Once the season began, Morris Knolls' play remained ragged and inconsistent even with them back in action.
This week, though, the Golden Eagles, who shut out Morristown 3-0 on Friday in a NJAC-National Division game, were more in sync.
Versus the Colonials, Morris Knolls took it to a higher level. Their passing was slick. They talked. The took charge early, scoring twice in the first 8:33.
"We got off to a bit of a slow start," said senior center back Kayla Coutts, who missed time with a fractured pelvis. "We're coming together now. There's more unity. We weren't playing well because we didn't have scrimmages together. We're connecting now. We've progressed."
Coutts said everything began to mesh on Wednesday when the Golden Eagles defeated Roxbury, 3-1.
"We played well in that game," Coutts said. "Today against Morristown, it was more than that. We've got to keep building off what we're doing."
Senior center midfielder Kristen Randolph, along with Coutts, were just two of Morris Knolls' standouts. Randolph is back to being 100 percent after sustaining a sprained ankle.
"We didn't get to practice much together so when we played our first game (a 2-1 overtime loss to Kinnelon), it was kind of like our first scrimmage," Randolph said. "We hadn't adjusted yet. Things are better. We want to keep winning and improving. We want to grow as a team."
Golden Eagles coach Stephan Zdanowicz likes what she's witnessed over the last two games. Zdanowicz feels her squad was hurt by not being at full strength but doesn't want to dwell on it.
"We're still trying to figure things out," Zdanowicz said. "You really need all of your players to see things and some of them weren't able to play. We weren't able to prepare. I'm not making excuses. We just have to work to get better. It's a work in progress. We're never content."
Judging by Friday's result, Morris Knolls (2-1-1) is on track. Senior forward Emma Coccia put the Golden Eagles up, 1-0. Kristen DeRiggi played the ball over the top before Coccia beat a defender and connected 5:36 into the first half.
The second goal, scored a little less than three minutes later, came off the foot of Diana Mikula. Maeve Kruegar got the assist. Kruegar also set up the third goal which was scored by DeRiggi 14:50 into the second half.
Morristown (0-3-1) was coming off a 1-0 setback to Randolph, easily its best game this season. Colonials coach John Babula said he saw "some bright spots" but a "better effort" was needed.
"We lost to Randolph on a penalty kick. Balls don't bounce the same way twice," Babula said. "The girls have to keep their composure. The first goal came so quickly and we lost composure. After that, we were nervous and anxious with the ball."
Olivia Dolan, a senior forward, always seemed to be around the ball and exhibited much fight. Babula praised Dolan for "having a lot of heart."
Senior sweeper Darcy Best had a busy afternoon and helped fend off hard-charging Morris Knolls.
The shutout was the first for first-year starter Annie George and the Golden Eagles. George finished with one save because Morris Knolls' defenders were so effective at keeping Morristown at bay.
"This will give us confidence," Randolph said. "Morristown is pretty good and we stepped it up."
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