Monthly Archives: April 2014

Cavallo has grown into leadership role for Hillsborough

Hillsborough's Erika Cavallo (right) scoops up the ball as Bridgewater-Raritan's Ally Mastroianni chases down the play on Tuesday. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Hillsborough’s Erika Cavallo (right) scoops up the ball as Bridgewater-Raritan’s Ally Mastroianni chases down the play on Tuesday. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

HILLSBOROUGH — Over the past four seasons, Erika Cavallo has become one of the best players in Hillsborough High School girls lacrosse history, simply by putting in the time and energy to get better. After just blending in as a freshman and scoring four goals in four games, Cavallo has turned into a force for the Raiders, working her way up from third-leading scorer on the team to the club’s go-to scorer and leader on the field as a senior.

She said that coming into the program four years ago and playing with so many quality players, including 2013 Courier News Player of the Year Kristina Dunphey, has helped her become a star.

“When I came in as a freshman, there were a lot of really good players that were leaders, and I knew going into these last couple of years that I would have to become a leader myself and I knew that having that role would help me progress as a player on the field,” Cavallo said. “I think I developed a lot over the years and I have a great coach, who’s very competitive, and she just encouraged me to get better.”

Head coach Beth Murrin, who’s seen Cavallo evolve during her career, said that as a freshman, she had a lot of raw athleticism and competitiveness, but she’s turned that into so much more in her final campaign.

“She loves the pace of it and she loves being in that competitive environment,” Murrin said. “She loves being able to make a difference on the field and I think she made the decision between her freshman and sophomore year to put a lot of time and energy into this sport. She’s done that every off-season and she brings her game back better every season.”

As a sophomore, Cavallo ranked third for the Raiders with 56 goals and 16 assists and last season, behind Dunphey, she totaled 73 goals and eight assists. With a couple of regular season games left and the postseason ahead of her, Cavallo has compiled 58 goals and 18 assists, putting her on pace to set a new career high in points. She now has 191 goals and 42 assists for her four-year career.

But scoring isn’t the only way Cavallo affects the way Hillsborough plays. Following a 13-9 loss to Bridgewater-Raritan Tuesday – a game in which Cavallo scored five goals and added an assist – she spoke to how she’s grown into a leader on the field.

“Today, for example, is a tough loss, but as a leader on the field, everyone looks toward you, like ‘how is she going to react?’ So if I react to something in a negative way, they’re going to get down too,” Cavallo said. “I just try to encourage everyone to stay positive and keep it up and I always tell them to forget about the past, you can’t change that play, but you can change what happens next.”

What’s next for Cavallo, following the postseason run with Hillsborough, is a college career at Towson University. She said that she’s thought about moving onto the next level, but that her performance this year is directly tied into the college ranks.

“Now that I’m a senior, I’ve seen some teammates that are in their last year and they’re thinking about just going to college, but me, I think about I’m going to play next year and everything I do now is going to affect what I do next year at Towson,” she said.

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Bridgewater-Raritan routs Montgomery; Mastroianni nets five goals for Panthers

Bridgewater-Raritan's Ally Mastroianni scores against Montgomery on Thursday in Montgomery. Photo by: Jeff Granit

Bridgewater-Raritan’s Ally Mastroianni scores against Montgomery on Thursday in Montgomery. Photo by: Jeff Granit

MONTGOMERY — The youth movement that has taken over the Bridgewater-Raritan High School girls lacrosse team was on full display Thursday afternoon against Montgomery.

Not only did the young Panthers come away with a 17-2 victory to move to 11-2 on the season, but freshmen scored 14 of the 17 goals, with phenom Ally Mastroianni leading the charge with five goals and four assists.

Teammate Hannah Hollingsworth added four goals and Kirsten Murphy chipped in three goals as Bridgewater-Raritan continued to learn on the fly and improve as a unit. Mastroianni, who entered play with a state-best 90 points (55 goals, 35 assists) scored three times from the free position arc and assisted on three straight goals and four of five in the second half, when the Panthers had eased off the jets. She said that playing with teammates she’s had since elementary school has helped the learning curve this season.

