Mountain Lakes girls' lacrosse coach Jennifer Munday is under no illusions. She realizes that her 18-4 team enters today's 1 p.m. Tournament of Champions final at Rutgers against Moorestown as the unquestioned underdog.
Group 3 state champion Moorestown is 24-1 and ranked No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey Super Six poll and No. 1 in the state by Laxpower.com. The Quakers are going for their 10th straight TOC title.
In addition, Moorestown has won 209 consecutive games against New Jersey competition.
"Moorestown's success speaks for itself," Munday said after her team scored a convincing 18-9 win over Group 2 state champion West Essex in the TOC semifinal on Tuesday. "They are coached so well, and we just hope to go in and play our game and do our best."
Moorestown's success this year is not surprising, but the Quakers entered the season with one of their least experienced teams, with only five seniors. The Quakers have also weathered several injuries.
"We're not playing our best, but we're doing enough to win and the ultimate goal is winning," said coach Deanna Knobloch, whose career record of 354-22-4 shows she knows a lot about winning. "We're still winning by four or five goals despite our injuries, and that is something to be proud of."
The key injury has been to senior midfielder Alyssa Ogle. Despite playing much of the season with a bad back, Ogle has managed 53 goals and 26 assists. Many in the know say the Duke-bound senior is the best player in the state.
Junior midfielder Katrina Martinelli has been dangerous all year, but especially during the postseason. Martinelli had five goals and two assists in Tuesday's 17-12 TOC semifinal win over Group 4 state champion Bridgewater Raritan. For the season she has 57 goals and 25 assists.
The defense, led by Florida recruit Jena Hildebrand, has been strong.
That defense will have to stop Mountain Lakes senior midfielder Meagan Stickle, who has 66 goals. Sophomore midfielder Grace Newfrock has contributed 39 goals.
For those speculating about an upset, one has to look at a common opponent Holy Cross, although this may be a reach.
Mountain Lakes beat Shore Regional, 6-3, to win the state Group 1 championship. Shore Regional had beaten Holy Cross, 10-7, in the South Jersey Group 1 final.
Earlier, Holy Cross gave Moorestown one of its best games, leading the Quakers, 4-2, at the half before losing, 10-6.
"It doesn't work that way," Munday said. "What happens on Saturday is what counts."
And Moorestown knows how to come through when it counts the most. Despite hazards created by injuries and youth, Moorestown is in its accustomed position, one win away from achieving decade-long dominance.