Pequannock and Montville showed their generosity before the players stepped onto the field on Saturday as well as during the game. Both teams had already raised more than $1,000 each for the HEADstrong Foundation with online donations. In all, $3,777 went to HEADstrong. While the "Shoot for a Cure" event was going on, HEADstrong items (sunglasses, ribbons, headbands, T-shirts) were sold. The foundation is nationally known for raising money to fight blood cancer and support efforts for research and finding a cure.
It wasn’t the only charity that was part of the proceedings. The Michael W. Coppola Foundation was to receive $388. Coppola was a Pequannock High School lacrosse player who died last year. His fund will provide scholarships to Pequannock graduating seniors and donations to Leukemia and Graft vs. Host Disease programs and/or research projects.
"It was great," Labe said. "We had a lot of fun. We sold pins at our school. We were spreading the word all over town while trying to raise money for the cause. I know we had fun. It was team bonding as well as helping out the charity."
Montville coach Jen Mulvaney and Pequannock coach Lindsay Lafferman joined their teams together for a similar charity last year. The coaching duo met Cheryl Colleluori, the mother of Nick "Head" Colleluori for whom the charity is based on, in January at the annual lacrosse convention in Philadelphia. The former Hofstra lacrosse player died in 2006 of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma but the charity that bears his nickname and his favorite lime green color has flourished and become a lacrosse event in many towns along the East Coast over the last few years.
"I think that because it's from lacrosse that a lot of us can relate to it," Montville defender Danica Witty said. "That if anything happened in our lives, that God forbid we come across this, that we know how to handle it and to know that people are there to help others in need."
Some of the players from both teams knew Michael Coppola personally. The bake sale and refreshment stand helped raise money for his foundation which includes funding a Pequannock High School scholarship in his name and continued research into the causes of his illness.
"He was always there for you," Pequannock attacker Caitlin Horgan said. "He was the type of kid who never let you down. He was just a warm and friendly person, wanting to help you."
The lacrosse athletes from Montville and Pequannock know each other very well through club activities and other sports functions. They don’t mind the concept of sharing charities.
"We communicated back and forth throughout this whole entire event," Pequannock midfielder Carly Anderson said. "We got the matching pinnies. We got the matching (blue, green Argyle style) socks. We did it together. Even though we are their opponents, for something like the foundation, we are all together."
The friendly teams battled through the contest but Labe’s scoring ability gave the Mustangs a distinct advantage. The Trinity College-bound senior, who also enjoys playing ice hockey, scored four of the team’s first six goals and made the most of Montville's possessions beneficial ones with her drives to the cage.
"We've been trying to get off to really good starts," Labe said. "Today, we were focused on maintaining how we started and keeping it at that high level. We wanted to be patient with the ball and not take any chances _ just go to the goal when we were sure we had it."
Labe said the Mustangs seem to be getting better at taking advantage of the skills of their players within the framework of the team. For example, Labe is a skillful one-on-one player but she always keeps an eye out for Bello when she can find some space on the crease.
"When she gets a crease cut, I’m looking to feed her and I know Abby is looking to feed her," Labe said. "We are starting to know each other's strengths and weaknesses and I think that is helping us out."
The game was tied 2-2 with 15 minutes left in the first half but Montville exploded to score six of the next seven goals to take an 8-3 halftime lead. Labe scored three in the run. Montville cemented the game with a seven-goal run in the second half and proved it was not looking ahead to its upcoming Morris County Tournament quarterfinal with defending champions Mendham.
"We're going to come out as strong as we did these past few games," Labe said. "We're going to give it all we have."
The win lifted Montville to 12-2. Pequannock (10-4) received goals from Caitlin Horgan, Leanna Licitra, Alyssa Tachon and Christine Richard.
Pequannock's Horgan and Montville's Carly DeNigris were the recipients of the Nick Colleluori Award. The award, given during halftime, goes to a player from each team who leads by example both on and off the field, is hard working and relentless as they strive to be the best they can be as Collelouri was in his fight against blood cancer.