“It has really helped; everyone on the team is such a good help for us and they’re always encouraging and helping each other,” Mastroianni said. “Everyone is getting so much better, from the first practice to now, and I’ve noticed that we talk more and we’re all stepping up our game. We work super-hard in practice and in games as well and we’re just getting better every game and I see big things for us.”

The freshman class, with as many as six first-year players in the starting lineup from game-to-game, has been noteworthy all season long, but the young players stepped on the gas to turn a 3-1 game into an 11-1 one in just 11 minutes of game play, putting Montgomery (3-8) away.

“I think we’re becoming smarter and we’re becoming better under pressure. We’ve learned what the roles are on the field and we’re able to play off of one another; the girls know each other’s strengths and weaknesses now and that’s something that comes from having so many new players on the team,” Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Kathie DeBonis said.

Lindsay Alvarez and Emily Miller, both juniors, scored the other three Panthers’ goals, as eight different players recorded at least one point. Freshman goalie Ariel Weismann made five saves in the cage, showing off her skills against a Montgomery offense that came into play averaging 9.5 goals per contest.

Weismann, another one of those players that’s been on the same team as Mastroianni for years now, gave way to senior Gina Kim in the final moments, with the outcome no longer in doubt. But whether she finishes games or not, Mastroianni knows how far this group has come and she realizes that they’ll only continue to get better.

“I’ve been playing with these girls since we were all little and I knew we had so much potential and I knew that the older girls were good players as well and we would come together like we have,” she said.

Freshman Tori Bobal netted both Montgomery goals, bookending a 14-0 Bridgewater-Raritan run. Classmate Allyson Weakliem came up with six saves in the cage, thwarting the Panthers’ offense and preventing any further damage.

While its evident that the young Panthers have vast skill sets, DeBonis knows that she doesn’t need to be hard on them when a pass goes awry or an opportunity is missed in transition.

“I think the girls are harder on themselves than I am on them,” DeBonis said. “They want to do well and they want to please and it’s more intrinsic on them at this point.”

Area boys lacrosse teams remain a force in state circles

Despite having just one team still undefeated in late April, Somerset and Union Counties are stocked full of contenders, with six teams — Immaculata, Pingry, Ridge, Somerville, Bridgewater-Raritan and Westfield — in the statewide Top 20, according to LaxPower.com.

And with the competition so fierce on a day-to-day basis, no team is safe from a loss — just ask defending state champion Ridge.

Last week, the Red Devils took a 14-6 home thumping from Pingry. In fact, Ridge has lost three games this season, but all three are to local foes — Immaculata, Pingry and Somerville — that have their sights set on deep postseason runs.

Pingry earned yet another convincing victory on Wednesday, going on the road and handling Bridgewater-Raritan by an 11-6 score. The Big Blue, who sit in second place in the Delaware Division behind Immaculata, has yielded just six goals per game this season.

But Somerville, the lone squad still undefeated and one of just seven teams statewide without a loss, earned a statement win over Ridge on April 7, and a triple-overtime victory over New Providence nine days later.

The Pioneers, No. 1 in the Courier News’ Top 5, aren’t focused on simply running the table in the Raritan Division, according to head coach Gilman Eaton.

“We don’t even speak about those kinds of things. We just go out there and play lacrosse one game at a time and we don’t think about being undefeated,” Eaton said. “Lacrosse is an iffy game; you’ve seen the teams in the Delaware Division beat each other up and those scores are all over the place. In order for us to go deep into the postseason, we just need to play four quarters at our best. That’s what we’ve learned and we’ll certainly draw from that win over Ridge when we need to.”

For Immaculata, a trio of brothers have led the way to an 8-2 start. Chandler, Connor and Griffin Vanderbeek have scored 67 percent (72 of 106) of the Spartans’ goals so far this season, with Griffin’s 23 leading the way.

Chandler has netted 21 and Connor has added 18 for Immaculata, which has dropped just a 5-3 decision to Watchung Hills in an otherwise perfect campaign against New Jersey opponents (they have a loss to Georgetown Prep of Washington D.C. as well).

The Somerset County Tournament gets underway in the first week of May, which will allow some crossover games between Delaware and Raritan Division foes to test how well they stack up against one another.

