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Jen Munday Topakas had plenty to celebrate on Friday. Mountain Lakes girls lacrosse defeated Westwood, 15-6, to advance to the NJSIAA Group 1 North final. It was Topakas' 200th career victory, all at her alma mater.It also happened to fall on the coach's 42nd birthday. Her younger sister, University of Southern California women's lacrosse coach Lindsey Munday, was back at home to commemorate the occasion with her family."Two hundred is big. It's a big deal," said Munday, who ...
Jen Munday Topakas had plenty to celebrate on Friday. Mountain Lakes girls lacrosse defeated Westwood, 15-6, to advance to the NJSIAA Group 1 North final. It was Topakas' 200th career victory, all at her alma mater.
It also happened to fall on the coach's 42nd birthday. Her younger sister, University of Southern California women's lacrosse coach Lindsey Munday, was back at home to commemorate the occasion with her family.
"Two hundred is big. It's a big deal," said Munday, who helped launch the USC women's lacrosse team in 2013. "She's been doing this a long time. It's important to say congrats and acknowledge the hard work and the time and the dedication to be part of a program for a long time. She cares so much about the program and about Mountain Lakes and about the kids."
Munday recalled being a ball girl as Topakas played soccer for Mountain Lakes, "always wanting to be like her and learn from her." Topakas also played basketball, and added lacrosse as a Mountain Lakes junior. She planned to play basketball at The College of New Jersey, but wound up becoming the lacrosse goalie there as well. Sharon Pfluger, who is still the TCNJ women's lacrosse coach, helped Topakas learn to love her newest sport.
Topakas began coaching freshman girls basketball at Mountain Lakes while still student teaching, leaving the sport when she met her now-husband, Rockaway River Country Club superintendent John Topakas. A second-grade teacher at Wildwood Elementary School in Mountain Lakes, she became an assistant girls lacrosse coach in 2004, and moved to head coach in 2008.
Topakas hadn't been counting wins or milestones, except perhaps sectional and Group titles. This is the Lakers' second consecutive trip to a sectional final, and they have been to nine of the last 10.
"I like to win, period," said Topakas, whose kids – 7-year-old Carolyn, 6-year-old Lily and 4-year-old John – are regularly on the sideline.
"That's how I've always been. I've always been a competitor. It's the drive to be successful. ... I wanted to compete and win and help kids experience that great feeling."
Monday, June 5
Group 1 North: (2) Mountain Lakes at (1) Verona
Group 2 North: (2) Mendham at (1) Summit, 4 p.m.
Group 3 North: (2) Northern Highlands at (1) Chatham, 4 p.m.
Group 4 North: (2) Morristown at (1) Ridgewood, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 6
Group 1 North: (2) Caldwell at (1) Mountain Lakes
Group 2 North: (3) West Essex at (1) Summit
Group 3 North: (2) Ridge at (1) Chatham
Group 4 North: (3) Ridgewood at (1) Westfield
UNION – Mountain Lakes had seen this movie before.In last year’s state final, the Lakers took a two-goal lead over Shore with two goals in quick succession. They were minutes away from a state title, but Shore came all the way back to steal the championship in overtime.That’s why when Mountain Lakes took a big lead on Saturday, it wasn’t taking chances.Scoring early and often and never taking their foot off the pedal, the Lakers rolled to a 5-1 victory against Point Beach to capture...
UNION – Mountain Lakes had seen this movie before.
In last year’s state final, the Lakers took a two-goal lead over Shore with two goals in quick succession. They were minutes away from a state title, but Shore came all the way back to steal the championship in overtime.
That’s why when Mountain Lakes took a big lead on Saturday, it wasn’t taking chances.
Scoring early and often and never taking their foot off the pedal, the Lakers rolled to a 5-1 victory against Point Beach to capture the Group 1 title.
For Mountain Lakes (16-8), it was the second state championship and program history and first since 2019.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Mountain Lakes senior Elliana Caporusso said. “We had something to prove, and we left it all out on the field.”
The state championship came as a great relief for a team that lost an absolute stunner last fall.
“I’m relieved because I did have that in my head. I didn’t want that to happen,” Mountain Lakes head coach Sean Maurizi said. “At the end of the half, I was thinking do not let that happen, do not let that happen. We just maintained.”
