The Shore Conference Tournament Final Four is set.

With Rumson-Fair Haven defeating Shore, Manasquan downing Wall, Southern edging Freehold Township and Christian Brothers Academy rallying past Ocean, the 2016 SCT will feature the top four seeds in the semifinals. All are familiar faces.

Southern is the defending champion and won its first SCT title and became the first Ocean County team to win the SCT when it defeated Rumson, 16-6, in last season’s championship. Rumson has won a record five SCT titles and is looking to reach the final for the eighth consecutive year. CBA has four titles to its credit with the last coming in 2009. Manasquan is making it second straight appearance in the SCT semifinals, and although the Warriors have yet to win a title, the Shore’s oldest program did reach the inaugural final in 2005.

The semifinal games take place on Thursday May 12 on the turf field at Long Branch High School. Rumson, which is the No. 1 seed, takes on fourth-seeded CBA at 4 p.m. Second-seeded Manasquan will play third-seeded Southern following the conclusion of the first semifinal. The Shore Conference Tournament championship game will be played at 6 p.m. on Monday May 16 at Long Branch High School.

 

Semifinal No. 1: 1-Rumson-Fair Haven (13-3) vs. 4-CBA (11-5)

One of the Shore Conference’s oldest and best lacrosse rivalries once again takes center stage as the tournament favorite Bulldogs meet the surging Colts.

Rumson is the standard-bearer in the Shore Conference and has reached the Shore Conference Tournament final in nine of the 11 seasons the tournament has existed. The Bulldogs’ bid for a fifth consecutive SCT title was dashed by Southern last year, but Rumson responded by winning the NJSIAA Group I title to become the first Shore Conference team to win a state championship. The Bulldogs returned a major chunk of that team, so it’s no surprise they are once again within two wins of a conference crown.

Rumson senior attackman Robbie Garavente. (Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography.)

The Bulldogs are solid from top to bottom with senior attackman Robbie Garavente leading the way on offense. He and linemates, fellow seniors Henry Sillen and Griffin Schultz, have great chemistry from years playing together and drive Rumson in the offensive zone. Juniors Charlie Curran and Colin Pavluk, plus sophomore Wyatt Feinberg, give Rumson good depth up top.

Junior Bryan Hess is Rumson’s top offensive midfielder, headlining a group that includes senior Matt Waters and juniors Ryan Tuorto and Alex Werner. Senior middie Lachlan Hull is a defensive specialist who gets overlooked, but is a major part of Rumson’s success. The same goes for sophomore Peter Lucas, who sees important minutes in the defensive end every game. Senior face-off specialist Butch Clark has won 65 percent of draws this season, and when he is consistently giving Rumson possession the Bulldogs are that much more difficult to deal with.

Defensively, Rumson is a standout unit with junior Emmett Jennings and senior Ian Clarke leading the way in front of senior goalie Kyle Knapp. When they are on they can shut down the best offenses around. Junior Dan Maloney, sophomore Stephen Edler and freshman Thomas Bavuso comprise the rest of the Bulldogs defense.

Rumson also plays a challenging nonconference schedule, owns conference wins over CBA, Ocean and Shore and has the pedigree in championship situations. The Bulldogs are the heavy favorite for a reason.

With all that said, there may be no hotter team right now than CBA. The Colts were up and down most of the season, but their only conference losses are to Rumson and Manasquan. They’ve really put it together over the past four games, including a big win over Freehold Township to clinch the Class A North division title. They beat St. John Vianney 14-2 in the first round of the SCT before pulling away from Ocean in the quarterfinals with eight unanswered goals in the second half to win 13-5.

CBA senior midfielder John Salcedo. (Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography).

CBA has a lot of versatile players on offense, and that unit is playing the best it has all season with crisp ball movement and quick thinking. Junior Nick Casner leads the attackmen while senior captain John Salcedo runs things from the midfield. What’s been very impressive is CBA’s ability to not miss a beat after an injury to standout sophomore attackman Michael Carroll. The Colts have used senior Cologialo Muscara and freshman Connor Macrae in his place and both have played very well. Senior attackman Shay Walczak is also having a great season, while midfielders Justin Shea-Katz, Shane McGuiness and Ryan Madalone have stepped up their games.

The Colts’ face-off team has made a big impact as of late with senior Chris Hayes as the face-off middie and seniors Andrew Rooney and Gordon Paul coming off the wings. In the semifinal win against Ocean the Colts had the ball for neary the entire second half.