Westfield, last season’s runner-up in the Union County Tournament, figures to be in good shape come tournament time, with convincing victories over Scotch Plains-Fanwood (15-6) and Hillsborough (10-3) in late March. Although the Blue Devils have found winning to be tough lately – they have losses in two straight, including one to perennial state-power and last year’s UCT champ Summit – matchups with Delaware Division squads will litter the remainder of their regular season schedule.

If it can get solid scoring from Luke Prybyiski (25 goals, 10 assists) and Pat Decker (23 goals, 8 assists), Westfield should be a force next month.

Pingry solves wind to defeat Bridgewater-Raritan

Pingry's Clayton Wright, right, celebrates with teammate JC Sorenson after scoring during the second quarter against Bridgewater-Raritan on Wednesday. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Pingry’s Clayton Wright, right, celebrates with teammate JC Sorenson after scoring during the second quarter against Bridgewater-Raritan on Wednesday. Photo by: Jason Towlen

BRIDGEWATER — After battling the howling winds for most of the first quarter of Wednesday’s game, The Pingry School boys lacrosse team got its bearing and put the hammer down to continue a midseason surge.

Behind a six-point performance from junior attack Clayton Wright and a hat trick from senior captain Evan Key, the Big Blue dominated Bridgewater-Raritan for an 11-6 victory.

With the wind playing tricks with both team’s passing in the opening minutes, a good number of passes went high or wide of the mark, leaving both squads at a standstill until the 5:07 mark, when Wright hit on his first of two goals.

He said that the weather bothered the Big Blue early on, but once he and his teammates got accustomed to what the wind was going to do, everything took off.

“The wind was brutal in the beginning and it was weird with the passing. I sailed one right over everyone’s heads, but once we got used to it, it didn’t affect us at all,” Wright said.

Wright also scored with 4:33 left in the second quarter, putting Pingry up 3-0. After a Bridgewater-Raritan tally, Wright got the primary assist after Josh Gully won a face-off and got the ball into the box and onto Wright’s stick. Wright dished to classmate Clay McCollum for the goal, which gave the Big Blue their second three-goal lead of the contest.

Bridgewater-Raritan (6-4) got itself back into the game in the final minute of the second quarter, getting goals from Ben Byrne and Ethan Christensen just 18 seconds apart to cut the gap to 5-3. But every time the Panthers attempted a comeback, Pingry (7-2) was there with an answer.

“We felt some pressure when they started to push and close the gap, but we did what we do, and we put the ball in the net when we needed to,” Wright said. “We are super well-rounded this year and we have some real awesome midfielders that play the entire game and they do an awesome job for us to get some goals.”

Key netted two of his three goals in the second half, both times — at 7-3 and 10-6 — establishing a four-goal cushion for the Big Blue.

Gully finished with three goals and McCollum notched two goals and an assist for Pingry, which got three assists from leading-scorer J.C. Sorenson.

“We kept our composure and we didn’t let the wind or anything get to us that much and we got into a rhythm in the second quarter,” Key said. “We just liked our matchups today and to get a win on the road was big for us.”

Pingry has now won its last three games by a combined score of 31-17 after a defeat at the hands of Immaculata on April 12. With freshman goalie David Metzger — who allows just 5.8 goals per contest — between the pipes all season long, the Big Blue defense has allowed just Immaculata to score more than 10 goals against them.

“David has been the anchor of our defense this year,” Key said. “He’s been communicating well and we know that he has our back and to get these quality type wins early in the year is big for him.”

Byrne and Griffin Figel each scored twice for Bridgewater-Raritan. Goalie Luke Konen made eight saves to keep the Panthers in it.

Barr helps Hunterdon Central topple Montgomery

SKILLMAN — With most of the attention turned to the offense and the main goal scorers, sometimes the faceoff men in lacrosse get overlooked.

But it’s those specialists that do the dirty work that can swing a game one way or another and Saturday afternoon the Hunterdon Central High School boys lacrosse team used its specialist to turn the tables.

Senior Stephen Barr won 10 of 18 faceoffs and scored his fourth career goal to boost the Red Devils past pesky Montgomery, 10-8.

Barr was one of seven goal scorers for the Red Devils (4-4) and he said that chipping in on offense while dominating the faceoff was rewarding for him.

