Indian Hills wins first ever section title by Rich Barton of northjerseysports.com
OAKLAND – The image from the end of last season is still burned into the minds of the Indian Hills girls’ lacrosse team. Playing in a section final on its own home field, the Braves could only watch the opposing team, Sparta, celebrate and raise the trophy. It is an emotional scar that has stuck with the Braves for a year.
The only way to eliminate that was for the senior-laden team to make good on a second opportunity. Locked in a tight battle with rival Mahwah at the half the Braves left nothing to chance. They put on an absolutely dominant performance over the final 25 minutes that only a champion could provide.
Megan Bohm scored four of her career-high six goals in the second half and the defense allowed just three second-half shots as second-seeded Indian Hills won the first section title in the program’s history with a 16-5 win over fifth-seeded Mahwah in the North 1, Group 2 final in Oakland on Friday afternoon.
“It feels amazing to step it up and pull together in the second half like we did today,” said Indian Hills’ Katherine Kerin. “Every day (Indian Hills’ head coach Mike Carti) sends us a picture of Sparta celebrating on our field. That experience forced us to work hard and get better every day for this moment.”
Two close losses to Indian Hills in the regular season and the Bergen County Tournament gave the Thunderbirds more motivation to start strong and set the tone. Mahwah did just that with goals from Deanna Ciliento and Carly Ludwig to grab a 2-0 lead.
Mahwah’s Deanna Ciliento scored the 100th goal of her career.
With the Mahwah defense focused on slowing down University of Florida-bound standout Devin Thompson in check it took a while for the Braves to adjust and find some openings. After being held off the scoreboard for the first 8-plus minutes the goals started to flow. Bohm and Kerin each scored twice in a 2:45 span to put the Braves up 4-2.
Ciliento knifed her way through the Braves defense to score the 100th goal of her career with 5:35 to play in the half, cutting the T-Birds’ deficit to 5-4. The score remained that way heading into the second half with the Thunderbirds winning the first draw control. It was at this point where the Braves showed what a complete team they are with an unsung hero who had just two goals and two assists on the season came up huge.
Madison Cipriani forced a turnover, which led to Thompson’s first goal of the afternoon and Michaela Cleary then took the ensuing draw and started a string of seven consecutive draws won. Indian Hills cashed in on those possessions. So much so that after the first possession of the second half Mahwah went nearly 10 minutes without possessing the ball on the Braves’ half of the field. By the time that happened Indian Hills had gone on a five-goal run to open a 10-4 lead.
“We won draws, we moved the ball around and everyone got involved,” said Bohm. “I absolutely had to be more aggressive and take my shots when I had them. I wanted to make sure that I did as well as I could have and left everything on the field. Our team thought about the Sparta game every single day this season. This whole season has been about this game and we didn’t want to leave the field with any regrets.”
Devin Thompson and Indian Hills with face Madison in the Group 2 semifinals on Wednesday.
Ciliento broke the drought with a goal. Any hopes of a comeback were dashed as Cleary continued the hot hand at winning draws with Mahwah (9-11) then going another five minutes without possessing the ball over midfield. Indian Hills went on another 5-0 run with Bohm scoring three of the goals and Thompson adding the other two. As the final seconds ticked down the realization came that all the hard work paid off and it was finally their time to celebrate.
Bohm’s six-goal outburst was supported by four goals from Thompson and three from Kerin. Leanna Rubinetti added two goals and an assist with Jenna Murphy also adding a tally. Always energetic goalie Ashley Barrett finished with eight saves. Sans Rubinetti (a junior), all the aforementioned players are seniors and four-year starters.
Indian Hills (17-4) moves onto the Group 2 state semifinals on Wednesday. The opponent will be a tough one, Madison, with the game being played at West Essex High School in North Caldwell with a 4:30 P.M. start. With the ultimate goal of a section title in hand the Braves are now focused on setting a new goal of keeping the season going as long as they and hopefully adding some more hardware along the way.
“We set our minds on winning a section title, anything other than that would be a failure in our eyes,” said Rubinetti. “The way we felt last year we never wanted to feel that way again. It’s the best feeling in the world to do this for coach and for our fans. We’re not going to settle though and we’re excited to get back out there.”