Burton’s goal lifts West Morris past Chatham in 3 OT

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

CHATHAM — When a team is 0-5 it takes nothing for granted. So even when Paige Burton scored her game-winning goal in triple overtime, it took a few awkward seconds for West Morris to realize it just earned its first victory of the season.

The senior center connected with 1:40 left in the third overtime to lift West Morris to a 15-14 triumph over Chatham in a game played on the turf at Haas Field.

Burton scored three goals, both of them in overtime play. Classmate Sydney Sapir scored four times and Amy Moore and Sarah Frankovic scored two goals each. It was also the first victory for new varsity coach Catherine Seals. West Morris sent the game into overtime when Hannah Malian connected off a Burton feed with 1:09 left in regulation. The Wolfpack also had a strong performance by goalie Renee Gonzalez. She made 11 saves including several dramatic ones to end regulation and overtime periods.

Sophomore Bridget Ballard had five goals and three assists, Kristen Maiorano scored four goals and Maggie O’Neill and Maddy Bowles scored two goals apiece for Chatham (3-5).

7 gl wmch

West Morris’ Paige Burton defends Chatham’s Emily Wingate in first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“Our record doesn’t do us justice,” Burton said. “We are so much better than the numbers in the paper. We proved that today. It’s going to give us the momentum and the courage to keep this going for the rest of the season.”

“I think our team works better in close games, when we know were so close to winning,” West Morris goalie Renee Gonzalez added. “We wanted it and we deserved to win today.”

It’s easy to see the Wolfpack’s confusion. In girls lacrosse, if teams are tied after regulation play, they continue with a complete six-minute overtime consisting of two three-minute halves. If the game is tied after that, the next team that scores a goal wins. There was an awkward pause after Burton’s score, but it didn’t take anything away from celebrating a much needed win.

“We didn’t know that it was golden goal,” Burton said. “It was exciting but it was a little more exciting if we had known.”

Burton wanted to focus on getting a good shot off since she was disappointed in the chances she took earlier in the game.

33 gl wmchWest Morris’ Sydney Sapir scored four times to help her team to its first win of the season. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“Hannah Malian really busted her butt to get that redefend,” Burton said. “There was 1:40 left. I saw that I could take it and I found the seam. We have been putting emphasis all week on shot placement and corners. After I shot it to the goalies stick in the first half, I decided that i need to place my shot better. I knew coming around that my stick was high so I shot low.”

West Morris’ early season struggles have been puzzling since many of the players have competed on state championship teams in soccer and basketball and are not used to losing.

“We’ve been asking ourselves that often,” Burton said. “We’re an athletic team. We have talent. We’ve had a hard time putting it all together. We work on it every single day. I can see us making vast improvements.”

Their losses have been head scratching including the previous defeat against Kent Place which they had a six-goal advantage at half.

“The last game we were up 7-1 at halftime,” Gonzalez said “We just haven’t been able to mesh so far. Today, we really deserved and we finally worked 50 minutes as a team.”

One reason for delayed success might be the changes that Seals, who was an assistant at Mendham High for the last six years, has brought in. West Morris has had a winning program for the last two decades. However, the Wolfpack seems to have stalled at a certain point and may be in the danger of stagnating. Seals, a West Morris alum, hasn’t been afraid to make changes.

35 gl wmchChatham captain Natalie Washuta battles an opponent for a loose ball in first half action. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“She’s doing a lot of different things,” said Burton, who was coached by Seals on the club level. “I knew going into it a little more about what to expect. She’s a lot more intense and we do a lot more things that require a lot of hard work. She pushes us.”

The changes included a lot more conditioning and the beginning of a lifting program that has never been part of the Wolfpack formula. There’s also an added intensity in practices and games that may have taken the West Morris athletes awhile to get used to.

“This group of girls are not only extremely athletic and talented but they are hard workers,” Seals said. “If you don’t structure and push them, they are not as successful. So were working really hard with them. We are intense in practice and we are never satisfied. It’s a mentality change”

West Morris was competitive throughout on Friday. The Wolfpack matched the Cougars goal for goal early on and had a two-goal lead with two minutes left in the first half. However, the Cougars rallied from a 7-5 deficit and scored three consecutive goals. Maddy Bowles scored with 51 seconds left, then Ballard connected with :29 and :01 left to give the Cougars an 8-7 halftime advantage.

52 gl wmchChatham celebrates Bridget Ballard’s last-second goal to take an 8-7 lead at the half. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

The Cougars led by as much as 10-7 early in the second half, but the Wolfpack kept their poise. West Morris rallied and finally pulled even on Cassidy Orban’s free-position goal to make it 12-all with 4:34 left. Chatham took the lead with 2:01 left on O’Neill’s score but the Wolfpack tied it at 13 on Malian’s goal to force the extra periods.

A dramatic effort in the final seconds by Maiorano inadvertently caused a Chatham penalty in the overtime. With time winding down, Maiorano rushed from a tight angle on the right side of the goal and dove toward the crease while getting a shot off. Officials ruled it a dangerous play and carded her. It forced her to miss the first two minutes of the overtime. West Morris took advantage and Burton placed a righty shot with 1:37 left in the period.

Chatham won the next draw and killed the penalty. In a restart off a free position, Bowles scored off a Ballard pass to tie the game at 14 with 22 seconds left.

Chatham had the better chances in the second three-minute overtime, but Gonzalez came up big in the cage with a pair of saves including a stop on an Emily Wingate shot in the final seconds.

“She was outstanding today,” Seals said of her goalie. “She was consistent and that’s important. That’s what were stressing with every player. Whatever their individual levels are, we want them to be consistent. Not only was Renee consistent, she rose above it. She kept her head in the game and she pulled through and she was a major force for us.”

Both teams had scoring chances in the next (considered the second) overtime period which allowed for sudden victory, but Gonzalez and Chatham’s Gislina Saul both kept the ball out of the net. Quick work by O’Neill gave the Cougars the draw control but West Morris’ Julia Radissick picked up an errant pass and the ball found its way into Burton’s stick. She put her team ahead for good. Now it’s the Wolfpack’s duty to build on their triumph.

“Now that we won, we have the confidence to win more games,” Gonzalez said. “We know since we can beat a team like Chatham. We can go further and achieve our goals.”

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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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