UNION - During the first half of the NJSIAA Non-Public B girls soccer championship game, St. Rose put plenty of heat on Morristown-Beard senior goalkeeper Gena Pike. During the second half, Pike stepped out to the field and reversed the roles.

Pike pushed up top in the second half and broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the 61st minute - the first of two Morristown-Beard goals in a span of less than two minutes that doomed St. Rose in a 2-0, win Sunday at Kean University that clinched the Crimson their first ever state championship.

Playing in the group final for the first time in five seasons, St. Rose was sharp out of the gate, dominating possession and owning a 6-1 advantage in shots over the first 30 minutes. Pike cam through with three saves during that stretch and stopped one more before halftime.

"When we talk about this team, we are going to remember the first division title in five years, the state sectional championship," first-year St. Rose coach Zach Savacool said. "We are not going to talk about this game. This is not what this team is going to be remembered for. All-in-all, this was a successful season.

"One of the first things I told the team after the game is we'll be back."

St. Rose could not cash in on its possession advantage in the first half and then had to deal with Pike up top as part of the attack. The senior captain broke open the game midway through the second half, collecting a pass from fellow senior captain Maggie Cotter and slotted a shot to the far left side netting.

"That first 20 or 30 minutes was the best soccer we have played all year," Savacool said. "We just kept saying on the sidelines, 'You have to score,' because they deserved a reward for the way they played.

"It's high school soccer - anyone can score no matter who you are and unfortunately, we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. We were pressing them the whole game and two quick counters within two minutes of each other and the game's over."

Cotter facilitated the Crimson's second goal 1:57 later, playing a long pass forward to senior Danielle Yannotta for a close-range finish exactly 62 minutes into the match.

St. Rose's best second-half chance came just minutes before Pike struck for her goal. Junior Julianne Leskauskas played a free kick to the far right post and sophomore Abigael Gammond headed the ball past new goalkeeper Anna Bajak, but it hit St. Rose teammate Caitlin Clayton in the leg and away from the goal.

The Purple Roses had to deal with a physical Morristown-Beard team that evolved into a defensive shape after facing some early St. Rose pressure.

"We struggled with injuries throughout the course of this year," Savacool said. "The physical play has caused some injuries and some problems, but they don't back down from it. We have a few players on this team who can play with the best of them in terms of physicality, so I think they knew to be ready for that if that's how the game went."

St. Rose will graduate only three players from its lineup and is set up to make another run to the final next year, when the Roses could once again try to win the program's first overall group title since 2010. Leskauskas scored 29 goals as a junior and will lead a 2019 St. Rose team as one of the Shore's top returning players.

"After seeing their talent over the summer, at the first practice I told (the team) they have a state championship in them," Savacool said. "It was nice to see that realized with a sectional title and to see us get here. I told them we'll be back and I think they can do that as well. They will start missing the season soon and they will be counting down the days until next season."

Box Score

Morristown-Beard 2, St. Rose 0

Morristown-Beard (10-9-3)022
St. Rose (15-3-1)000

Goals (Assists): (MB) Gena Pike (Maggie Cotter) 61', Danielle Yannotta (Maggie Cotter) 62'
Shots: St. Rose, 13-10
Saves: (MB) Gena Pike 4, Anna Bajak 3; (SR) Katherin McLaughlin 3


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