Dominant Mendham girls capture North III title

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

MENDHAM — Mendham girls lacrosse was trying to keep up its usual high standards. Morristown girls lacrosse wanted to start building its own legacy. In the North Group III state tournament sectional finals, the team that prevailed was the one that had been to the title game many times in the past.

The Mendham Minutemen put in a dominating performance with a 15-1 triumph over Morristown to secure the state title and the right to play the winner of Princeton-Moorestown in the Group III title game on Saturday.

Christine Graziano scored four goals including her 100th goal in the Minutemen romp. Christine Long and Becky Gohsler fired hat tricks and Carlye Maita had two goals and two assists for Mendham.

The Minutemen led 10-0 at the half and scored 15 consecutive goals with the help of seven different scorers. Both offense and defense were at their best. When Morristown was able to get a quality scoring chance, the Colonials were stopped by Mendham keeper Giuliana Durso with seven saves.

50 gl st mendmorrMendham’s Becky Gohsler navigates through a thicket of Morristown defenders on Wednesday. (Photo byMark Kitchin)

Allie Ferrara scored the lone goal for the Colonials. It was the first time Morristown had advanced to the sectional final. The Colonials finished a break out season with a 15-7 record.

“We didn’t expect to win (by so much) but we knew we could if we came out and played our hardest,” Gohsler said. “This team has so much potential with everyone hustling and everyone putting forth their best effort.”

Considering that Mendham has routinely captured the sectional title in recent years, one might consider playing for it as much of a burden as it is a blessing. However, the Minutemen are more than happy to take the honor especially since it is the first title they have earned this year.

“We are kind of expected to win it,” Gohsler said. “Each game is anyone’s game. We are just so happy that we’ve gotten this far.”

“It’s our first banner,” junior defender Shannon Horan said. “We’ve been working hard for it. It was awesome to win it for Coach Yee. She had big shoes to fill this season. We did it for her and for us.”

11 gl st mendmorr copyMendham’s Kira Lopes battles through the Morristown defense in the North III title game. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Although some things seem the same it has been a year of transition for the Minutemen. First-year coach Lauren Yee is a Mendham alum. She has kept most of the Minutemen’s way of operating the same but she has added some touches of her own. After their loss to Chatham in the Morris County Tournament semifinals, the Minutemen regrouped with a more focused outlook and a renewed sense of purpose.

“Little tweaks here and there,” Yee said. “We moved some things around on the offensive end. We moved some things around on the defense a little bit. Our core is the same and our fundamentals are the same. We are just a lot more relaxed, composed and we are playing smarter lacrosse which is all we really need.”

One addition that stood out on Wednesday was the Minutemen’s backer zone that throttled the Morristown defense most of the day.

“It requires us to put a lot of pressure off ball and pressure inside the eight (meter),” Gohsler said “Those stick checks just happened to be there.”

66 gl st mendmorrMendham’s Shannon Horan shows how active the Minutemen zone can be. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

Horan, Mackenzie Mantione, Emma Bargiacchi, Grace Gaffney, Liz Tolley, Maggie Mantione and Maita are among the players that made the Colonials usually potent offense struggle.

“It was awesome to hold them to one goal,” Horan said. “We were playing aggressive and we wanted the ball. We kind of went after it.”

Perhaps the Minutemen have also developed more of a shut down nature. They showed no signs of letting Morristown, a team with some talented juniors, get back in the game after quickly falling behind. It helped Mendham that Meghan Siverson, one of Morristown’s key players on offense and the draw, was assessed two yellow cards. The second one with 9:21 left in the first half, took her out of the game.

Even Mendham defender Horan showed little mercy. She spent much of the day shutting down her high-scoring cousin, Morristown’s Ferrara.

“I was definitely on her, playing hard,” Horan said. “I had some mixed feelings. I was on her too much because we were in the backer but I wanted to play her.”

Overall, the Mendham defense looked sensational. The zone look and active defense with numerous stick checks suffocated the Colonials any time they stepped near the crease.

“Our zone defense allows us to be a little more aggressive, a little more active,” Yee said. “It’s great that we could do that in these situations. It’s something that is new to this program this year. We are going to keep implementing it and working on it.”

It was a tough loss for the Colonials, which had the most successful season in the history of the program. With only two seniors graduating, Morristown can look on this defeat as a learning experience and incentive for improvement.

140b gl st mendmorrThe Mendham girls cut loose after a satisfying state tournament victory. (Photo by Mark Kitchin)

“It’s a huge, huge deal for our program to get to this point,” Morristown coach Evan Mager said. “The fact that we got here is above and beyond our expectation for where we thought we would go. Sometimes you need that one time to get to a game of this level and really feel what it would be like. … There’s no doubt in my mind that this team has the capability and the skill.  My entire starting lineup is back (next year). I believe we can get here again.”

Mendham knows what’s next. Defending Tournament of Champions winner Moorestown is currently 22-0 and a heavy favorite to advance past Princeton. The Quakers have won 73 consecutive games and haven’t lost since falling to Ridgewood in the 2011 T of C final. The Minutemen know they will have to put together their very best game to stay on the field with the perennial state juggernaut. They are looking forward to the challenge.

“We’ve kind of hit our stride,” Yee said. “We are in a good place, physically and mentally. Come Saturday we are extremely excited to get going.”

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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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