“It’s great. I don’t get goals often, but it was fun,” Barr said. “I enjoyed being able to get a goal today. And in the x, I just practice a lot of different moves, so I can adapt to what the opponent is doing.”

Tim Cuccio netted a three goals and Ben Coakley added two goals and two assists to lead the Hunterdon Central attack, which at times was thwarted by Montgomery goalie Mike Yanovitch.

“We didn’t finish all that well; their goalie made some nice saves and we hit him with a lot of shots,” Hunterdon Central coach Mike Vergalito said. “So we got ourselves a lot of good looks and there are a lot of positives of what we did today.”

One of the main positives on the day was the performance of Barr, who was part of a flurry at the end of the first quarter to give Hunterdon Central the lead for good. The teams had played almost the entire opening stanza at a standstill, until the final minute when there were three goals scored.

Evan Tracey gave Montgomery (1-8) a 2-1 lead with 45 seconds left in the quarter, but Barr tied it just seven seconds later, winning a faceoff and racing downfield for the goal. Coakley beat the buzzer and scored with one second remaining to give Hunterdon Central a 3-2 advantage that they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.

But it wasn’t all positive for the Red Devils, who drew the ire of Vergalito and his staff on multiple occasions, with passes going awry and lapses on defense that allowed Montgomery to hang around.

“The frustrating part, for me, is that we keep making the same mistakes over and over again,” Vergalito said. “We have a lot of young guys on this team, but if we want to get somewhere at the end of the season, at some point we’re going to need to fix some of this stuff. Our plate is full in terms of things to do, so we just need to get the guys to play smarter and be more efficient.”

The Cougars closed the gap on two different occasions in the middle stanzas, with Cam Garinger netting a goal just before the half to make it 5-4 and Wyatt Colangelo connecting with just two seconds left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 8-6.

Montgomery ended up with goals inside of the final minute of all four quarters, with three of those goals coming inside of 10 seconds in each stanza. Garinger and Matt Stagnitta each netted a pair for the Cougars and Yanovitch finished with 11 saves in net.

But down the stretch, when they needed possession to further cut into the lead, Barr was there as the answer, thwarting every chance at the x.

“Barr has been the most consistent part of this team as far as a guy that constantly comes up with faceoffs, groundballs, he clears it for us really well,” Vergalito said. “He’s an outstanding leader and an outstanding player and he’s tough as nails.”

Late rally lifts Bernards over Voorhees

Voorhees' Stephanie Linzer is guarded by Bernards' Lauren Crane during the first half on Thursday in Bernards. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Voorhees’ Stephanie Linzer is guarded by Bernards’ Lauren Crane during the first half on Thursday in Bernards. Photo by: Jason Towlen

BERNARDS TWP. — With her team trailing for the first time since the opening moments of the game, Bernards High School girls lacrosse coach Jessica McGinn called timeout to settle her players down.

In the 10:59 that followed, the Mountaineers responded with a 4-0 run to erase a two-goal deficit and earn a 13-12 victory over Voorhees on Thursday.

Emma TenBarge and Tegan Warren each scored four goals, and Warren connected for two of hers during the four-goal run that started at the 13:16 mark of the second half and culminated nearly 11 minutes later.

“I would like to think it was something I said, but I don’t even remember what I told them,” said McGinn of the timeout. “It was just an amount of time that we needed to collect ourselves and be reminded how we should be playing at all times. We lose sight of it a little bit.”

After building a 12-10 lead, Voorhees — which was pesky all day long and refused to go away quietly — attempted one last comeback. The Vikings got it down to 13-12 and scooped up a loose ball and earned a free position shot with 32 seconds left on the stick of their most effective player on the day, Katie Koller.

But Koller’s shot found the webbing of goalie Payton Barta’s stick and not the back of the net and the Mountaineers were able to run out the remaining seconds for the victory.

“Payton always plays well and today was a little up-and-down for her,” McGinn said. “She missed some that we’ve been working on, but she came up big and made the saves that she needed to.”

Barta finished with seven saves, but none bigger than stoning Koller — who scored three goals and added three assists for Voorhees (5-3), which trailed 7-6 at halftime and led just twice in the game.

