Morris Catholic, West Morris share team of year honors

Morris Catholic, West Morris share team of year honors

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Morris Catholic, West Morris share team of year honors

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The Morris Catholic and West Morris girls soccer teams had a lot in common this season, including winning records, championship titles, and something else that might not seem all that surprising.

Members of both teams attributed this season’s success to the fact that the players had great chemistry and viewed their teammates and coaches as family.

“I think we worked really good as a team, from the coaching to the team we were such a family this year,” West Morris junior midfielder Brooke Carty said. “I think all the way from goalie to the forwards, it was great between everyone.”

That philosophy helped the Crusaders to their second-straight Non-Public B championship and the Wolfpack to their second Morris County Tournament co-championship in school history and the North 2 Group III sectional title. Which is why Morris Catholic and West Morris are the 2013 All Daily Record Girls Soccer Teams of the Year.

The Crusaders had high expectations this season after winning a state championship last year, but with the graduation of a number of strong players, they struggled to find the right mix for success. The team had to iron out a few kinks at the start of the season then fell to Kinnelon in the quarterfinals of the MCT, but the Crusaders bounced back to win eight of their last 11 games, one of which was the Non-Public B final and finished with a 16-6-1 record.

“We lost a lot of assets from every position so it took a lot of adjusting, especially since we were so accustomed to relying on certain players, but this year we really came together as a team,” Morris Catholic senior forward Sam Garzon said. “Coach (Andy Rotsides) told us we had to pick up our game and work as a family because we had these amazing players, but we’re still capable of being a great team and we have to do it for each other. We struggled to find players for every position but once we got the chemistry, everything came together.”

Morris Catholic outscored opponents 32-5 during those eight wins and posted two shutouts en route to the state final. Last year the Crusaders defeated St. Rose 1-0 in the final minutes, but this season they stepped it up and beat a stronger St. Rose team 3-1. The offense got on the board right at the start and kept the pressure up the whole game, and the defense stymied one of the Purple Roses’ best players.

“All season we practiced on finishing and I think the fact that the defense got stronger, and we kept the other team from scoring and we were finishing the ball, I feel like that was the best thing,” Garzon said. “We were accomplishing the thing we were working all season for.”

West Morris seemed to have the opposite problem when it came to finding the right chemistry for success. The Wolfpack started the season at 2-1 with the loss coming against Randolph, but then picked themselves up and went 10-0-1 before their second loss of the season against Mendham. From there they won their next three and then met the Rams in the MCT final, where they tied 1-1 and were named co-champions.

“It was a weird feeling,” Carty said of the tie. “It was awesome but it was awkward because we didn’t know whether to celebrate, but it brought us together and it made us push harder during states and other games, which really helped us win the sectional and get that drive to win in the finals.”

And drive they did. West Morris, the No. 3 seed in North 2 Group III, ripped through Leonia 7-0 in the first round, took down Summit 1-0 in the quarterfinals and battled to a 4-3 overtime win against Nutley in the semis. Against West Essex in the sectional final, the Wolfpack struck again with a 3-0 shutout to earn the sectional title. They finished the season with a record of 19-3-3, a total of 13 shutouts and allowed only 16 goals.

“I think it was a major part of the defense,” West Morris sophomore goalie Ilissa Webb said. “They worked so well together and even if they did score, you can’t lose focus or give up and we didn’t do that, so that helped us win.”

West Morris met Northern Highlands in the Group III semifinals and fell 2-1 to arguably one of the best teams in the state. Despite the loss and being so close to a state final, the Wolfpack was proud of what it had accomplished this season.

“(That game) showed that we had a lot of heart, push and desire to be there,” Carty said. “We went into that game thinking that we’re winning this game, it was good for us to come together as a team, it showed us we have a lot of heart and played together as a family.”

Both the Crusaders and the Wolfpack will lose a number of playmakers to graduation next season, but despite the changes to their teams, expect both groups of players to bounce back and make waves next season.

“I’m definitely excited for next season,” Webb said. “We’re going to lose some good players, but we have a lot coming back and it’s just getting back to that high level of competitiveness.”

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