After defeating Morristown in a regular-season game two days prior, the fifth-seeded Mendham boys lacrosse team beat the 12th-seeded Colonials again on Saturday, this time walking away with a 14-4 victory in the first round of the NJSIAA North Group III Tournament.
The Minutemen (9-9) advance to the quarterfinals where they will face No. 4 Millburn on Tuesday.
“I thought we moved the ball, we ran our plays actually very well, some plays that we haven’t really executed during the season worked today and I was really happy with our overall team performance,” Mendham sophomore attack Chandler Avallone said. “I hope we can carry that to the state championship.”
Senior attack Pete McNerney opened the scoring on an assist from senior midfielder Tim Lewis to give Mendham a 1-0 lead with 9 minutes 8 seconds left in the first quarter. Senior attack Jeff Morris put the Minutemen up 2-0 when he scored on an assist from Avallone with 5:21 to play. Junior attack Chris Drake cut the score to 2-1 when he scored for Morristown with 1:14 to go, but McNerney picked up his second goal of the game on an assist from Avallone with 9.7 seconds left to end the first quarter with Mendham up 3-1.
Drake scored his second goal of the game with 8:05 left in the first half to pull Morristown within 3-2, and then sophomore attack Daniel Delargy scored on an assist from senior midfielder Mike Lopez with 46.7 seconds left to send the game to halftime tied 3-3.
“It’s always hard to play the same team twice in a row, we did it last year against Chatham and it was a real battle,” Morris said. “We knew we could come back so we just knew we had to come out, execute and play our best game. The first half kind of came out pretty similar, we were tied at halftime, last game we were down by one, but we knew we could come out and pile on a bunch of goals and we did.”
Mendham took a 4-3 lead 28 seconds into the second half when Lewis scored on an assist from junior midfielder Will Robinson, and the Minutemen started rolling. Mendham scored another three unanswered goals and had a 7-3 lead with 7:37 to play. Lopez scored for the Colonials with 2:49 left in the quarter for a 7-4 game.
“We just stuck to the game plan, we played the same type of game. It was a close game at halftime, we made adjustments, worked on the offense, executed better and that showed in the second half when we got the goals,” Avallone said. “We were just a little shaky, we were making passes that would shouldn’t have, but we played smarter, worked the ball around and got the open looks and that’s what led us to the goals.”
Sophomore defender Seamus McDonald scored his first goal of the season 14 seconds into the fourth quarter to push Mendham’s lead to 8-4. The Minutemen then scored four-straight goals in under two minutes for a 12-4 lead with 9:22 left in the game. Avallone picked up his third goal of the game on an assist from Morris with 7:52 to go, and junior midfielder Ross Coapman capped the scoring on an assist from senior midfielder Andy Justl with 5:48 remaining for the 14-4 final.
“Defense stepped up once again, we knew that they were a middie dominated team so we would pressure the attackmen and shut off on the middies and our defense played great, Devon Walsh, Seamus McDonald, Brian Morris they all stepped up,” Avallone said. “And Jon Berg in goal, who is one of the best goalies in the state in my opinion, made some great stops.”
The Minutemen have now won four of their past five games and the general consensus is that the team is getting hot at the right time. Mendham started the season 0-4 under new head coach Mark Grilo to start the season but started to turn it around with back-to-back wins over Holmdel and West Essex.
“Every team’s shaky at the beginning of the season,” Avallone said. “We went 0-4, we had a good talk after that losing stretch, we said alright we have to step and we won a couple of games after that and we just kept getting wins and working on team chemistry and that helps us moving on.”
GOALS: (ME) McNerney 3, Morris 3, Avallone 3, Robinson 2, Lewis, McDonald, Coapman; (M) Drake 2, Delargy, Lopez; ASSISTS: (ME) Avallone 5, Morris 2, Lewis, Robinson, Justl; (M) Lopez; SAVES: (ME) Berg 7, Giambra 2; (M) Edwards 11; SHOTS (ME) 37; (M) 19; GROUND BALLS: (ME) 36; (M) 26.