By Ella Brockway - Red Bank Regional Student Contributor

“Quiet leader.”

They’re the first words used by both hockey coach Mike DeCotis and lacrosse coach Kevin Main to describe Red Bank Regional senior goalie Jon Pierce.

The truth in those descriptions was evident at the 11:36 mark of the fourth quarter during the Bucs’ final game of the 2016 lacrosse season, a first round NJSIAA South Group II tournament matchup at Hopewell Valley on May 18 when Pierce collected his 1,000th career save on a shot from Hopewell’s Jack Boyer.

Red Bank senior goalie Jon Pierce holds the game-ball after finishing his career with 1,003 saves. (Photo by Ella Brockway).

Knees down, stick from low to high to scoop the ball, a quick cradle and then a simple outlet pass to midfield.

Like it was just another save.

“I didn’t think I was going to get 1,000 saves [this season],” Pierce said. “To get 1,003 overall when I was finally done was amazing, and in the moment I didn’t have much emotion for it, but then when I got home, I realized that, wow, that was pretty amazing.”

That save solidified his place at the top of the list of career saves in New Jersey, per LaxRecords, with 1,003. Glen Ridge’s Jack Davis held the previous record at 957 when the season began, and Pierce passed him by making 18 saves in a win over Middletown South on May 11. He joins only ten others in the country who have hit the 1,000-saves mark during their high school careers.

Pierce will also go down as one of the top goalies in both state and Shore Conference history for his accomplishments on the ice. In four years with the Bucs and as the starter in his junior and senior years, Pierce collected 1,048 saves on 1,235 shots against. He reached 1,000 career saves in hockey on February 10 in a 9-2 win over Manasquan.

Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography.

“I was surprised there, because I really didn’t start [in hockey] until my junior year,” Pierce said. “It was kind of funny because everyone was always saying how I face more than 500 shots in a season, and I was shocked when I hit 1,000.”

For someone who doesn’t crave the spotlight, it may surprise some that Pierce’s favorite part of being a goalie is the pressure. But he says that the pressure and excitement of the position is something that he’s been drawn to ever since he started playing goalie as a kid.

“My brother needed somebody to shoot on in the driveway, and I kind of just offered to jump in,” Pierce said. “I threw these huge pads on me that went up to my chest, and they didn’t fit at all. He would just rifle shots at me. I actually liked it, and then I found out I was pretty good at it once I grew up.”

And ever since he put on the pads for the first time at a young age, Pierce hasn’t stopped facing shots. During the 2015-16 hockey season he averaged about 38 shots against per game. This past lacrosse season he faced a whopping 503 shots on goal. At the same time he fought different kinds of shots on both the ice and the field - from critics who said the only reason he had such high saves and shots against totals was because of the “weak defenses” of his teams, whose records did not always reflect the performance Pierce saw on the field.

“I like the pressure,” he said. “I like knowing that the game could come down to one final save in the end, and that every save counts and I could potentially win games for our team.”

And as he took more and more shots, he became better and more reliable when it came to saving his team from them.

“Jon leads by example,” said DeCotis, an assistant coach for the ice hockey team at Red Bank. “He doesn’t say a lot, but he doesn’t need to say a lot because he is looked up to and well respected by all of his teammates because of his work ethic and what he does and how he does it.”

Main, the head lacrosse coach for the Bucs, agreed when he spoke with Shore Sports Network after the Bucs’ 9-7 win over Middletown South on May 11, when Pierce officially broke the state record and finished the game with 967 career stops.

Photo by Mark Brown/B51 Photography.

“It’s my first year with him and my only year with him, and he’s such a quiet leader and it’s amazing how he can take control just by his presence,” Main said. “I think the most impressive thing (is) his field awareness of what’s going on in front of him, not just where the ball is but where his defenders are and where their offensive players are and being able to anticipate when the ball is going to be thrown...and he can step over and be in the right position to stop that.”

Pierce finished his senior season with 555 saves in hockey and 306 in lacrosse. He’ll be continuing his career as a goalie at Division III Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania next spring, and joining the long list of Shore Conference alumni who have matriculated on to success on a college lacrosse field.

It wasn’t too long ago that playing college lacrosse seemed more like a dream and less like a reality for Pierce. But now he calls himself a lacrosse goalie who also plays ice hockey, who has already achieved more things than he ever thought were possible.

“I never even thought I’d be playing lacrosse. Freshman year was my first year playing,” Pierce said. “I was a hockey goalie, and I just picked up lacrosse pretty fast. For two sports, I never thought that this ‘-the four years, the 160 combined games, the ups, the downs and the 2,051 combined saves -‘ would be possible.”