Boy Lacrosse: No. 2 Manasquan Holds Off No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy in Thrilling Rivalry Showdown
MANASQUAN – There are certain expectations when the two oldest lacrosse programs in the Shore Conference square off, and both Manasquan and Christian Brothers Academy delivered during a classic showdown on Monday afternoon.
In the end, it was fourth-quarter goals by junior midfielder Robert Pendergist and senior attackman Casey Mulligan combined with timely defensive stops in the final minute that lifted Manasquan, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to a scintillating 9-8 victory over No. 3 CBA.
Manasquan led 5-4 at halftime and then went ahead 7-3 in the third quarter, but three straight goals by CBA that spanned the final 3:12 of the third quarter and the first minute of the fourth quarter pulled the Colts even at 7-7. Pendergist’s goal gave the Warriors an 8-7 lead with 8:03 to play and Mulligan extended the lead to 9-7 with a goal at the 3:58 mark. CBA’s Brendan Donnelly made it a one-goal game with 2:20 left, but Manasquan was able to hold on and win another tremendous clash between the Shore Conference juggernauts.
“That’s part of the whole rivalry,” Mulligan said of the down-to-the-wire finish. “We know they’re a great team and it was great to get there and get a win. It was a great day to be a ‘Squan Warrior.”
Mulligan scored a game-high three goals and assisted on a goal by Pendergist, reaching the 100-career goal mark in the process. Pendergist had two goals and one assist while sophomore attackman Matt Porazzo scored twice and senior midfielder Mike Farinacci and sophomore midfielder Blake Gorski each scored once. Junior goalie Carter Groezinger made seven crucial saves in back of a strong defensive effort by poles Mike Farrell, Ryan Bilello, Dylan LeBlanc and Bryce Ridge.
CBA senior goalie Noah D’Andrea was sensational with 14 saves, including a handful that flat-out robbed Manasquan on high-quality scoring chances. Senior midfielder Terrance Lacewell had two goals and one assist, Donnelly scored twice and senior attackmen Dan Martin and Ryan Howard, senior midfielder Michael DeRosa and senior FOGO Jared Lucich each scored once.
The battle at the face-off X between two of the Shore’s best also lived up to the hype. Lucich and Manasquan junior and Quinnipiac commit Max Pauwels went back-and-forth all afternoon and each had seven wins heading to the fourth quarter. Lucich, a Babson commit, won 4 of 5 draws in the fourth quarter to finish with an 11-for-18 edge for the game.
Another fantastic matchup was Martin vs. Farrell. Both are Division 1 recruits with Martin signed to Villanova and Farrell signed to Richmond. Farrell was able to hold CBA’s top scorer to only one goal.
“They know each other very well and you’re looking at two young men who are both big athletes and high Division 1 scholarship players, so that’s a matchup where we knew that (Martin) was going to get some looks and Mike was going to win some battles,” said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. “You’re not going to keep a kid like Dan Martin off the scoresheet and he deserves the respect and deserves to have Farrell on him. They have played together on the travel scene since forever so they know each other inside out and it was just a lot of fun to watch. That’s as high-level a matchup as you’re going to find anywhere in the state of New Jersey.”
Monday’s victory likely assures Manasquan of the No. 2 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament, which will be seeded on Wednesday, while CBA will be the No. 3 seed. In essence, the game was for home-field advantage in the SCT semifinals, but for Manasquan, it was worth even more.
“I feel like that’s been one of our problems lately, playing under pressure, so to get the win and build everyone’s confidence up, it’s only going to help us in the long run,” Mulligan said. “It was a huge win; you really can’t say anything more.”
“I feel like this is the first time we’ve played as a full, collective team,” Groezinger said. “We’ve seen flashes of it in past games but having a complete game today, I feel like we can do great things when we’re playing as one unit.”
“Casey is 100 percent right and I said it to them in the postgame about learning how to win under pressure,” Cunningham said. “I think it goes a long way in terms of this group’s maturation process.”
After a back-and-forth first nine minutes of the opening quarter, Manasquan struck first when Porazzo bent around the goal from X, pump-faked and then beat D’Andrea up high to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead at the 2:56 mark. Just 42 seconds later, Porazzo made it 2-0 when he converted a pass from Pendergist. CBA was able to get on the board when Donnelly scored at 1:31 but Manasquan responded quickly when Blake Gorski found twine to give the home team a 3-1 edge heading to the second quarter.