“We came out a little flat and we played well, but it was just some small things that we didn’t do well and Bernards is a very good team, so they capitalized on our mistakes,” Voorhees head coach Courtney Thibeault said.

Freshman Paige Petty scored two goals and added an assist and Grace Gillis and Andra Scaliti each chipped in goals for Bernards (7-2), to give it five different goal scorers on the day.

“It’s not just Emma and Tegan for us; they do a great job finishing, but the difference this year is that we have so many players creating plays, offensively and defensively, and that’s the difference,” McGinn said. “It’s great that we have players that can finish, but we have so many that contribute.”

Olivia DiRienz, Stephanie Linzer and Hannah Ryan each scored twice for Voorhees, which got nine saves from goalie Genevieve Schweikert.

But in the end, the draw controls were the difference, as Bernards controlled 14-26 and used the possession to tax the Voorhees defense.

“The draw was huge for us. It was the defense coming off the line that made the impact for us. We didn’t have the midfielders win every time, we have some very versatile, pro-active defenders that helped us today,” McGinn said.

Youthful spark has Bridgewater-Raritan winning

Coming off a season in which it won just five games, the Bridgewater-Raritan High School girls lacrosse team has used a youth infusion to race out to a 7-1 record.

Led by freshman sensation Ally Mastroianni and a five-pack of classmate starters, the Panthers have already won more games in 2014, but head coach Kathie DeBonis knew what she was getting with this first-year class.

“I have been watching this group of young ladies since they were in fifth grade and I’ve seen them at camps and I knew they were a special group coming up,” DeBonis said. “We had high expectations for them and we have the speed and the size, but we’re developing the game sense and we’re still solidifying the confidence.”

Mastroianni has already scored 39 goals and added 28 assists for 67 points in the Panthers’ first eight games. DeBonis said that she was aware of Mastroianni’s skill from when she was younger, attending youth camps.

“We knew she was special back then, but now that she has this supporting cast around here, it was just a matter of time before she put it all together,” DeBonis said. “I think that a total level of talent that the freshmen have has raised the entire level of play of our program. Synergistically, I think all of these freshman have had a great affect on our program.”

The other contributing freshmen include Hannah Hollingsworth (18 goals, 14 assists), Julia Lytle, Kirsten Murphy, Melissa Hawkins, Addison Reilly and goalie Ariel Weismann (85 saves, 4.5 goals against per game).

Having these freshmen making such an impact has taken some of the playing time from the upperclassmen on the squad, but DeBonis, who has coached at Bridgewater-Raritan for 18 seasons, said that she’s always prided the players in the program on knowing what roles they need to play game in and game out.

“The sooner everyone can embrace their roles, the better the whole team will play,” she said. “Some games, we have upperclassmen being leading players, some days they take on more of a complimentary role. The junior class has been very receptive of the freshmen. They’re really looking out for them.”

The Panthers have a showdown with North Hunterdon on Thursday (4:30 p.m.), which should show the progress the young squad can do against a more-experienced Lions for the Skyland Conference’s top spot.

Unbeaten Watchung HIlls

One of the few unbeaten teams left in the state, Watchung Hills is putting the ball in the back of the net at a very high rate to begin its season. But the success of the Warriors (5-0) hasn’t surprised head coach Stephanie Linder one bit.

“I’m not surprised that we’re 5-0,” Linder said. “I know this week is going to be tough, but we have such a strong sophomore class and they’ve been dominant for us so far.”

Watchung Hills has scored 14.2 goals per game this season, with sophomore Lindsay Carroll (15 goals, nine assists) and sister Amanda, a junior (17 goals, seven assists) leading the way. But Linder hit on the play of her defense, which has held four of its five opponents to under 10 goals.

“I thought we’d take a big hit on defense after last season, with all of the graduation, but they’ve been doing such a great job,” Linder said. “Add in that we start three sophomore midfielders and it’s been great. I’m glad we’ve picked up right where we left off last year.

The Warriors will be tested this week, with games against undefeated Immaculata and 7-1 North Hunterdon.

