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Crimson Knights last longer than Big Red

October 20, 2011

The above headline was SUPPOSED to be clever…but this morning I realized the Big Red gum commercials most likely aired before any of the players were born..or they were 2…  Hopefully the parents get it..


WALL TOWNSHIP — The Crimson Knights and Lawrenceville Prep got out to a blistering pace that lasted a full 60 minutes on Tuesday afternoon at Wall High School, with the home team outlasting the Big Red in a tight, 3-2 contest.

With the win, the Crimson Knights earned double-digit victories on the season, while also remaining undefeated at 10-0-2 on the year. In defeat, Lawrenceville Prep dropped to 8-3 in 2011.

Wall assistant coach Cathy Gallagher, who was filling in for head coach Nancy Gross, was impressed with the speed of play presented by her players in the playoff tune-up.

“I loved the pace today,” said Gallagher, following the win. “We were on every ball and a lot of times, the first person to the ball. I think that made the difference.

“There were a lot of times the momentum could have shifted, but we made the big step up play,” added the coach.

Senior Kelly O’Donnell led the Wall offense in the victory, scoring two goals and recording an assist against the Big Red.

 O’Donnell felt the high-tempo favored the Crimson Knights, who focus on quick and precise ball movement on offense.

“Starting off the game strong definitely got the ball moving in the first half,” said O’Donnell. “We continued it into the second half as well.”

Start strong Wall did, as the team scored just 57 seconds into the game.

Off a shot from the center of the striking zone by O’Donnell, Crimson Knight junior Dayna Nesta chipped a deflection into the back of Lawrenceville Prep’s net, giving Wall a 1-0 advantage.

The Big Red would counter quickly, however, scoring in the fourth minute to tie the game at one on a goal by Megan McLaughlin.

Both McLaughlin’s goal and a Lawrenceville time out were unable to slow the momentum of the Crimson Knights, as the team rebounded to take back the lead midway through the first half.

After a penalty called on the Big Red deep in their own territory, Wall was awarded a penalty stroke opportunity. O’Donnell made the most of the chance, rifling a shot past Lawrenceville’s goalie in the 14th minute for a 2-1 Crimson Knight lead.

Wall carried the one-goal advantage into the break, but would be challenged mightily by the Big Red in the second half.

The Crimson Knights furthered their lead to 3-1 in the 46th minute, when O’Donnell scored her second goal of the game off an assist from senior Alexis Carlsson.

Down two goals, Lawrenceville picked up its aggression on offense, again countering to pull within one goal of Wall. In the 49th minute, Big Red attacker Nikki Rivera scored to cut the Crimson Knights’ lead to 3-2.

Following Rivera’s goal, Wall’s defense stood strong the final ten minutes, with junior goalie Bev Perkins [7 saves], Carlsson and juniors Rebecca Mattia, Courtney Boland and Morgan Durkin communicating well to hold off Lawrenceville’s final rush.

Durkin feels that Wall’s defense has steadily improved throughout each games this season and that it starts with unit working as one.

“From the first game to now, our communication has improved so much,” she said. “It helps so much. If you don’t communicate you have no idea what is going to happen in the game.”

Gallagher agreed with Durkin that the defensive unit has made giant leaps since day one.

“The major thing is how they have played together and the support they have [for each other] all over the field,” said Gallagher. “Verbally and physically. Those are key things that change the game.”

The victory over the Big Red, similar to the team’s 1-0 victory over Rumson-Fair Haven last week, had the Crimson Knights geared and ready for their first Shore Conference Tournament game yesterday, which occurred too late to be reported in this edition of The Coast Star.

Gallagher stressed the importance of playing top notch teams like the Bulldogs and Lawrenceville in preparation to postseason play. The assistant coach enjoyed seeing her defense stand strong on Tuesday.

“You never want to have to defend [ a one-goal lead], but it is great experience to have to buckle down with a short amount of time left on the clock,” said Gallagher. “This is a great [Lawrenceville] team and this was a game we both added to tune-up for both our tournaments. To step up and play with that intensity was awesome.”

Following the game, Wall’s players appeared to be in the right frame of mind entering the playoffs.

“We are confident, but we are not going to get ahead of ourselves,” O’Donnell said. “It just motivates us to keep going.”

“With the team, I always quote Vince Lombardi and say, ‘Winning isn’t everything — it’s the only thing,’” added Durkin, referring to the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers. “We just put winning in our head and that we want to come out on top like we always have.”

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