Boys Lacrosse – SCT Final Preview: Juggernauts Manasquan and Rumson Battle for Shore Conference Supremacy
Boys Lacrosse Shore Conference Tournament Championship Game
At Long Branch High School, 6 p.m.
No. 1 Manasquan vs. No. 2 Rumson-Fair Haven
Road to the Final: defeated Holmdel 16-2, defeated Howell 17-2, defeated CBA 11-5.
SCT championships: none
Finals appearances: 2005, 2016, 2017
Players to watch: Jarrett Birch, Sr., ATT (70g, 17a); Canyon Birch, So., ATT (68g, 20a); Pat Felstedt, Sr, MID (12g, 13a); Devan Carroll, Sr., MID (19g, 7a); Joe Tonkovich, Sr., ATT (12g, 27a); John Moran, Sr., MID (5g, 9a); James Pendergist, So., MID (15g, 3a); Kyle LeBlanc, Sr., DEF; Jack Mallett, Sr., DEF; Jack Fabean, So., DEF; Brian Meyer, Sr., LSM; Tom Pollock, Sr., (93 saves, .750 save percentage); Matt Thermann, Sr., FOGO; Mike LaPoint, So., G (47 saves, .712 save percentage).
RUMSON-FAIR HAVEN (17-2)
Road to the Final: defeated Toms River East 18-1, defeated Wall 14-6, defeated St. John Vianney 16-2.
SCT championships: 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016
Finals appearances: 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Players to watch: Bryan Hess, Sr., MID (36g, 14a); Charlie Curran, Sr., ATT (32g, 19a), Colin Pavluk, Sr., ATT (43g, 8a); Alex Werner, Sr., ATT (24g, 26a); Emmett Jennings, Sr., DEF; Dan Maloney, Sr., DEF; Stephen Edler, Sr., DEF; Conor Deverin, Sr., G (108 saves, .675 save percentage); Garrett Sweeley, Sr., MID (14g, 1a); Ryan Tuorto, Sr., MID (11g, 3a); Andrew Walsh (11g, 3a); Oliver Heins, Sr., MID (14g, 3a); Peter Lucas, Jr., MID (7g, 5a); Wyatt Feinberg, Jr., MID (6g, 5a); Alex Maldjian, So., FOGO.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Well, here we are.
Since the season began the anticipation and expectation was a Shore Conference Tournament final between Manasquan and Rumson, and that’s exactly what will go down at 6 p.m. Monday night at Long Branch High School. No one could stop the two best teams in the Shore from meeting to decide the conference title, and that means a win for the fans. It should be an excellent game.
The SCT final will be a rematch from last season's championship game, which Rumson won, 8-5. Manasquan got revenge in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II sectional final with an 8-4 win, however. Both teams have redemption on their minds heading into the game.
Rumson is the establishment in the Shore Conference with six SCT titles and 11 total appearances in the SCT final. Given that 2005 was the first year of the Shore Conference Tournament, Rumson’s numbers show just how dominant of a program they have been. There were a few question marks surrounding the team entering the season, but the Bulldogs quickly answered those by winning 13 of their first 14 games and cruising to another Shore Conference Class B North division title. Rumson’s only losses are to IMG National and St. Augustine (6-5 in 5OT).
Manasquan, meanwhile, has been one of the top stories in New Jersey this season. Under third-year head coach Sean Cunningham, the Warriors have made big noise statewide and have climbed to No. 5 in the NJ.com state rankings, the highest ranking ever for a Shore Conference team. Nonconference wins over Moorestown, Madison and Ridge significantly raised the program’s profile and made others believe the hype that surrounded the team entering the season. Manasquan’s only loss this season is a 6-3 setback to Bridgewater-Raritan, which is ranked No. 2 in New Jersey and one of just two undefeated teams in the state.
Both teams are solid from top to bottom with great coaching. Two things that stand out in regards to Rumson are a balanced and deep offense and a lockdown defensive unit. Curran (51 points), Pavluk (51 points), Hess (50 points) and Werner (50 points) supply the bulk of Rumson’s scoring, but there are several more player capable of finding the back of the net given the opportunity. Rumson has multiple games this season with double-digit scorers, and in big game like this that quality is magnified. Led by arguably the best defender in the Shore in Jennings, Rumson’s defense has been outstanding in allowing just 3.6 points per game. The veteran group of Jennings, Maloney and Edler has received a huge boost from the play of senior goalie Conor Deverin. He’s been among the best in the Shore this season and helped solidify the back end for Rumson.
Two players who don’t often show up on the scoresheet but are vital to the Bulldogs’ success are Lucas and Maldjian. Lucas is a standout defensive midfielder who is also a major weapon on clears. Maldjian, Rumson’s FOGO, is a physical presence who has improved as the season has progressed.
For Manasquan the obvious place to start is on the attack line with two of the states most dangerous scorers. The brothers Birch, senior Jarrett and sophomore Canyon have combined for 138 goals and 37 assists this season. As their numbers would indicate, no team has been able to slow them down this season. Yes, they’ve put up big numbers against some of the lesser teams in the Shore, but they’ve also got it done against top competition. Jarrett had five points in the wins over Moorestown and Madison and five goals against Ridge. Canyon had seven points against Moorestown and a pair of goals against Ridge.
What makes the Birch brothers even more dangerous is that teams can’t key on them because Manasquan has so many other skilled offensive players. Felstedt is as good a field general as there is and has a knack for playing his best in the biggest games. Carroll has an absolute cannon of a shot from anywhere inside the box. Tonkovich is an underrated passer from X and Moran is a versatile midfielder. Pendergist has barely scratched the surface of his potential and has shined no matter what role he’s asked to play.
Defensively, it’s a coin flip as to which team, Manasquan or Rumson, has the better defensive unit. Like Jennings for Rumson, LeBlanc is arguably the best defenseman in the Shore. Fabean, just a sophomore, is as good as there is in the Shore, as well, while seniors Mallett and Meyer are sturdy and reliable in their own end. Manasquan has had the luxury of having two standout goalies in Pollock and LaPoint who have split halves in most games this season. Pollock has forced his way into the full-time role in the big games with a tremendous season. His 15-save effort against CBA in the SCT semifinals was one of the best games of his career.
Face-off specialist Matt Thermann, a two-year starter, has the advantage at X heading into the game, and if he’s on and Manasquan’s offense has a possession edge it’s going to be very difficult to slow the Warriors down.
These teams are different in a few areas but very similar altogether. The area which I believe separates Manasquan is having a go-to scorer in crunch time. Rumson had that player last year with attackman Robbie Garavente. This year it’s Jarrett Birch for Manasquan.
Another x-factor will be in-game adjustments by the coaches, respected veteran Marc Moreau for Rumson and the highly-regarded youngster in Cunningham.
Prediction: Manasquan, 9-6.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.