|The Yellow Jackets 2017 team
stopped all challengers en route to winning the US Lacrosse
photo credit: John Risley
New Jersey All-Stars, Yellow Jackets Win U15 Northeast Championships
by Paul Ohanian | LaxMagazine.com
Amherst, Mass. (June 23, 2013) – It wasn't looking good for the New Jersey Northeast All-Stars as Sunday's U15 boys championship game moved into the closing minutes at the US Lacrosse Northeast Championships, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited.
The second-seeded N.J. All-Stars were trailing 7-4 against fourth-seeded Next Level (R.I.), which was clearly still riding the confidence of its earlier semifinal upset of #1 seed Long Island Express. Bidding for a second straight upset, Next Level was holding a three-goal advantage with less than seven minutes to go and appeared headed for a gold medal celebration.
That's when it all started to swing. A 4-0 game-ending run over the final 6:05 rallied the N.J. All-Stars to a come-from-behind victory and a first-place finish. Michael Mughetto proved to be the hero for New Jersey as he jump-started the game-ending run with an extra-man goal, then broke the 7-7 deadlock with the game-winner from 10-yards out with 2:04 remaining.
New Jersey head coach Jim Mulvey said afterwards that despite the late deficit, he had a feeling that his team might still have a chance.
"This was a hustle game, and it looked to me that their team was starting to run out of gas while we were still going strong," he said. "We ended up with most of the possessions down the stretch and that gave us a chance."
The All-Stars had only been together as a team for three weeks, with just two practices and two games under their belts prior to the US Lacrosse Northeast Championship weekend. With just three simple plays in the playbook, they finished 2-0-1 in pool play to earn the number two seed in the championship bracket, and then defeated the other New Jersey All-Star team – Northwest – 7-1 in the semifinal round. The fact that many of the all-stars, who had to go through a tryout process to earn a spot on the team, had played together on school and club teams may have helped expedite the bonding process.
"We knew we had a special group right from the beginning," Mulvey said. "In the end, our athleticism and effort level carried us."
Earlier in the day, Next Level dominated play against previously undefeated Long Island Express to register an 8-3 semifinal victory. Matthew Manown led the way with three goals for Next Level in that game.
Long Island Express did rebound in the third-place game by blitzing New Jersey Northwest, 16-5. Keller Jacobs scored four times and Eamonn Scaring added three goals to lead the Express.
There was less drama in the girls' division as the top-seeded Yellow Jackets 2017 (N.Y.) capped an undefeated weekend with a 15-10 win over #2 seed Ultimate Elite (N.J.) in the championship game.
As had been their formula all weekend long, the Yellow Jackets built an early lead and forced their opponent to play catch-up. Jamie Ortega scored five of her game-high six goals in the opening half as the Yellow Jackets built a 12-7 halftime lead and then maintained a comfortable advantage throughout the second half.
"We always try to put the pedal to the metal early," said Yellow Jackets coach Melissa Cook. "These kids always put everything out there. It's always go, go, go."
The Yellow Jackets faced their stiffest challenge of the weekend in the semifinal game against BBL 2016 (N.J.), holding off the #4 seed, 11-10. The Jackets led 8-5 at halftime of that game, but watched BBL rally with three consecutive goals in the second half to knot the score at 8-8 with 15 minutes left. The Jackets then answered with three straight of their own over a seven-minute stretch to reclaim the lead.
"These girls play smart and disciplined lacrosse," Cook said. "We executed very well all weekend."
BBL 2016 rebounded from its narrow semifinal loss to defeat its sister squad – BBL 2017 – 13-5 in the third place game. Bridget Ballard, Daniella McMahon and Sarah Ross each scored three goals to lead BBL 2016 in that game.
In addition to the championship player medals, US Lacrosse also awarded a team sportsmanship award to one team in each division. Winners were LRLC (N.H.) in the girls' division and New Jersey Northwest in the boys' division.
All four U15 boys and girls semifinalists clinched invitations for the next month's US Lacrosse U15 National Championship, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
For complete scores and schedules, please visit www.uslacrosse.org.