CBA closed the gap to 3-2 when Lacewell sprinted to the middle of the box, lowered his shoulder and knocked down Pendergist, and then fed Martin for a blast that sizzled past Groezinger. Again, Manasquan had an answer when Mulligan converted an extra-man opportunity for a 4-2 lead. DeRosa pulled the Colts with one again when he spun and snuck a shot past Groezinger on the stick side. After D’Andrea made a good save on Pendergist, CBA tied the game 4-4 when Lacewell dodged and sprinted toward the goal where he finished under the pipe with 2:29 left in the half.
One of the major themes for Manasquan was its ability to find an answer when CBA either tied the game or pulled within a goal. Mulligan gave Manasquan a 5-4 lead at halftime when he sprinted to his right and bounced a shot across his body that beat D’Andrea inside the left post with 1:27 left in the half.
“We lean on Casey, maybe sometimes more than we should, but he’s as tough as they come,” Cunningham said. “We saw that his freshman year, he just had a knack for making plays and we saw that again today. He always found a way to answer, to step up and attack their defense and score.”
Manasquan started strong in the second half and took a three-goal lead, which was the largest either team had in the game. Pendergist ripped a shot home off a feed from Mulligan at 10:27 to make it 6-4 and then at 3:12, Farinacci came onto the field, took a flip pass near midfield and sprinted clean to the goal where he snapped a lefty laser into the top-right corner to put the Warriors up 7-4. In between, D’Andrea and Groezinger traded excellent saves to keep it a two-goal game.
Those stops by D’Andrea when Manasquan had a chance to break the game open proved critical as CBA then went on a three-goal run of its own to tie the score at seven. Following Farinacci’s goal, Lucich won the ensuing face-off, rushed toward the net and scored to make it 7-5. Then with 1:41 left in the third quarter, Howard dodged from X and scored to make it a one-goal game heading to the fourth quarter.
Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, Lacewell found room to get his hands free and scored to pull CBA even at 7-7. But once more, Manasquan found a way to respond.
This time it was Pendergist with the clutch goal. After a pass through the crease missed its mark, Pendergist hustled to the left sideline to collect a ground ball before it went out of bounds, galloped around three CBA defenders and scored while being checked from behind to give Manasquan an 8-7 lead with 8:03 left in the game.
Mulligan netted his third of the game with 3:58 to play when he found a way to the middle of the box to whistle a shot past D’Andrea and give Manasquan a 9-7 lead. That strike stood up as the game-winning goal after Donnelly dodged and scored top shelf with 2:20 on the clock.
Manasquan’s defense, as it had done for much of the afternoon, was able to come up with clutch stops to seal the win. CBA had possession off a timeout with 1:08 left on the clock but Manasquan junior defenseman Ryan Bilello was able to cause a turnover and then launch a three-quarter field clearing pass that Porazzo picked out of the air and settled. CBA got the ball back with 17 seconds left but Manasquan’s defense closed in and forced one final shot to go wide.
“That last-second situation when they have the ball, it’s nerve-wracking but you have to keep your head in it and trust your teammates that they’re going to do their job while I do my job to keep us in the game,” Groezinger said.
Both teams have divisional games to square away before the Shore Conference Tournament begins on Friday. It’s very likely the teams will meet again on the same field during the SCT semifinals on May 27. If Manasquan wants a shot at winning its fourth straight SCT title it is probably going to have to get through CBA to return to the championship game. And likewise for CBA, which will try to vanquish Manasquan to reach its third straight final with eyes on winning its first conference title since 2009.
“We know we have a target on our back, we’ve been here the past couple years at the top of the Shore and we use that as motivation,” Mulligan said. “We want to be the best and we want to play the best.”
No. 2 Manasquan 9, No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy 8
GOALS – CBA: Terrance Lacewell 2, Brendan Donnelly 2, Dan Martin, Michael DeRosa, Jared Lucich, Ryan Howard; M: Casey Mulligan 3, Robert Pendergist 2, Matt Porazzo 2, Mike Farinacci, Blake Gorski.
ASSISTS – CBA: Terrance Lacewell; M: Robert Pendergist, Casey Mulligan.
SAVES – CBA: Noah D’Andrea, 14; M: Carter Groezinger, 7.
SHOTS: Manasquan, 24-22.
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