Boys Lacrosse – Manasquan Takes Down Ridge in Matchup of NJ Top 10 Teams
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MANASQUAN — At this point it shouldn’t be a surprise that Manasquan took down another of New Jersey’s top lacrosse programs, but even with a lofty state ranking and a deep and talented roster the Warriors continue to open eyes with their stellar team play.
Manasquan, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and No. 7 in New Jersey, welcomed No. 10 Ridge to Vic Kubu Warrior Field on Thursday and proceeded to win the battle in each phase of the game to earn an impressive 8-3 nonconference victory. Senior attackman Jarrett Birch was fantastic with a game-high five goals while senior goalie Tom Pollock made nine saves to lead stout defensive effort that limited the Red Devils’ dangerous offense.
Sophomore attackman Canyon Birch scored twice and senior midfielder Pat Felstedt scored once while excelling at both ends of the field. Sophomore midfielder James Pendergist also had an outstanding game that extended well beyond the box score, and senior Matt Thermann won eight of 12 face-offs to help Manasquan keep momentum for much of the game.
Every player that saw time in the game could be listed here for something positive they contributed to the victory. It really was that kind of game for Manasquan, a complete effort where in goal, on defense, in the midfield, along the attack line, man up, man down, they were the better team.
“It’s awesome,” Pollock said. “That’s what it takes to be a good team and to beat a good team. You need to have trust in everyone that they’ll do their job, and we can do that with our whole team.”
“It opens peoples eyes and lets them know we’re not a bunch of beach rats who play just to play,” Jarrett Birch said. “We take it seriously and we play to beat the best teams.”
Senior attackman Teddy Kapp scored twice and sophomore attackman Will Burckley scored once for Ridge (8-2). Manasquan walked the line of domination in this game, and would have forcefully crossed it if not for the play of Ridge junior goalie Michael Harris, who was outstanding in making 15 saves and keeping Ridge in the game until the Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve seen a lot of great goalies this year and he’s obviously very talented,” said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. “I think he had a goal and an assist against us last year so not only can he get it done between the pipes, but he gets out in the field and he’s a problem. He has the ability to take over the game.”
Instead it was Manasquan shaking off some fantastic stops by Harris and pushing forward to earn their third win over a nonconference power this season. The Warriors (10-2) had several momentum-changing sequences in the game that made the difference, starting with a critical penalty kill midway through the first quarter.
Canyon Birch had staked Manasquan to a 1-0 lead with an extra-man goal off a pass from Devan Carroll at 8:54, but Ridge was presented with a major opportunity when Manasquan standout defenseman Kyle LeBlanc was called for a 2-minute, non-releasable crosscheck penalty at 7:02 and defenseman Jack Mallett was whistled for interference 25 seconds later. Kapp tied the game at one when he took a pass from Sean Everson and buried a shot from the doorstep, but Manasquan was able to kill off the rest of the penalty to head to the second quarter all square at one goal apiece.
“They rung home a goal but that was on a two-man up and we were able to kill the rest of the penalty, which was huge. It set the tone for the rest of the game,” Cunningham said. “We had a lot of man downs (five for a total of 5:30) we had to be effective on. The communication was good and we were rotating a lot of bodies. As a group they communicate well and Tommy does a nice job between the pipes.”
“Michael (sophomore goalie Mike Lapoint, who usually splits halves with Pollock) does as well but we just stuck with Tommy because he had the hot hand,” Cunningham added. “You hold a team like (Ridge) to one goal at halftime and you don’t want to mess with it.”
“We have a veteran group back there that knows how to lock in, make timely stops and get the ball out when they have to.”
At 6:32 of the second quarter Felstedt gave Manasquan a 2-1 lead when he drove right and ripped a shot that beat Harris top shelf. The next crucial moment came in the final 90 seconds of the first half when Jarrett Birch scored twice to give Manasquan a 4-1 halftime lead. Birch scored his first goal of the game when he somehow kept possession while taking on two Ridge defenders, got his hands free and released a shot that Harris got a piece of but trickled across the goal line for a 3-1 Warriors lead. Birch was slashed on the play, and on the ensuing man advantage Birch took a pass from Joe Tonkovich and blasted a shot past Harris with 20.7 seconds left.
“That third goal was kind of a frantic play play,” Cunningham said. “Patty Felstedt is in the box saying ‘coach you want to bang a timeout?’ and I said no, let’s let it ride. I ended up looking smarter than I probably am just by letting that one go. That was a big momentum goal and we found another one on the man up with Jarrett just letting it go. That was liquid smoke right there.”
“It was just one of those things were you hope for the best,” Jarrett Birch said of his goal that put Manasquan up 3-1. “I tried to get my hands free and line up with the cage correctly, and I guess I did just that.”
From 2-1 to 4-1 in a span of 42 seconds, Manasquan had gained control at the break.
“It showed them we don’t just sit back,” Jarrett Birch said. “We weren’t happy with what we had. We had the confidence and we just kept shooting.”
Birch scored unassisted at 2:56 of the third quarter to put Manasquan up 5-1 before Kapp got one back with an unassisted goal with 31 seconds left in the quarter. Manasquan was all over Ridge in the third with 13 shots to just four by the Red Devils. Harris made seven saves to help keep Ridge afloat.
Manasquan scored twice in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to open up a 7-2 lead as Canyon Birch scored at 9:57 and Jarrett Birch netted his fourth at 8:15. A nifty behind-the-back goal by Burckley at 7:12 cut Ridge’s deficit to 7-3, but Jarrett Birch polished off a tremendous individual effort with his fifth goal at 4:35.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Cunningham said of Jarrett Birch. “You talk about intangibles and I don’t really like using the term ‘gamer’, but he is. He is 110 percent every single day. He has that mindset regardless of the score, regardless of the opponent and regardless of what kind of day he’s having.”
Pollock came up with some great saves throughout the game, but his best stop came with Manasquan killing a penalty in the fourth when he followed a low-high fake and stuffed a Ridge player right on the crease. The timing was also critical as the penalty was called directly after Burckley’s goal that made it 7-3.
“I just try to find the ball and do as best I can to get either my stick or body in front of it,” Pollock said.
“Their goalie was incredible today but even if he made a save we knew Tommy would back us up,” Jarrett Birch said. Tommy was incredible in the cage today and that gave our offense more confidence to shoot. The defense played incredible too and bailed us out.”
Midfield depth is a prerequisite for competing for a championship, and Manasquan flashed that asset, as well, on Thursday. From seniors Felstedt, Carroll and John Moran to Pendergist, Thermann, defensive midfielders Brian Patruzo and Riley Callahan, senior Thad Wiseman and junior James Mele, who was playing in his first game of the season, they were difference makers.
“Every kid we put out there on the midline today I was really happy with the effort,” Cunningham said. “They all produced one good play I can think of off the top of my head.”
The heavy lifting in the regular season is now done for Manasquan. The next challenge they’ll get will be in the Shore Conference Tournament, and maybe not until the final. After that it’s a quest for a state championship. The Warriors have proved they’re more than ready.”
“Looking back at this game, it shows we can do anything we want to,” Jarrett Birch said.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.