NEW JERSEY STROKES TO MEDAL SWEEP IN FUTURES FINALS
By Al Mattei
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Touching greatness can be as simple as volunteering. Just ask Kim Gogola.
"I raised my hand, and said that I could stroke," said Gogola, the Duke-bound midfielder. "(Coach Corry Freeman) made the list, and we went on from there."
Her goal in the fifth round of penalty strokes gave the Cape May U-19 Futures team a 4-2 win over upstart Moorpark. Cape May's win is the second straight for the team in the U-19 division, and was one of two gold-medal wins for the state of New Jersey at the National Futures Tournament. Atlantic City topped Trenton in strokes for the U-16 championship.
The tournaments, held at the University of Maryland, consisted of 420 athletes playing some 130 games over four days. It was pretty much a given that Cape May, the defending U-19 titleholder, would have a great chance to repeat.
Much of that is because of a superb group of seniors, including Gogola and Virginia-bound right winger Katie Nicholson, who scored the game-winning field goal in the 1999 championship game. However, in a semifinal match against Team Erie, Nicholson pulled a hamstring and was ruled out of field play for the championship game.
Once the game went into strokes, however, Nicholson was inserted into Cape May's group of five. Bad leg and all, she converted her chance. Jenee Doto and Lindsey Domers also scored for the New Jerseyans.
Moorpark, on the other hand, was not necessarily expected to contend. Despite the number of quality hockey players coming from California in recent years, the region was unable to put together the effort necessary to become a threat for gold until 2000.
"I think California has been underappreciated," said Moorpark head coach Sarah Madeiros. "I think we had a wonderfully consistent team of equally amazing players. I think it says a lot for the quality of hockey and how much it's improving."
A big part of Moorpark's run to the title was its defense. Kristi Gannon, Samantha Robertson, and Grace Sorbello were extremely stout through four days of play.
"I think it was a really a great statement to get this far," Sorbello said. "We've heard the talk before, but I think we really showed them something this time. It's been hard for other teams to penetrate our defense."
"They did a great job playing really patient defense," Madeiros said. "They weren't overcommitting; very smart plays."
Moorpark's attack was able to surge a couple of times in the final. Adrienne Hortillosa, whose goal put Moorpark into the final, had her side's best chance in the championship when her tip-in attempt five minutes from time went wide of the cage.
"We watched them play, and when they got possession of the ball, they did something with it," Freeman said. "We had to put complete pressure on them, and we needed to maintain possession of the ball against them."
"(Cape May) was a really good team, but if we had more chances, we could have scored a goal," Hortillosa said.
(Cape May wins 4-2 in penalty strokes)
CM: Jenee Doto, Katie Nicholson, Lindsay Domers, Kim Gogola.
M: Kristi Gannon, Taryn Monjo.
Saves: CM: Morgan Dall 0, Diana Nelson 1; M: Anastatia Kralovec 1, Kerri Orr 1.
The U-16 game was unique in that two teams from the same region -- Trenton and Atlantic City -- made the championship game. As both teams were selected from the state of New Jersey, the players on both teams had worked through the five months of the Futures program together, only to become rivals at the end.
It was not, however, difficult to rally the teams to the cause of being the best U-16 Futures team.
"They were already up; I didn't have to do too much," said Atlantic City head coach Monica Morgan Levy. "They know their strengths and weaknesses, and came out and played hard."
"We were excited to play the other (New Jersey) team," said Trish LeFever, the Trenton coach. "It wasn't hard to keep them excitied to play; they love the sport."
Like the U-19 game, however, neither team was able to put up a score in regulation. Perhaps the game's best chance for a goal was when Atlantic City was able to create a goalmouth scramble a couple of minutes from the end, but Trenton goalkeeper Hannah Murnen was equal to the task.
In the ensuing round of strokes, Dannon Mehaffey and Heather Schnepf were able to connect in the fourth and fifth rounds to take the strokeoff 2-1.
Schnepf, having faced Trenton's other goalie Caitlin Gregory in the New Jersey Futures program, had an idea of how to take the winning stroke.
"I took a guess and prayed for it to go in," said Schnepf, who, as a ninth-grader, was the designated stroke-taker for the Mount Laurel Lenape (N.J.) varsity team. "And (Gregory) is a really great goalie, too. It was a lot of pressure."
(Atlantic City won 2-1 in penalty strokes)
AC: Dannon Mehaffey, Heather Schnepf.
T: Megan Foster.
Saves: AC: Kristina Gagliardi 0, Kathleen Ryno 0, defensive 1; T: Caitlin Gregory 0, Hannah Murnen 2.