The Lakers opened the scoring in the 12th minute when Maya Ritchie took a cross into the net. Two minutes later, a would-be Ritchie goal was disallowed due to offsides, but the Lakers scored again in the 24th when Sydney Sutter scored off a rebound. The lead ballooned to 3-0 four minutes later on a goal by Caporusso.
After what transpired last year, Mountain Lakes wasn’t going to let up.
Point Beach opened the second half with a goal from 40 yards out by Lily Hesse to cut the deficit to 3-1. The Garnet Gulls kept the pressure on in their attempt to pull off the huge comeback.
This time, Mountain Lakes held firm. Goals from Caporusso and Abigail Hawes put the game the away and slammed the door shut on a potential Point Beach comeback.
“You’ll always hear coaches from youth league all the way up say it’s 0-0, and we were putting that in our mind frame for the past week, knowing that you cannot give up at any point,” Maurizi said. “We’ve been there before. We knew we couldn’t do that. We had the mentality of fight, fight, fight and never stop.”
Despite the loss, it was a historic season for Point Beach.
The Garnet Gulls (13-7-1) reached their first state final in program history by advancing past Palmyra on penalties in the Group 1 semifinals. They also clinched their first sectional title since 2010 and second ever with a dominant 10-0 performance against Highland Park in the Central Group 1 final.
On their way to the sectional final, beat Shore 3-2 in the quarterfinals to end the Blue Devils’ unbelievable 10-year reign as sectional champions.
“We had a hell of a season,” Point Beach head coach Adam Curtis said. “The girls played their hearts out this year.”
While it was the end of the season for Point Beach, it’s likely not the last you'll hear from the Garnet Gulls. A senior class that includes Kami Turnbach, Morgan Highland and Naima Shortridge will graduate, but an exciting group of underclassmen that includes Baileigh Johnson, Gabby Kirchner, Izzy Kurzon, Samantha Miles and Ellie Loffreno will be back next year.
“It’s only going to make them hungrier,” Curtis said. “Now they have a taste of it.”
Danny LoGiudice has covered local sports across New Jersey since 2014. Contact him at [email protected] or @danny_logiudice on Twitter.
BRIDGEWATER – Every morning, Cole Cashion wakes up to the same painful image.After losing in last year's Tournament of Champions final, the Rumson-Fair Haven star changed his phone background to a photo of Mountain Lakes holding the trophy.Cashion not only had to live with the loss, but the fact that he was held scoreless in a blowout loss to the Lakers."It's definitely extra personal," the Yale-bound attackman said. "Being scoreless isn't something that I'm used to so right away after...
BRIDGEWATER – Every morning, Cole Cashion wakes up to the same painful image.
After losing in last year's Tournament of Champions final, the Rumson-Fair Haven star changed his phone background to a photo of Mountain Lakes holding the trophy.
Cashion not only had to live with the loss, but the fact that he was held scoreless in a blowout loss to the Lakers.
"It's definitely extra personal," the Yale-bound attackman said. "Being scoreless isn't something that I'm used to so right away after that game, I remember hitting the turf and hitting the wall and being ready for next year."
Cashion and the Bulldogs got their chance for redemption a year later and didn't miss.
Powered by a balanced offense and a fast start, Rumson-Fair Haven raced past Mountain Lakes, 12-6, in the Group 1 boys lacrosse final at Bridgewater-Raritan.
This time, Cashion took control by scoring a team-high four goals to pace the No. 1 offense in the state. Andy Croddick added a hat trick to give Rumson-Fair Haven its 12th straight win.
"I mean, 21-5 is pretty disrespectful in my book," coach Marc Moreau said. "We didn't need any more motivation than that score from last year."
So much has changed to the Bulldogs lineup and the sport overall since their crushing loss at Ridge High School.
Since then, the Bulldogs dropped down a group and the TOC was disbanded as a way to streamline the spring season. In its place, coaches and members of the lacrosse community rallied together to build and crowd-fund the inaugural Kirst Cup. The new tournament will use the same format and continue the longtime tradition of playing down to one true champion.
The Bulldogs (21-4) will find out their first cup opponent later this weekend when the six state champions are seeded.
Punching a ticket meant a lot to Moreau since he was teammates and college roommates at Rutgers with the late Kyle Kirst.
"The fact that we're able to continue that tradition in his name makes it even more special," Moreau said. "The legacy that he brought to lacrosse lives on."
