MONTCLAIR- Madison certainly has the chemistry and talent from front to back to challenge for the Morris County Tournament title, while Montclair Kimberley Academy, which garnered the No. 2 seed in the Essex County Tournament, has its own high aspirations in terms of reaching a county final.
The two Freedom Division rivals battled at the Cougars’ Van Brunt Field on Tuesday afternoon with coach Tonnianne Cavallo’s Lady Dodgers (8-2) leading from start to finish en route to a 12-9 win over MKA (7-3) as the two teams had a high-octane tune-up with county tournament action right around the corner.
Seniors Lauren Kaye and Leah Rutland each had three goals, while the team’s leading scorer, junior Clare Culligan (15 goals so far this season), led the way with four goals and an assist to propel crisp-passing Madison, which led from start to finish in registering a key regular season road victory.
“We’re the No. 4 seed behind 1-Mendham, 2-Mountain Lakes and 3-Chatham in a strong Morris County Tournament field and we just want to keep playing strong lacrosse like we did today,” said the Boston University-bound Kaye, an attacker, who also had a pair of assists. “We have great chemistry so that helps with our passing and connection on the field.
“We’re together probably 90 % of our lives, whether it’s in school, at dinners and breakfasts. We even went to a playground together recently for fun and more bonding and just being together a lot of the time definitely helps us when we’re on the field.”
Kaye (13 goals, 5 assists) scored the game’s initial goal, just 3:03 into the contest, with a quick shot off a free position for a 1-0 lead that was followed up 3:30 later as Culligan scored with an unassisted tally to make it 2-0 Lady Dodgers.
After MKA junior Bella Liu scored off a free position with 16:15 left in the first half to cut the Madison lead in half, the Lady Dodgers responded with back-to-back goals from junior Ginny Taylor and sophomore Kate Christos to make it 4-1 with 14:57 still showing in the opening half.
Culligan added two more goals before halftime as Madison took a 7-4 lead into the intermission before MKA pulled closer to start the second half when sophomore Taylor Everson, who had a terrific game for the Cougars with four goals and two assists, scored to pull her team to within 7-5 with 21:31 remaining.
Thanks in part to some superb goal tending from Muhlenberg-bound senior Jula Tully (9 saves), Madison was able to withstand MKA’s comeback effort, and when Rutland and Culligan hit back-to-back goals within two minutes of each other to make it 10-6 Lady Dodgers with 13:49 left, the visitors had some nice breathing room.
“We have learned how each other plays and that really helps us connect and make those key passes on the field,” said Culligan, who has committed to Lafayette College. “Our great chemistry is what makes us a strong team and we’re excited about what awaits, including in the county tournament where we know there will be some great competition.”