Defensively, seniors Trevor Einwechter and Gordon Paul, along with juniors Jack Coury, Jack Kroken and Richie Bartlewitz anchor the back end in front of junior goalie Ryan McGuiness.

The CBA team Rumson sees Thursday will be much different than the one it defeated 10-3 back on April 12. Rumson has also hit its stride with seven straight wins heading into the semifinals, so it could be a classic matchup between two Shore Conference powers with a trip to the final on the line.

 

Semifinal No. 2: 2-Manasquan (13-3) vs. 3-Southern (12-0)

Last season Manasquan was a young team going up against a juggernaut in Southern, but the Warriors more than held their own before falling 8-4 in the semifinals to the eventual champion Rams. This season Manasquan has made the jump to become one of the elite teams in the Shore. Southern graduated a program-defining senior class, but the Rams haven’t missed a beat and remain the Shore Conference’s only undefeated team. This makes for a very intriguing matchup.

The offensive numbers and experience Southern lost to graduation are astounding, including current University of Hartford star freshman Dylan Jinks and his 421 career points. Contrary to popular belief, the cupboard wasn’t bare for the Rams coming into this season. The sending district has done a great job building a feeder program and putting a solid foundation in place, and the dividends have paid off this season.

Southern senior Nick Simonelli. (Photo by Ray Richardson).

One thing head coach John Pampalone has always done a great job of is getting younger players into games to gain experience. Two of Southern’s top three scorers are juniors, along with its starting goalie. The Rams’ face-off middie, Anthony Firmani, is a sophomore. There are several players logging important minutes this season who weren’t starters last season, but have been able to jump right in and keep the program humming along.

Senior attackman Nick Simonelli leads the way on offense with 70 points, and just recorded his 100th career assist in a 9-6 win over Freehold Township in the SCT quarterfinals. Junior Kyle Mulrane joins him on the top attack line with freshman Nick Fontana, sophomore Ryan McWhorter and junior Dylan Smith all seeing plenty of action.

Will Johnson leads the midfielders in scoring, while senior brothers James and Jon Manzo are indispensable players all over the field. Junior defensive middie Giancarlo Disporto is a valuable asset, as well.

The Rams have an experienced defense that has been the backbone of the team all season. Senior defensemen Evan Henken, Anthony Triola, J.T. Villani and John Vannodsall, senior LSM Gordie Vonschmidt and sophomore defenseman Luke Gerhardt comprise a unit that has allowed just 4.8 goals per game and hasn’t surrendered more than eight goals in any game this season.

Another player with pressure to produce was junior goalie Tristen Farina. He had big shoes to fill in taking over for four-year starter Brendan Lefanto, but has done a marvelous job with 139 saves and a save percentage over 70 percent. He set a school record with 25 saves in the quarterfinal win over Freehold Township.

Everyone figured Manasquan was going to be a team to be reckoned with this season, and the Warriors haven’t disappointed.

Head coach Sean Cunningham has a young and talented set of players at every position, and the Warriors have been an offensive force in scoring 13.9 goals per game. Junior attackman Jarrett Birch and his brother, freshman attackman Canyon Birch, are the top two point getters, but the list of offensive weapons doesn’t end there. Junior attackman Joe Tonkovich, junior midfielder’s Pat Felstedt, John Moran and Devan Carroll, and freshman midfielder James Pendergist are all dangerous players that have to be accounted for. Senior middies Paul Krueger and Peter Degnan are versatile and valuable players in the midfield, as well.

Manasquan junior attackman Jarrett Birch. (Photo by Robert Samuels/BooFace Photography).

Junior face-off specialist Matt Thermann has burst onto the scene as one of the Shore Conference’s top FOGOs. When he is on and giving Manasquan’s offense a ton of possessions its usually a long day for the opposing team.

Defensively, Manasquan has a fantastic group led by one of the conference’s top defenseman in junior Kyle LeBlanc. Juniors Edmund Mallett, Chip Sarnasi and Tom Meyer, along with senior Mike LaPoint and highly-touted freshman Jack Fabean give the Warriors a deep defense corps.

In goal the Warriors have junior Tom Pollock as well as freshman Mike LaPoint, who gets rave reviews from just about everyone. Simply put, Manasquan is loaded.

Manasquan will be looking for a bit of revenge after losing in the semifinals last season, while Southern will be hellbent on giving itself a chance to defend its SCT title in what should be a fantastic second game of Thursday’s double-header.

 

Lacrosse editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.