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WEST LONG BRANCH — When the final buzzer sounded signifying top-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven’s 15-3 victory over No. 12 Colts Neck in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament on Saturday at Monmouth University, the margin of victory came as a surprise to  no one.

Colts Neck’s Cinderella run to the semifinals came to an abrupt halt at the hands of a team trying to make history on a much larger scale. The Bulldogs used three goals each from Colin Shea, Dominic Padula and Lucas Seckler, and two goals each from Chris Hubler and Robbie Garavante to reach the SCT final for the sixth consecutive season. They will take on second-seeded Southern at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at Monmouth University in an attempt to become the first program to win four consecutive Shore Conference Tournament championships.

In a season filled with upsets and a top 10 that’s seen the blender more than once, Rumson (13-3) has stood tall as the kings of Shore Conference lacrosse. After Saturday’s win over the Cougars (9-5), Rumson is 56-1 against Shore teams since the start of the 2011 season. With that kind of success comes great pressure. Everyone in attendance at Kessler Field on Saturday figured Rumson would dominate, and not just because Colts Neck was the No. 12 seed. The Bulldogs' 18-4 demolition of No. 8 Manasquan in the quarterfinals may have raised a few eyebrows, but was far from stunning.

“We kind of just take it in stride,” said senior defenseman J.T. Jennings. “Obviously we expect to be in the championship, and we expect to win it.”

All three of Rumson’s losses this season have come out of conference. They lost 6-3 to state No. 2 Summit, and 9-4 to state No. 9 St. Augustine. They also dropped a game to prep power Lawrenceville. Inside the Shore it’s been a completely different story. When Rumson is firing on all cylinders no team has come close.

That’s why people around the Shore were stunned at the April 28 result from the Bulldogs' Class A Central game against St. John Vianney. The Bulldogs held on for an 8-7 win after being up 4-0 early in the game. Winning anything but a blowout is a surprise. That’s the kind of territory Rumson is in these days.

Rumson senior attackman Colin Shea (27) scored three goals and added three assists in a 15-3 victory over Colts Neck in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle).

They have relished the attention and success, however. Games like that against St. John Vianney and watching No. 4 Red Bank Catholic, No. 5 Holmdel and No. 7 Wall each fall in the first round of the SCT reminded them what is at stake and sharpened their focus at the season’s most critical juncture.

“I think we went into practice kind of nervous about it, knowing an upset it possible,” Shea said. “But we came out, and we were ready to eat. We were ready to win and move onto the championship. We’ve been here before, and we know the atmosphere. If they were to come up and score three straight goals on us we’d know how to respond.”

There would be no upset Saturday as Rumson took a 1-0 lead on Hubler’s goal 52 seconds into the game and led 5-0 after the first quarter. The lead ballooned to 10-1 at halftime, and only a brief lightning delay could postpone the inevitable. Rumson added three more goals in the third quarter, then polished off the win with two fourth-quarter tallies.

Now, history awaits. Rumson has made six straight SCT title games, and since losing back-to-back to CBA and Red Bank Catholic in 2009 and 2010, respectively, the Bulldogs have won three straight while ascending as one of the top Group I programs in the state. Their group of 18 seniors has a chance to close out a memorable run, and it’s something they’ve talked about since their first team meeting.

“This year we met as a team and wrote down our goals,” Jennings said. “First was to win the Group I title and the second one was to not lose a Shore Conference game, and with that is the four-peat.

“It started when we were freshmen with a great senior class with Mike Huttner and Matt Gilbertson and a whole list of guys who were great leaders and very inspiring people. Seniors have always been the heart and soul and focal point of our team. There’s no better way to go out than winning four in a row and doing something no one else has ever done.”

Standings in Rumson’s way for the second straight season is Southern. Rumson defeated the Rams 14-5 to win last year’s title, and the Ocean County power has its sights set on making history of its own on Tuesday. No Ocean County team has ever won the SCT. Rumson’s players saw Southern’s impressive come-from-behind win over CBA, and they won’t be taking the Rams lightly. Not in the title game, and not with what’s at stake.

“Watching the Southern game, we definitely have our work cut our for us,” Jennings said. “These next two days will be a lot of preparation and watching film.”

“I’m expecting a great game,” Shea said. “We’re going to come out 120 percent and they’re going to come out 120 percent. Everyone wants to win this trophy, and it’s going to come down to who wants to win it more."

 

Box Score

1-Rumson-Fair Haven 15, 12-Colts Neck 3

Colts Neck (9-5) 0 1 0 2 - 3

Rumson (13-3)  5 5 3 2 - 15

GOALS - CN: Andrew Anzalone 2, Rob Heller; RFH: Dominic Padula 3, Colin Shea 3, Lucas Seckler 3, Chris Hubler 2, Robbie Garavante 2, Seamus Walsh, Matt Waters.

ASSISTS - CN: Rob Fierro; RFH: Colin Shea 3, Bryan Hess 2, Dominic Padula, Chris Hubler, Robbie Garavante, Ryan Campbell.

SAVES — CN: Andrew Halmi 12; RFH: Bryce Metzger 12.

SHOTS: Rumson, 40-25.