North Hunterdon goes overtime to beat Hunterdon Central

CLINTON TWP. — Heading into overtime, head coach Stacy Ditze outlined a specific plan for her North Hunterdon High School girls lacrosse team.

It was a simple one: score quickly, win the ensuing draw and try and maintain possession for as long as possible to hold on for a win.

The Lions checked off every one of those goals and even added a second goal for some added cushion, and captured an up-and-down affair, 14-12 in overtime against Hunterdon Central Saturday afternoon.

Senior Julia Wood led the scoring brigade with seven of the Lions’ 14 goals, including both in the two three-minute overtime sessions, and three in a 3:12 minute stretch to open the second half.

“I have to give it up to Allison [Lane], who fed me multiple times off the draws, so it wasn’t just me; it was a huge team effort,” Wood said. “I just finished and it was very nerve-wracking for us, playing down a man for so long.”

North Hunterdon (6-1) went down a man for the remainder of the game when it was whistled for a fourth yellow card deep in regulation. Per the referees, the Lions played the final moments of regulation and all of overtime down one player, but even with a disadvantage, North Hunterdon scored the game’s final five goals, erasing a 12-9 deficit with 8:06 to play.

When asked how her squad was able to get the victory, despite all of the cards, Ditze didn’t have a definitive answer.

“I’m not so sure [how we won this game],” she said. “In the end, it was the draw that was the difference. Especially in the overtime. We had a really good plan going into the overtime and we put a second goal in, which wasn’t even a part of the plan but it helped us out.”

The two teams played a roller-coaster type game right from the start, when the game was tied on three separate instances in the first 12 minutes of play. But Hunterdon Central seized control from there, getting two goals from Courtney Patterson and one each from Kira Greer and Holly Andersen to take a 7-4 lead into the half.

But North Hunterdon would battle back, getting three of Wood’s seven goals in succession in the opening minutes of the second half, with classmate Allison Lane picking up a pair of assists in that spurt. Lane, who averages better than four goals per contest this season, was held without a point in the first 25 minutes, but she used her size and strength to rack up two goals and two assists in the second half. She was a dominant force on the draw control, using her height advantage to earn possession for the Lions on multiple occasions down the stretch.

“Allison’s height helped us tremendously today, but Central did a really good job of boxing us out. I just told them that we needed to take one step back and go around them on the draws and we’d be OK,” Ditze said. “We weren’t as strong today as we usually are, but her height is huge. In overtime it really showed for us.”

Patterson finished with four goals for Hunterdon Central (2-4) and Greer and Carly Mastrogiacomo each scored twice. The Red Devils held three different three-goal leads, but couldn’t control the draws down the stretch to preserve an upset victory.

Immaculata remains unbeaten, holds off Somerville

Immaculata's Kelsey Graham fires off one of her four goals as Somerville's Amy Miller and goalie Sarah Clark try to block on Thursday in Somerville. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Immaculata’s Kelsey Graham fires off one of her four goals as Somerville’s Amy Miller and goalie Sarah Clark try to block on Thursday in Somerville. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

SOMERVILLE — Despite building up an eight-goal advantage late in the first half, the Immaculata High School girls lacrosse team had to hold on for dear life Thursday afternoon against its neighborhood rival.

Behind the balanced scoring of seniors Kelsey Graham and Sojourner Mineo and sophomore Jenna Naples, Immaculata held off Somerville 15-13, to remain unbeaten in the young season.

The Pioneers closed the gap to one on two occasions in the second half, but never were able to tie it or take the lead, as Mineo posted three of her four goals in the final 9:33 to boost the Spartans (5-0). The first of those goals came just seconds after Mineo’s two-minute penalty had expired, and she sprinted into an open area of the field and beat goalie Sarah Clark to put Immaculata up 12-10.

“That was definitely a turning point for us; we just realized that we needed to get back in the game and keep pushing the issue and the game wasn’t over yet,” Graham said. “It was a little scary, for them to come all the way back against us like that, and we definitely didn’t expect it, but we’re willing to adjust and work with what happens.”

Mineo put Immaculata up 14-10 with 7:46 to play, taking the draw control straight down the field and beating Clark just inside the crossbar, but Somerville (2-3) refused to go away quietly. Star junior Dakota Pastore scored two of her game-high 10 goals in the final minutes, nearly bringing the Pioneers back all by herself. Pastore also reached her 200th career goal, becoming the first player in her program to reach the milestone.

