Delbarton’s MCT triumph came with a lesson attached

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

FLORHAM PARK – Delbarton certainly deserved the Morris County Tournament title that it earned after a 10-7 triumph over Chatham on Tuesday. However, it may have been the lesson the players learned while earning that title that may be just as valuable.

Grant VanFossen scored three goals and Kevin Lewis and Thomas Fowler had two goals and one assist for unbeaten and top-seeded Delbarton (15-0). Matt Killian, Jordan Dowiak and defenseman Matt Oplinger also scored goals. Lewis, an attackman, was named tournament MVP.

It was Delbarton’s 12th MCT title, tying rival Mountain Lakes for most titles in the oldest boys lacrosse county tournament in the Garden State.

Senior attackman Sam Carson scored four goals and David Gill, Joe Ritter and Thomas Guida also connected for the third-seeded Cougars (14-4). Chatham looked tentative early on in its initial MCT final appearance but posted an impressive fourth-quarter rally to make the game interesting.

270 mctfinalsDelbarton’s Grant VanFossen came out firing in the first quarter. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

When Carson connected with 58.8 seconds left to make it 10-7 and the Cougars won the subsequent face-off the crowd started buzzing but there wasn’t enough time for Chatham to get closer. The Green Wave celebrated but the lesson the Cougars provided them on how not to close out a dangerous and determined opponent wasn’t lost on the players.

“It feels kind of bittersweet that we didn’t step on their throats and finish them like we could have but a win is a win is a win,’’ Delbarton defenseman Will Reynolds said. “We knew they were going to be tough. They had a lot of athletes. They put a few (goals) in late. I wish we could have had those back but it feels good to get the win.

“We took our foot off the pedal and they kept playing the whole time. They kept running, taking good shots and making good passes. I guess we thought we would kind of pull away like the first game but we never did. They wanted it.’’

Delbarton defeated Chatham 12-3 in a regular season game on April 9. Knowing that they played against an opponent capable of such firepower, it should have been imperative for the Green Wave to keep working to the end regardless of the score. After the game, some of the players admitted they should have done a better job of finishing up.

“In the fourth quarter they had some great energy,’’ VanFossen said “They were able to put a couple in on us.’’

302 mctfinalsMatt Oplinger (99) enjoys a first quarter goal as Thomas Fowler (8) and Grant VanFossen help him celebrate. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Delbarton started the game with fire and emotion. The one regret for many of the returning players from last season was that the Green Wave missed the title game. This year they wanted to make it count.

“One of the big disappointments of last year was losing in the semifinals of this tournament (against Mountain Lakes),’’ Lewis said. “We came out with a lot of energy. We really wanted this game.’’

Delbarton was dominant for the first three quarters. Lewis set the tone with an unassisted goal he scored while knifing between Chatham defenders just 31 seconds into the game.

“He’s a great player on the practice field and on the game field,’’ Delbarton goalkeeper John Schisler said. “He goes hard in practice and games and he hustles. It was great to see him get the MVP.’’

The thrills for the Green Wave got bigger seconds later when long-stick Oplinger connected just 25 seconds later.

“I love to see Oppy score,’’ Reynolds said. “He works so hard so whenever he has a chance to shoot it, we give him the green light.’’

Back-to-back scores by VanFossen, a Chatham resident, gave the Green Wave a 4-0 advantage late in the opening quarter.

“We knew they were really aggressive,’’ VanFossen said of Chatham’s defense. “We played them earlier this year. Our coaches just drew up a great gameplan. We’ve always been a big team with transition. Our defense has played amazing this year. They are able to push the ball up and we’ve been able to score quick goals in transition.’’

335 mctfinalsGrant VanFossen (9) and Kevin Lewis hook up to give the Green Wave a 3-0 advantage. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Carson put Chatham on the board when he connected on a pass from Christof Strunc with 40.7 seconds left. In the second quarter, Delbarton continued to dominate on the offensive end. VanFossen, Fowler, Lewis and Killian provided the Green Wave with an 8-1 halftime margin.

The Green Wave got some of the goals on transition and a few in man-advantage opportunities. They also had a plan in how to attack the cage against Chatham’s athletic defenders when the teams were even up.

“We wanted inverts from behind to get shorty on shorty from behind,’’ Lewis said. “That worked really well today.’’

The scoring provided the defense a rest and some confidence in providing the early cushion.

“You can’t even explain how important it is to get those early goals,’’ Reynolds said. “It puts that momentum in you to just buckle down and play good solid defense like we did.’’

Overall Delbarton faceoff specialist Austin Williams and Chatham’s Tripp Connors each won their share of faceoffs. Connors got a few more in the fourth quarter when the Cougars mounted their late rally.

While Delbarton’s offense sparkled in the first half, its defense was at its most impressive in the third quarter. There was close to a 5-minute stretch in which Chatham had the ball and desperately tried to muster up some offense but came up empty. It was difficult for the deliberate Cougars to get off shots, and the few they did were contested. It was a scoreless period for both teams.

“That was a good job by our defense just hanging in there,’’ Reynolds said. “We didn’t get tired and even if we did we kept working. We kept talking even if we were winded. We stuck in there. We played some good solid man defense. Even our short sticks were up against their shifty guys. They were the unsung heroes of this game. Our poles did a great job knocking down passes and picking up ground balls in our end. Johnny came up with some big saves.’’

433 mctfinalsDefenseman Will Reynolds, left, and midfielder Matt Killian hold up some freshly wrapped hardware. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The teams exchanged goals early in the fourth quarter. Dowiak’s connection was matched by Guida’s lone goal for Chatham. A Carson goal for the Cougars was matched by Fowler’s second score. With 5:43 Delbarton still had a comfortable 10-3 lead, but that’s when Chatham caught fire with four consecutive goals. Ritter notched his unassisted goal at 5:01 and Carson scored at 4:13. Gill’s lefty goal at 1:42 made it 10-6.

Williams won a draw with 1:33 left to stop Chatham momentum and Delbarton called time out but then it turned the ball over. Carson connected for his final goal with 58.8 seconds left. Chatham earned the draw one more time but there was no more magic as Delbarton defense buckled down and did not allow a quality shot. The Green Wave players, heard the buzzer, flung their sticks in the air and celebrated on the Fairleigh Dickinson University turf with a small sense of relief thrown in.

“We worked hard in the off-season,’’ Reynolds said. “We worked hard all season. Getting a good scout, extra sprints, shooting after practice. We had this goal in mind and did everything we could to attain this goal.’’

451 mctfinalsThe 2013 Morris County Tournament champions — Delbarton. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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