The 2012 season was highly successful for the Rumson-Fair Haven boys lacrosse team, to say the least.

Michael Villane and his Rumson-Fair Haven teammates are looking to win their third straight Shore Conference Boys Lacrosse Tournament title and make a run to the program's first NJSIAA title. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle).

The Bulldogs’ 19-1 campaign saw them repeat as Shore Conference Tournament champions and take a huge step by reaching the Group I state semifinals for the first time in school history, where they lost a hard-fought battle to eventual champion Summit. Now, with a new season approaching, a large group of established playmakers is ready to take on bigger roles and continue the program’s winning ways.
“The bar is set, and now you gotta get back there,” second-year head coach Reid Jackson said about his squad’s postseason run. “It’s going to take a little bit of tweaking here and there. We’ve got different people, different personnel, but we definitely have the capability.”

This is the second year in a row that Rumson must replace a Shore Conference Player of the Year, as former attackman Jack Curran is now playing at Villanova.  The void left by his graduation will be replaced by leading returning scorer Michael Clarke, who has signed with the University of Vermont. The rest of the attack consists of juniors Dominic Padula, Chris Sutphen and Colin Shea, all three of whom are college prospects, as well as heralded freshman Robbie Garavaente.

The midfield contingent graduated playoff hero Dan Babiak, but depth will be a noticeable advantage. Seniors Conor Walsh (a Fairfield recruit), Mike Villane, Alex Kelly and Hunter Rotchford, combined with juniors Chris Hubler, Sam Atkinson and Davey Hiles, are all expected to see extensive playing time and keep opponents guessing.  Junior Ryan Campbell should be one of the Shore’s top faceoff specialists once again.

“There are other people that are going to step up and the nice part about that is other teams don’t know who they are,” Jackson said.

The defense brings back senior Charlie Gravina as well as a trio of returning starters in juniors J.T. Jennings, Syracuse commit Conner Phillips and Dylan Zohn.  At goalie, senior Dylan Rotchford, replacing former standout Artie Tildesley, has been impressive thus far despite not having played the position at the high school level.

“Even though we lost some key players from last year, we know we can build on what we accomplished,” said Hubler, who will play his college lacrosse at national power Johns Hopkins. “We have a lot of talent and if we play together, work hard and take responsibility for our actions, the success will come.”

After going unbeaten against Shore Conference competition in each of the past two seasons, the Bulldogs are certainly aware they’re the team to beat.  They opened the season Wednesday with a 10-7 win over Class A Central foe Holmdel, and they head to Jackson Memorial on Monday for a rematch of the past two SCT finals, both won by Rumson.  Other games to circle this month include a date with rival Christian Brothers Academy, as well as a trip to South Jersey power St. Augustine Prep.  With the early tests, the Bulldogs should be well-prepared when they attempt to make it an SCT three-peat as well as bring home that elusive first state title.

“Since the first day of practice, I’ve told the guys the target our back is the biggest that it’s ever been,” Jackson said.  “We’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”