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Moorestown gains state title in four-OT thriller

ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - It's a play that has worked countless times in practices and games, but never with so much on the line.

ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - It's a play that has worked countless times in practices and games, but never with so much on the line.

Moorestown junior Nikki McMonagle, standing behind the net, found classmate Stephanie Toy in front, and the Notre Dame recruit returned the Quakers to their accustomed spot as state champion with one quick flick of the wrist.

Toy's goal with 2 minutes, 7 seconds left in the fourth overtime gave Moorestown a 14-13 victory over defending champ Mendham in Thursday's wild state Group 3 girls' lacrosse final at Robbinsville High.

Moorestown jumped to a 7-0 lead but had to fight back from two one-goal deficits late in the second half to force overtime. The teams played two three-minute overtime periods, and after that, it was sudden death.

Toy ended matters with her fifth goal of the game and 68th of the season.

"Nikki gave me a great pass," Toy said.

McMonagle finished with two goals and two assists, none bigger than the final pass.

"We do it a lot where she fakes one way and steps in front of the goal, and Stephanie put it away," McMonagle said,

Ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, Moorestown (21-3) will play in the Tournament of Champions semifinals Tuesday at Monmouth University. (The state champions are reseeded to determine the T of C matchups.)

Moorestown entered the match as the No. 2 team in the state according to's computerized rankings, and Mendham (18-3) was No. 3. The game proved as close as the rankings.

It was the 18th state title for Moorestown, whose string of 10 consecutive Tournament of Champions titles was snapped last year in a loss to Shawnee in the South Jersey final. Mendham then beat Shawnee for the 2010 state title and, on Thursday, took Moorestown to the absolute limit.

"We have the utmost respect for Moorestown and are proud of the way our kids played," Mendham coach Jessica Shoulberg said.

In addition to getting two goals each from Nikki Shapiro and Haleigh Dalmass, Moorestown received single scores from Carly Taglienti, Marie McCool, and Sydney Dalmass.

With the Quakers trailing by 13-12, Toy fed Haleigh Dalmass, who tied the score with 50 seconds left in regulation.

Another huge contributor was Moorestown goalie Bridget Bianco, the Northwestern recruit who made several spectacular saves, both early in the game and late.

"Last year, I remember the faces of our players when we lost, and I didn't want to experience that again," Bianco said.

With all Moorestown has accomplished, winning a four-overtime thriller adds another chapter to a rich lacrosse tradition.

"This goes down as one of the most exciting if not the most exciting game," said Moorestown coach Deanna Knobloch, now 398-28-4 in her 20th season.

"To come back this year and beat Shawnee twice and then beat Mendham in sudden-death overtime, it's an amazing feeling."

Mendham   4 9 0 0 0 0 – 13

Moorestown   7 6 0 0 0 1 – 14

Goals: Men-Gia Padavano 2, Haley Keith 2, Maggie Sinzer 3, Aly Messinger 3, Nicole Graziano 3; Moor–Stephanie Toy 5, Nikki McMonagle 2, Nikki Shapiro 2, Haleigh Dalmass 2, Carly Taglienti, Marie McCool, Sydney Dalmass.

Saves: Men-Abby Witczak 7; Moor-Bridget Bianco 12.