Morris Knolls rolls past Roxbury in MCT

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

DENVILLE – The record may not show it but the Morris Knolls girls lacrosse players firmly believe that they are a good team capable of winning games. Now, the Golden Eagles have positive proof that all their hard work is starting to pay off.

Senior attack Jaime Chapman scored four goals to lift Morris Knolls to a 14-9 triumph over Roxbury in Morris County Tournament girls lacrosse opening round action on Friday.

Senior center Haleigh Schroth had three goals and one assist and senior midfielder Jacie Cooper had a hat trick for the sixth-seeded Golden Eagles. Shaina Gilmore scored twice and Giulia Vitolo and Stephanie Hughes also connected for Morris Knolls (3-11).

The Golden Eagles will play the winner of third-seeded Chatham and 14th seeded Jefferson in next week’s quarterfinals.

Joelle Manganella scored five goals and Hali Gruber connected twice for the 11th seeded Gaels (9-4).

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Jaime Chapman scored four goals to spark the Golden Eagles offense. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Morris Knolls has been a victim of an extremely tough regular schedule and has received little to show for it. Now with a couple of victories this week, the Golden Eagles feel a better about themselves and their efforts.

“We’re very happy,’’ Schroth said. “It’s great to win two games in a row. We are on a winning streak. It’s been a little tough but obviously we just kept going. In every single game we did our best and there were a couple that we only lost by one goal.’’

“Going into this last week we were 1-11,’’ Cooper said. “People always ask us ‘what’s your record? And you don’t really want to tell them.’ We really give it our all. Every game we have to go in thinking that we have a chance. We’re working hard and we can always win.’’

Now with back-to-back victories against Montville and now Roxbury, the Morris Knolls players can build some confidence for upcoming opponents.

“I saw it yesterday a little bit and I saw it today,’’ Morris Knolls coach Amy Richter said. “That’s a big thing. It was tough for them to play the teams we were playing and still hold on to that confidence – that feeling we were going to be okay. They definitely did that today and today is going to help them in the future whether it is Chatham’s (or Jefferson’s MCT) game or in the states.’’

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Roxbury’s Hali Gruber launches a shot at Morris Knolls’ goalkeeper Tito Adetula during first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Morris Knolls has several reasons to feel positive. One is its strength on the draw with Schroth at the controls.

“She is the heart and soul of our team in terms of work ethic and also just the knowledge she brings,’’ Richter said. “She is a coach out on the field. She sees a lot of things that the other girls don’t see. She communicates well. She’s very smart. She’s so composed. You never see her get frustrated. She’s just an all-around great player.’’

Her battle with Roxbury center Amanda Beal was an enthralling, physical tug-of-war in which Schroth won her share of pulls. On a number of occasions, the pull was so hard and tight that the ball would fire out of their stalemated sticks in line drive fashion rather than popping back up in the air for someone to claim it.

“She was pushing really hard,’’ Schroth said. “She hurt my wrist. It was a battle. … I’d get the ball to (Cooper) and Jaime Chapman and that’s when we would start running our offense.’’

Cooper and Chapman worked hard to try and win the 50-50 balls around the circle. Even if they didn’t claim it cleanly they worked to get in position to draw fouls that might give the Golden Eagles possessions.

“(Getting draws) was extremely important,’’ Schroth said. “At halftime we each had 12 shots – that means it’s an equal game. It shows the every single draw is that important.’’

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Jacie Cooper helped the Golden Eagles build a 7-3 halftime advantage. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Another key to success was a concerted defensive effort against Roxbury standout Manganella. The Gaels have an impressive number of one-goal triumphs and narrow victories with Manganella usually orchestrating a magical finish in the final moments. The Golden Eagles made sure there was no magic for the Gaels on Friday.

“We knew that she was mainly right handed,’’ Richter said. “She does not like to go to goal with her left. I just told my defense that we had to be prepared and try and force her left, force the shot because our goalie can make the save or pass the ball off. Also to collapse on her. We know she is going to the goal. She is their leading scorer.’’

Morris Knolls doubled her at times with senior defender Courtney Meola working hard to anticipate her moves and deny her the ball anywhere near the net.

“Courtney has been playing varsity for me for the last three years,’’ Richter said. “She is like a fixture back there. She is able to communicate to the other girls exactly what they need to do on defense. She is very smart. She can read a player. Even though she may not be the fastest or the strongest, she is extremely intelligent. That makes her a great defender.”