All the pent-up frustration from last year seemed to be released in the first half for Rumson-Fair Haven.
The Bulldogs jumped all over Mountain Lakes by scoring six straight goals after allowing the first one.
By now, the Rumson-Fair Haven offense hasn't only out-scored the rest of the state, but lapped the field by netting 336 goals in 25 games this season. The next closest can be found on the other end of Monmouth County with Wall at 293 heading into its state final.
"What they've done is going to last for a long time in this program," Moreau said. "Now this is the standard."
Mountain Lakes put on a late surge with Giacomo Bevacqua and Kevin Gillespie (two goals each) helping their team score four in a row to cut the deficit to 10-6. But the Bulldogs defense led by Villanova commit Beau Kemler and Virginia commit Luke Jamin stopped the comeback from getting any further with a clean last five minutes.
"One of our seniors said that we've worked for this game since the day after we lost that TOC final," Cashion said. "We've been working our [butts] off on the field and in the weight room. It truly feels like a dream come true."
MOUNTAIN LAKES – Aidan Troy has a lot of games circled on his calendar. But the Delbarton goaltender might have put a bit more emphasis on Tuesday's rivalry rematch against Mountain Lakes.The Green Wave's challenging early schedule paid off with a 8-4 come-from-behind road victory.It wasn't the first time Delbarton had to respond after giving up early goals. With Mountain Lakes up 2-0 after the first quarter, the Green Wave responded with five second-period goals – four in the first seven minutes....
MOUNTAIN LAKES – Aidan Troy has a lot of games circled on his calendar. But the Delbarton goaltender might have put a bit more emphasis on Tuesday's rivalry rematch against Mountain Lakes.
The Green Wave's challenging early schedule paid off with a 8-4 come-from-behind road victory.
It wasn't the first time Delbarton had to respond after giving up early goals. With Mountain Lakes up 2-0 after the first quarter, the Green Wave responded with five second-period goals – four in the first seven minutes.
But while Delbarton (5-2) was unable to come back against nationally-ranked St. Anthony's of Long Island or Malvern (Pennsylvania) Prep, those challenges gave the players the experience needed on Tuesday.
"Those guys have a lot of experience under their belt, and came out and punched us in the mouth. In both of those games, we had to respond," said Troy, a senior from Westfield, which visits Delbarton next month.
"We came out here after all that and said, 'We can go down one. We can go down two. But in the second quarter, the third quarter, we'll have the same amount of energy and catch them sleeping. ... A lot of the experience really helped us there."
The Green Wave snapped a four-game losing streak against the Lakers, a stretch which includes the 2022 Morris County Tournament final. The Green Wave holds a 41-39 all-time lead in the series.
Delbarton senior midfielder T.J. Coffey attended quite a few of those games while growing up in Chatham. Both he and Troy expect to cross paths with the Lakers again, quite possibly in the MCT final on May 9.
Mountain Lakes and Delbarton have decided the MCT lacrosse title 24 times in the tournament's 34-year history.
"It's awesome," said Coffey, who scored the Green Wave's first goal with 10:26 left in the second quarter and an insurance goal in the fourth.
"It's a Delbarton tradition. It's a Mountain Lakes tradition. It's always big to win these games, end the losing streak here and get back going the right direction. ... It's something a lot of New Jersey youth teams look at. It's always fun to watch the two teams compete. You know it's going to be a good game."
Delbarton launched its lacrosse program in 1976. About the same time, John Walters – Mountain Lakes assistant coach Mark Walters' father – founded a recreation program when the family moved into town. It grew into a high school varsity team in 1980, with Walters a sophomore on the field and Tim Flynn at the helm.
The Delbarton-Mountain Lakes rivalry began that first year, based solely on proximity. Now, they meet annually in the NJAC-American, as well as Morris County and NJSIAA tournaments.
Coffey and Delbarton senior attack Gray Doyle had two goals and an assist apiece. Green Wave senior midfielder Sean Diczok added a goal and two assists.
Attacks Kevin Gillespie, Merric Martorana and Giacomo Bevacqua each had a goal and an assist for Mountain Lakes (4-1). Lakers senior goalie Matt Sentowski made 18 saves, many of them acrobatic.
