Mountain Lakes boys have faith in freshman face-off man

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

JEFFERSON TWP.– It’s not often that varsity boys lacrosse teams put the responsibility of the face-off circle on a freshman. However, Mountain Lakes put their confidence in a draw taking freshman Matt Palazzi and he rewarded his Lakers teammates in an 8-6 victory over Chatham in the semifinals of the Morris County Tournament held at Jefferson Township High School on Saturday.

Mountain Lakes advanced to the finals after a year’s hiatus and will play rival Delbarton on Tuesday night in a game at FDU-Madison.

The Green Wave had their own problems in edging fourth seeded West Morris 7-6 in the other semifinal

Both Mountain Lakes and Palazzi struggled in the first half. Chatham led the contest 3-2 at the half and Matt Palazzi was 0 for 7 in first half faceoffs. In the second half, he was a much better 6 of 11 and the Lakers offense took off.

“He’s an energizer bunny,” teammate Cade Siddron said. “He is all you can ask for from a freshman. We had our senior guy (Johnny Becker) break his back and he had to get back surgery. We have all the faith in that kid. When we needed it, he made it for us.”

It was Palazzi’s ability to win face-offs in the third and fourth quarter that put the Lakers offense in a rhythm. One of the goals was facilitated by Palazzi himself when he won the draw and took it down field, drew a defender and fed Ryan Frawley for a score to make it an 8-4 game.

“We have so much confidence in him,” Frawley said. “He is the most humble kid I know. Hats off to him. As little as he is he has some strength. He is the quickest kid. He is never going to give up on us. If he put his head down, we would have been done for. We would have had no possessions in the game.”

The decisive four-goal run began late in the third quarter when Siddron made a spin move in the crease and hit a lefty shot with 34 seconds left in the period to make if 5-4.

“Cade has his head down a little bit in the beginning of the game,” Frawley said. “We told him to keep his head up. He’s a great player and he is always going to finish for us.”

Siddron made it 6-4 less than two minutes in the second half when he converted a pass from Frawley.   

“That kid has been my friend my whole life” Siddron said of Frawley. “He knows where I am. I know where he is. He always looks for me. We connect like we are brothers out there. He fed me in the crease and I had to finish for him.”

With Chatham reeling, the next two goals came from Frawley and came about a minute apart. It was a whirlwind of emotion and intensity for Mountain Lakes. Suddenly what was a close contest turned firmly in the Lakers favor.

“We feed off of our sideline. They call themselves the mosh pit for a reason,”  Frawley said. “Our fans came out to support us and we fed off of that.”

Mountain Lakes will need plenty of emotion on Tuesday. It struggled in its 8-3 regular season loss to Delbarton on April 30. They know it will take their very best efforts against their traditional MCT rivals.

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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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