Another Level: Manasquan dominates Shore Regional to reach fourth straight sectional final
MANASQUAN – If there was still any doubt regarding Manasquan’s dominance within the Shore Conference this season, the Warriors delivered another reminder they are in a league all their own.
Manasquan, the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and the top seed in the NJSIAA South Group 1 section, authored a completely dominating 48 minutes of lacrosse to steamroll fourth-seeded and No. 3-ranked Shore Regional, 16-2, in the state sectional semifinals on Wednesday afternoon at Barnaba Field.
Shore was making its first appearance in a sectional semifinal game during the best season in program history. The Blue Devils entered the game with a 15-1 record and averaging over 16 goals per game. Their only previous loss was an 8-7 setback to No. 2 CBA in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. They are a good team with some great players, but Manasquan made them look like they didn’t belong on the same field. That’s how good the Warriors were from start to finish.
Senior attackman Canyon Birch scored four goals and added three assists and senior attackman Ryan Anderson scored his 100th career goal, finishing with three goals and two assists. The defense, led by senior defenseman Jack Fabean, senior goalie Mike LaPoint and senior long-stick midfielder Mike Page and complimented by junior Tommy Shaughnessy and sophomore Mike Farrell, was simply outstanding.
Senior midfielder James Pendergist was his usual dynamic self with three goals and one assist while freshman middie Robert Pendergist added two goals. Page turned defense into offense with one goal and one assist while senior midfielders Casey Campbell and Riley Callahan and junior midfielder Quinn Burns scored once each. It all added up to one of Manasquan’s most complete efforts of the season and sent the Warriors to their fourth straight sectional final.
Manasquan will host Glen Ridge in the South Group 1 title game on Saturday at 11 a.m.
“We knew Shore was a good team and coach told us we had to come out strong and play our game,” James Pendergist said. “We knew we had to be on our ‘A’ game and that’s what we did.”
“I think it was our practice; the last two days have probably been our best all year,” Fabean said. "We know this run is going to come to an end eventually, either when we’re at the top or…it could have been today, so we’re practicing like it’s our last and that’s been huge for us.”
Manasquan’s first half and specifically the second quarter was among the best lacrosse the team has played all season. Campbell got the Warriors on the board first when he took a pass from Birch and rifled a shot past Shore goalie Scott Sirianni two minutes into the game. Shore answered 90 seconds later when Terry Carlstrom scored off a pass from Justin Murphy, but the Blue Devils wouldn't score again until five minutes remained in the game.
Birch gave Manasquan the lead for good when he walked in and scored easily at 7:17 of the first quarter. That was the start of an eye-opening 14-goal run which gave Manasquan a 12-1 halftime lead and set the clock continuously running when Pendergist scored 2:47 into the third.
“Coach at halftime said that second quarter was probably the best we’ve played all year, and it showed,” Pendergist said.
“I think it started with Mike in the cage,” Fabean said. “He made a big stop to start the quarter and that was huge fur us. He stonewalled the kid right on the crease and it went right into transition, and it was all our momentum after that.”
While Manasquan’s offense was doing its thing, the defense was completely shutting down one of the Shore Conference’s top offenses. Shore had scored the second-most goals in the conference behind Manasquan and featured two 100-point scores in standout senior midfielder Gil Goldsmith and senior attackman Jake Turner. Both those players were held without a goal or an assist and the Blue Devils’ top six goal-scorers were shut out.
“The defensive effort was great,” said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. “We were a little upset with the production value on Saturday (a 16-8 win over Madison). Madison is a good team and they’re well-coached, but I thought we were sloppy and made mistakes that we’re not usually prone to making. Today was about getting back to buckling down and giving a defensive effort we’re going to need as we move on in this tournament.”
“We have three poles who can all play, there’s no weak link,” Fabean said. “Another thing is being able to go out on hands and that’s a big trust factor for the coaching staff and the players around you. When you’re a team that’s able to go out and touch hands every time and try to take the ball away, it’s big. We trust everyone out there that they can make a play.”
The play of Page, a two-time All-Shore LSM who will continue his career at Syracuse University, was magnified on Wednesday. He was assigned to cover Goldsmith, who entered the game with 31 goals and 71 assists, and he kept the All-Shore middie off the scoresheet. Page forced several turnovers and also got involved on the offensive end. One lasting image of the victory was Page executing a highlight-reel helicopter check, picking up the ground ball to start a fast break and dishing to Anderson for a goal that gave Manasquan a 12-1 lead with 43 seconds left in the first half.
“He’s a dynamic player in the middle of the field,” Cunningham said. “Any team that has a dynamic LSM and a gifted athlete there tends to find themselves in good positions. It’s a specialized position where, while he does have a long pole in his hands, he can also offer you some offensive momentum, and you saw that today. The takeaway checks in the middle of the field, his ability to cover ground and get on people and create havoc for the other team, especially in unsettled riding situations, usually translates into goals for us at the other end. He’s a big facet of what we do.”
On Saturday, Manasquan will go for its third sectional title in four years against a Glen Ridge team known for its physicality. The Warriors held off the Ridgers in a slugfest during last year’s semifinals, 12-10.
Manasquan’s next two games can put an exclamation point on the legacy of an already incredible senior class. The group has won three straight SCT titles and two straight state sectional titles, and a few played key roles as freshmen when the Warriors won the program’s first sectional title in 2016. The one trophy missing from the case is an overall state title. While that chase is certainly a major motivating factor, this Warriors senior group is playing for something even bigger.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a sense of urgency, it’s more that these are all my best friends, so it’s more ‘is this going to be the last practice with them?’,” Fabean said. “None of us are going to the same school so losing friends is bigger than losing lacrosse for us, and that’s a big thing. We’re all brothers here.”
Manasquan 16, Shore 2
GOALS – S: Terry Carlstrom 2; M: Canyon Birch 4, Ryan Anderson 3, James Pendergist 3, Robert Pendergist 2, Mike Page, Casey Campbell, Riley Callahan, Quinn Burns.
ASSISTS – S: Justin Murphy; M: Canyon Birch 3, Ryan Anderson 2, James Pendergist.
SAVES – S: Scott Sirianni 8, Nico Kotch 1; M: Mike LaPoint 10.
SHOTS – Manasquan, 39-19.
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.