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The draw between Morris Knolls’ Haleigh Schroth and Roxbury’s Amanda Beal was a constant battle. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Morris Knolls also proved that once it had a lead, the players were able to maintain and extend it. It’s a skill the Golden Eagles have not been able to work on much since they often trail their opponents.

“That was the biggest thing that our coach said at halftime,’’ Cooper said. “They were known to make good comebacks and win by one goal. We needed to maintain our lead. We can’t give up.’’

The contest was tied 3-3 at the 14-minute mark when Morris Knolls erupted for four consecutive goals to end the half. Schroth and Cooper scored two goals each during the run to give Morris Knolls a 7-3 halftime advantage.

It was Schroth who knocked in the first two scores to make it a 5-3 game.

“Haleigh is our best player,’’ Cooper said of Schroth. “If I have the ball behind the net, I look for Haleigh to cut. She always knows when to cut and how to get open for the ball.’’

Cooper scored two-thirds of her hat trick with goals at 6:36 and 3:21 to give the Golden Eagles a lift going into the break.

“She gets a lot of the draw controls,’’ Schroth said of Cooper. “She gets a lot of assists — a lot of goals, too. She’s a great all-around player.’’

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Joelle Manganella (14) scored four of her five goals in the second half for Roxbury. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The Gaels kept the Golden Eagles within range and cut their deficit to 11-9 when Manganella connected on a free position goal with 8:08 remaining.

However, back-to-back goals by Vitolo and Schroth within the span of 41 seconds made it a 13-9 game with 7:15 left. From there Morris Knolls was able to dominate possessions in the remaining minutes, which might be a positive development created by playing such tough opponents.

“The types of teams that we played and the level that we’ve had to play at I think helped us with today,’’ Richter said. “If we didn’t see some of those teams and played up, I don’t think it would have appeared on the scoreboard. That gave us an advantage.’’

The chance to finally savor a couple of wins is something the players appreciate, but the Golden Eagles aren’t finished. They believe they have more to prove.

“This game signifies that,’’ Cooper said. “Going in playing Chatham (or Jefferson) we should remember that we have a chance to show everyone that we deserve to be here.’’

MORRIS COUNTY RESULTS

Victoria Kalamaras scored six goals and dished three assists to lift top-seeded Mountain Lakes to a 17-3 victory over Mount Olive in opening round Morris County Tournament play.

Meredith Newfrock fired a hat trick and Jackie Perry had two goals and two assists for Mountain Lakes (12-1). The Lakers advance to play the winner of Saturday’s Montville-Villa Walsh Academy contest. Francesca Verrone scored twice for No. 16 Mount Olive (4-10).

West Morris 19, Morris Catholic 7

Paige Burton had four goals and one assist to lift the Highlanders. Chelsea Orban and Julia Radissich each had three goals and one assist and Amy Moore registered a hat trick for fourth-seeded West Morris (4-9). The fourth-seeded Highlanders play the winner of Pequannock/Kinnelon in the quarterfinal round. The 13th-seeded Crusaders drop to 7-8.

Mendham 15, Randolph 2

Becky Gohsler had four goals and one assist and Christine Graziano had three goals and one assist for the second-seeded Minutemen. Devon Russell added a pair of goals for Mendham (9-4). The Minutemen play the winner of Morristown/Madison in the quarterfinal round. The 15th-seeded Rams dropped to 3-8.

Regular season

Morris Hills 20, Newark Academy 12

Casey Lyness scored six goals and Danielle Aihini contributed three goals and four assists to pace the Scarlet Knights (7-8).

Jefferson 18, West Milford 4

The Falcons improve to 14-1. Kara Hodapp had five goals and one assist, Hannah Najafi had four goals and one assist and Darby Nolan contributed four goals for Jefferson (14-1).

BOYS LACROSSE

Morris County Tournament

Randolph 15, Morris Catholic 2

J.P. Southren had four goals and five assists and Kurt Naslonski had four goals and one assist in the preliminary round MCT contest. Stefan Tamminga added four goals for 14th-seeded Randolph (4-10). The Rams travel to Chatham for the opening round. The 19th-seeded Crusaders dropped to 1-12.

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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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