"I told them I was extremely proud of them," Flynn said. "We battled the entire time. We made some mistakes and they took advantage of them, but in terms of how hard the kids went out after stuff, it was fantastic. It's a great rivalry based on respect, great players, and great programs. ... Our fans, our people, our program, we work really hard for games like this."
PISCATAWAY − Mountain Lakes will forever be a part of New Jersey high school football history, just not on the side it hoped to be on.Anthony Reagan Jr. scored three touchdowns, highlighted by a 33-yard pick-six midway through the fourth quarter as Woodbury, No. 25 in the latest USA TODAY NETWORK N...
PISCATAWAY − Mountain Lakes will forever be a part of New Jersey high school football history, just not on the side it hoped to be on.
Anthony Reagan Jr. scored three touchdowns, highlighted by a 33-yard pick-six midway through the fourth quarter as Woodbury, No. 25 in the latest USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey statewide Top 25 rankings, defeated No. 24 Mountain Lakes, 31-7, on Saturday in the Group 1 title game at Rutgers' SHI Stadium.
This is the first year that true state championship games were held for public schools in New Jersey, and the Mountain Lakes game was the first game of the weekend.
"After the game I told the team to keep their heads up. It's been such a great run. The game got a little away from us at the end, but we were right there and had a chance to win a group championship," Mountain Lakes coach Darrell Fusco said. "I give them [Woodbury] credit. They just made a few more plays than us. But I'm so proud of our group and we'll be back. We have a lot of guys back next year. This is a tremendous group to get us to this point and I'm not sure we even thought we'd be here early on."
It was a defensive battle in the first half as both teams struggled to gain ground and momentum. Steady rain also played a factor as Mountain Lakes was able to contain Woodbury's fast-paced passing game and limit quarterback Bryan Johnson's opportunities. Johnson, who entered the game with 2,159 yards and 24 touchdowns, was held to 6-of-9 for 87 yards in the first half.
Mountain Lakes (11-2) scored first when Nico Dunn (15 carries, 36 yards) took a handoff 17-yards up the middle to give Mountain Lakes a 7-0 lead with 8:32 left in the first half.
"We played well in the first half and came up with some big plays," Dunn said. "Our goal from day one was to get here. We accomplished a lot this year. I'm sad it's over. This is a brotherhood."
Woodbury (12-2) came out firing to start the second half. The Gloucester County school needed just three plays to get into the end zone when Johnson connected with freshman receiver Ibn Muhammad from 19-yards to pull within one, 7-6 following a missed point-after-attempt.
Eight minutes later, Reagan, Jr. gave the Thundering Herd its first lead of the game when he barreled in from eight yards to cap a six play, 80 yard drive with 2:51 left in the third.
Momentum appeared to shift in Mountain Lakes' direction early in the fourth quarter when Giacomo Bevacqua picked off Johnson at the Woodbury 27-yard line. But on the first play of the ensuing drive, quarterback Ben Miniter (2-of-10, 30 yards) fumbled at his own 39-yard line and Woodbury recovered.
Five plays later, Reagan, Jr. barreled in from a yard out for an 18-7 lead with 7:39 left in the quarter.
Less than a minute later, Wilson Torres put the game out of reach when he scored on a 33-yard interception return and Derron Moore put on the final touches on a 1-yard run with 2:34 left to play.
Woodbury is the first program in state history to win a group title. Last month the Thundering Herd captured their second straight sectional title and seventh overall when they defeated rival Maple Shade, 36-6.
Woodbury closes out the campaign on a six-game win streak.
Mountain Lakes (11-2) closes out a memorable campaign in which it captured its first sectional title in eight years and seventh in school history. The Herd defeated Brearley, 16-6 in North 1, Group 1.
Reagan, Jr. rushed for 211 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns.
Johnson threw for 146 yards and one touchdown.
Mountain Lakes linebacker Marco Dzamba had a game-high 12 tackles, nine solo, a forced fumble and one sack.
Woodbury out-rushed Mountain Lakes, 236-128.
"We already have our goal set for next year. Unfortunately, someone had to be a footnote in history and I don't mind it knowing we're the team that got here. It's disappointing, but we're going to look back on this game and then move on before getting back to work. To be the team that got here, it's special." − Fusco
"We're definitely going to keep this in the back of our minds come next year in the playoffs. We're going to make sure it doesn't happen again. We all stuck together knowing this was our last game with some of the guys and we just wanted to leave it all out on the field." − Dzamba