mendham goalkeeper Abby Witczak discusses strategy ith close defenders Sarah Gillespie (18) and Hayley Keith (12).

Sarah Gillespie believes a constant focus on the fundamentals has helped the team make the necessary stops while still adhering to the recent rule changes that have affected the ability of players to make checks and create turnovers.

“We always get our fundamentals in,’’ Gillespie said. “On every practice we are always working on our fundamentals to make sure they are up to par because those are the little things that in tough and even matched games are going to put you ahead.’’

Along with the defense, the Mendham team has been great at initiating transition from defense to offense in a flash. Gillespie’s blazing speed in the middle has made a difference.

“We definitely have different people to step up and Sarah — being really fast — it is pretty obvious,’’ Horan said. “We have a ton of midfielders that have the responsibility of getting the ball in the clear. They are all really good 1 v 1 defenders but our main job is to play really good as a unit.’’

Paige Russell scored twice and had another great game on the draw for the Minutemen during Thursday’s win.

The defense quietly did its job against West Windsor North and helped set up the offense numerous times for transition goals. Sinzer scored four first-quarter goals and Messinger negated the Knights double teams and face guarding tactics by firing pinpoint passes to cutting teammates. She had two goals and three assists in the first half as Mendham built a 10-4 edge.

Consecutive scores by Padavano, Gillespie (off a draw control), Padavano (on a Messinger feed) and Sinzer (from Padavano) made it a 14-4 game with 17 minutes left. After that Mendham was patient and smart while playing its final game on the home turf. The Minutemen controlled the ball for a majority of the time and ran out the clock. The result was a sectional title and a Group III rematch with south champ Moorestown, which vanquished Mendham last year in a memorable thriller.

Other state tournament scores

North Group II

Chatham 21, Summit 8Kelsey Perselay had six goals and two assists and Jaclyn Leto had four goals and four assists to pace the Cougars to a sectional title. Chatham took a 10-4 lead at the half and never let up. Kate Murphy had three goals and two assists and Mary Kate O’Neill, Lauren Maiorano and Kallan Murray had two goals apiece for Chatham (21-2). The Cougars play Red Bank Catholic on Thursday.

North Group I

Glen Ridge 13, Mountain Lakes 6 — Jackie Perry scored twice and Casey Drollinger, Victoria Kalamaras, Megan Ryan and Maddie Siebold also had tallies for the Lakers which finish at 12-8. Julia Short had three goals and Mary Alati had two goals and four assists for the Ridgers.

 

 

The defense quietly did its job against West Windsor North and helped set up the offense numerous times for transition goals. Sinzer scored four first-quarter goals and Messinger negated the Knights double teams and face guarding tactics by firing pinpoint passes to cutting teammates. She had two goals and three assists in the first half as Mendham built a 10-4 edge.

Consecutive scores by Padavano, Gillespie (off a draw control), Padavano (on a Messinger feed) and Sinzer (from Padavano) made it a 14-4 game with 17 minutes left. After that Mendham was patient and smart while playing its final game on the home turf. The Minutemen controlled the ball for a majority of the time and ran out the clock. The result was a sectional title and a Group III rematch with south champ Moorestown, which vanquished Mendham last year in a memorable thriller.

 

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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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