Padavano nets eight in Mendham win; Mountain Lakes prevails

By Mark Kitchin


MENDHAM – Gia Padavano has spent so much time on Mendham’s turf field over the years that she wanted to make her final steps special ones. On Wednesday she made her last appearance memorable by helping the Minutemen back to the Group III final.

The senior attack player scored eight goals and assisted on two others in Mendham’s 16-8 victory over Princeton in the North Group III title game on Wednesday. Mariah Salerno and Becky Gohsler also fired hat tricks for Mendham (15-5) which seems to make reaching the Group III final and a clash against powerhouse Moorestown and annual event. Mendham will face Moorestown once again on Saturday at Kean University. Moorestown dismantled Notre Dame 19-2 to win the South Group III title.

Emilia Lopez-Ona and Gabrielle Gibbons fired hat tricks for Princeton (18-4). A late first-half surge got the Tigers to within 8-5 at halftime, but the Minutemen scored three goals to start the second half and never let Princeton get to within three goals of the lead after that.

68x bl st mendprMendham’s Gia Padavano made her last home game a special one. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Padavano was masterful all game. She twirled and twisted and spun past defenders on crease curls to place a variety of shots on goal.

“I’ve started on this field for four years,’’ Padavano said. “It was our last home game. I think I was inspired.’’

She was once a complementary scorer on the Minutemen while Aly Messinger, Nicole Graziano and others provided the bulk of the offense. Padavano has stepped up in recent weeks and has shown the ability to excel in the field by scoring in tight spaces around the crease or threading passes to cutting teammates for goals.

“She is a senior captain and a leader,’’ Mendham coach Jessica Shoulberg said. “She had an injury last year so she was playing through a lot of pain. Over the summer she was pretty much on bed rest with the injury to her calf. She’s just come out and rehabbed it and never gave up. She’s peaking at the right time. That’s what we expect of her.’’

Watching Messinger play in the National Championship game also may have inspired her and the rest of the Minutemen. Messinger, a captain last year, scored three goals on Sunday night to help University of North Carolina win its first NCAA women’s lacrosse title in triple overtime.

“It’s a combination of both (improvement and confidence),’’ Padavano said. “We’ve had an amazing team over the years that we’ve been here. All the players from the past have helped.

“I learned from the best. Aly and I worked on these things for a couple of years. I learned a lot from her.’’

109x bl st mendpreMendham’s Carlye Maita spins away from Princeton’s Ciara Celestin during first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Mendham got off to a great start by scoring seven of the first eight goals. Padavano scored two of them and assisted on two others.

“We ask the seniors to step up and take a leadership role and that’s what she did,’’ Shoulberg said. “She’s played behind some pretty good players in the past. She has been waiting her turn and she’s making the most of it.’’

Princeton rallied late in the half. The Mendham defense did have some concerns regarding the capabilities of Tigers scorers Emilia Lopez-Ona and Gabrielle Gibbons.

“No. 7 (Lopez-Ona) has got a great shot,’’ Mendham goalie Abbey Witczek, who had four saves, said. “She has good moves. She is able to fake a lot and that’s difficult to go one-on-one with her. She’s a great player.’’

A combination of the suddenly oppressive heat and some communications miscues helped Princeton cut its deficit to 8-5 at the half. At halftime the Mendham defense sorted things out and came back on the field with renewed vigor.

“Defensively we just didn’t communicate,’’ Witczek said, “We figured it out at halftime and we turned it back on, so I’m proud of them.

“It’s tough. Not every game is the same game: different players, different opponents. We changed up a little bit of our defensive lineup. We didn’t have the same girls starting, so we have to work through small things like that.’’

184x bl st mendprAbby Witczek saves the day yet again for Mendham in first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Witczek, who has been between the Mendham pipes for the last three seasons, is happy with how the defense has developed this season especially with senior Lara Guida’s improvement as a first-year varsity starter. Shannon Horan also had a few interceptions during the contest and seemed re-energized in the second half.

“We just had to show some composure,’’ Shoulberg said. “In a championship game everyone is fighting for their last game, last minutes everything. It’s just working through that being smarter with the ball.’’

Offensively, Mendham got fired up as well. It won the next three possessions triggered by Mariah Salerno’s draws. Devon Russell and Carlye Maita won draw controls to set up the Minutemen offense.

“They are hustle players,’’ Witczek said. “They get the ball when we need it. They know how to handle the ball.’’

Padavano slipped in her fourth goal of the game just 41 seconds into the second half. They were followed by back-to-back scores by Gohsler at 20:30 and 19:17.  Princeton got two goals back but the searing heat and the struggle to come back seemed to sap the Tigers strength.

Mendham scored five of the last six goals. Padavano scored four of them and thrilled the Mendham fans with one final tally with 19.4 seconds left to seal the win and leave the Minutemen to ponder thoughts on how to deal with Moorestown (and its 48-game winning streak) yet again.

“We’ve played them many times in the same game,’’ Padavano said. “I think we have just as good a chance as any other year — the key is coming out and having the mindset to believe that we can do it.’’

17x bl st mendpre copyMendham got off to a fast start on Wednesday. Now they are North Group III champs. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

North Group I Final

Mountain Lakes 18, Glen Ridge 11

For three consecutive years the Lakers and Ridgers have battled it out in the final. This time the Lakers emerge as winners. Meghan Ryan scored five goals, Maddie Siebold had four goals and two assists and Jackie Perry scored four goals to lift the Lakers.

Mountain Lakes will face Oak Knoll on Saturday at Kean University for the Group I title. Allie LaBeau and Meredith Newfrock each had two goals and one assist for the top-seeded Lakers (19-1). Mountain Lakes took control early and built a 13-3 halftime margin. The Ridgers (15-8) built some momentum in the second half but never got within six goals of the Lakers. Kendall Smith led Glen Ridge with four goals.

North Group II final

Summit 9, Chatham 8

The Hilltoppers prevailed despite a spectacular performance by Cougars goalkeeper Hannah Reader. Reader made 12 saves and kept Chatham in the game. Lauren Maiorano scored three goals, Bridget Ballard scored twice and Kelcie Ehler, Kristen Maiorano and Maggie O’Neill also connected for the defending Group II champion Cougars (10-9). Summit (17-4) is coached by former West Morris coach Mike Walsh.


About mcvbb

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

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