WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. -Many followers of girls' lacrosse assume that Moorestown continues to beat teams just because of having more talent. Considering that the Quakers have won 209 straight games against New Jersey competition, that's a fairly reasonable assumption.
Yet a truly underrated aspect of the Quakers' success, including this season, in which the trainer's table has been one of the most frequented areas, is the toughness that Moorestown possesses.
This year especially, Moorestown has shown mental toughness and physical toughness, and both were on display as the Quakers beat Group 4 champion Bridgewater-Raritan, 17-12, in yesterday's Tournament of Champions semifinal at Monmouth University.
Ranked No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey Super Six, Moorestown (24-1) will go for a 10th consecutive Tournament of Champions championship in Saturday's 1 p.m game at Rutgers against Mountain Lakes.
First, an explanation is needed of the mental toughness.
Bridgewater-Raritan (20-5), which beat Washington Township, 19-13, in the state Group 4 final, was creating some noise on the field and in the stands.
When talented junior Lauren Sbrilli scored her fourth goal of the game, B-R trailed just 11-10 with a little more than 15 minutes remaining.
The players were excited. The fans were stomping their feet on the bleachers, and the smell of upset was in the air.
Of course, Moorestown has been known to stifle that smell quickly, and that's exactly what happened.
After what would have been a game-tying goal was nullified by a foul, Moorestown went to work.
The Quakers scored four consecutive goals. Freshman reserve Haleigh Dalmass began the spree, and the Quakers were on their way.
"Any team at that point, with all the pressure, could have folded at 11-10, and I would have understood it," said Moorestown coach Deanna Knobloch. "But this team, I think, appreciates wearing the uniform, and that is a key component."
That is why there was no panic when the game got close. The fact that Moorestown has played so many national-caliber foes and has been in countless championship situations enabled the team to remain calm.
"We weren't playing our game, and we needed to settle down and play solid lacrosse," said senior all-American Alyssa Ogle, who had two goals and one assist. "We couldn't worry about the other team and had to play with the heart and intensity we know we can play with."
As for the physical side, Ogle would make anybody's all-tough team. Ogle's back has been so sore that she is unable to practice. It looks as if it hurts only when she breathes, but still, she was attracting defenders, doing her part to lead the team.
And junior Katrina Martinelli, realizing that Ogle is at less than 100 percent, has picked up her game. Yesterday, she had five goals and two assists.
"With Alyssa not 100 percent, Katrina has been making big-time plays," Knobloch said.
Moorestown junior Jenna Dougherty also has shown incredible courage. She suffered an ankle injury during field hockey and said it has never fully healed.
Yesterday, late in the first half, she turned the ankle and had to be helped off the field. It looked as if her day was over.
Looks were deceiving. She not only came back but also scored the Quakers' final goal. The all-tough team has another member.
"I think it is what anybody would do in a situation like that because you want to put your team first," Dougherty said. "We have a number of teammates playing with pain."
Knobloch says the number of injuries has been unusually high, but she gives her players credit for fighting through the pain.
It certainly takes talented players to reach the Tournament of Champions final, but this year especially, the road to the championship has also been paved with extra resolve.