MADISON, NJ - The Madison High School girls ice hockey team struggled for much of the winter but came on strong at the end of the campaign. Coach Ryan Bailey's Dodgers lost its first six games before winning three of its last four -- including a playoff victory over Westfield -- to finish 3-7.
"The girls didn't quit, not at all," said Bailey, who guided the team to a 1-11-1 record last year, his first season at the helm.
The Dodgers ended their season with a 2-1 victory over Westfield Tuesday, as Mia McSherry and Maya Tahl scored goals to back the net minding of goalie Juliana DiPaola (22 saves).
Madison scored a 9-6 victory over Randolph on Senior Night Monday evening. In that game,
Josephine Piacenti had four goals, Tahl had two, McSherry had a goal and two assists, and Lily Clifford and Rachel Bear had two goals apiece to back DiPaola (27 saves).
The playoff game, a 4-2 victory over Westfield, was especially thrilling as Tahl had three goals and McSherry had one. In that game, McSherry scored a power-play goal with 3:30 left in the game and Tahl added an insurance goal 20 seconds later.
The Dodgers were bounced from the North Jersey Interscholastic Girls Ice Hockey League playoffs by Morristown-Beard in the next round, 13-0.
But Madison even had a redeeming facet to that game.
"One of the referees came up to me and said, 'You guys are out manned, but your girls play with a great deal of enthusiasm,'" Bailey said. "We have some girls who have only played 1-2 years of hockey and it is hard for them to compete against girls who have played a lot of travel hockey."
The team's finish inspired Bailey.
"Coaching at a level where the girls are starting out is rewarding," he said. "They have grown so much, not just game to game, but shift to shift they got better and better. Our goalie, Juliana, improved so much and that made a big difference."
Bailey saw the team begin to make its move during back-to-back losses to Chatham (4-3, 5-2).
"We played them tough two straight times," he said. "It brought the girls together and showed them that they can compete."