Half of Pastore’s goals (one of which was her 200th career goal) came from the free position arc, as Somerville shot 5-6 as a team on free position shots. But having dug themselves such a big hole — Immaculata led 9-3 at the half — was just too much to overcome for the Pioneers.

“Early on the girls were a little rattled, being down so quickly, so it took them a little bit to get their focus together,” Somerville head coach Maylin Harter said. “But I had a lot of confidence that once we could get the draw, we could score without problems and Dakota is such a phenomenal player. We’re extremely lucky to have her.”

Graham spearheaded the Immaculata run in the first half, scoring three times in the first 11 minutes of play, including two free position shots. Her fourth goal, also from the free position arc, with 8:02 remaining, was part of a 3-0 Spartans run that was ultimately the difference. Graham credited her teammates for never losing faith in themselves, despite Somerville’s comeback attempt.

“This year, the team dynamic is completely different and we really know how to work like a team and get the ball around and it just works great for us,” Graham said. “Everyone is a part of it and I love it. It’s an indescribable feeling to be a part of this team this year.”

Naples recorded a hat trick in the first half for Immaculata and added a fourth goal midway through the second half, while goalie Kendall McKeon came up with five saves, none bigger than a doorstep robbery of Pastore with 1:20 left and the Pioneers down by two.

Earning a victory over their local rival — the two schools are just half a mile apart — is something the Spartans can take for the next part of their season, according to Graham.

“We’re going to use this win to set us off for the rest of the season,” she said. “It was awesome to get this one.”

Somerville’s win over Ridge moves Pioneers to top spot in boys lacrosse poll

The Somerville High School boys lacrosse team scored a statement victory Monday in the rain, turning a stellar defensive effort from Pat Grega and John Murphy into a 6-5 victory over Ridge, the defending NJSIAA Tournament of Champions.

The win vaulted Somerville to the top spot in the Courier News Top 5 this week.

The Red Devils were riding a five-game winning streak dating back to last season and had won 14 of their last 15 games spanning the last two years.

“I think the win was one thing,” Somerville head coach Gilmon Eaton said. “But it’s important for us to see where we stand and right now I think the guys feel pretty good. It’s only one game, but it gives us some confidence, especially considering the way Ridge has been playing. They’re a real quality team and we were really excited to play them.”

The two teams will need to meet in the postseason for a rematch, but Eaton knows that his team won’t let a victory like this linger for too long.

“It’s celebration time for us now,” he said following the win on Monday. “They work really hard and they executed the game plan against Ridge. But going into our next bunch of practices, they’re going to work harder than ever, knowing that now we have the target on our backs. They can’t let their guard down at all, especially now.”

Eaton noted that Grega, who will play collegiately at the University of Maryland next season, did an outstanding job covering Ridge star J.T. Palladino one-on-one, limiting the Red Devils’ top offensive weapon to just two goals and an assist Monday.

“We came into the game wanting to play J.T. one-on-one, and Pat was on him most of the time. A few times, we had some others on him, but we kept J.T. at bay and that was the real concentration for us. He scored twice, but we beat him up a little bit,” Eaton said. “We played our fundamental defense, not getting out of position and sliding when we needed to slide, but Ridge got a lot of shots off.”

Murphy, a senior that played about half of the games in 2013 for Somerville, stepped up and shut the door against Ridge, coming up with 15 of his 22 saves in the second half, when the rain really picked up. Eaton said that the rain wasn’t as bad as it could have been, occasionally causing players to lose their footing, but that ending up being an equalizer for the two high-powered offenses.

Somerville (4-0) had been averaging better than 14 goals per game this season, and Ridge had scored an average of 10 per contest in its first four victories.

“We play one game at a time and these kids just love to play the game,” Eaton said. “They like to challenge themselves and going up against a quality program like Ridge and getting a win is big. The kids are excited and who knows, we might end up seeing them again in the Somerset County Tournament, like last year.”

Ridge won last season’s two meetings by an 18-6 combined score, including an 8-4 decision in the SCT finals.