Boys Lacrosse: Defending champion Rumson-Fair Haven storms past Shore Regional and into SCT semifinals
RUMSON -- After a successful regular season complete with dramatic victories and even some bitter defeats against an excellent schedule, Rumson-Fair Haven's boys lacrosse team is ready to turn its attention to the time of year that has made the program the juggernaut that it is today.
The two-time defending Shore Conference Tournament champs have won a conference-record eight SCT championships and remain the only Shore Conference boys lacrosse team to win an NJSIAA state championship. The program's second state title came last season when the Bulldogs became the Shore's first team to reach the Tournament of Champions final.
That is the bar the program has set for itself, and over the next four weeks, Rumson will focus on adding to the school's lacrosse legacy.
First on the list is winning another Shore Conference Tournament crown, and step two in that process played out on Tuesday afternoon when the top-seeded and top-ranked Bulldogs hummed to a 12-2 victory over eighth-seeded Shore Regional in the SCT quarterfinals at Borden Stadium. Junior midfielder Andy Croddick scored four goals and senior midfielder Cole Cashion delivered two goals and two assists as Rumson opened up an early lead and methodically widened the gap over the course of the final three quarters.
Senior defenseman Beau Kemler had a goal and an assist while sophomore midfielder Vincent Raphalian, senior attackman Bryce Devlin, junior Matthew Casazza, freshman attackman Luke Lydon, and junior defenseman Brody Page each scored once. Junior midfielder Leo Passalaqua dished out two assists, junior FOGO Luke Marascio won 12 of 16 at the face-off X, and senior goalie Marshall Halfacre turned in a sturdy performance between the pipes with 11 saves.
Shore Regional senior goalie Walker Hunter was outstanding and finished with 18 saves. Junior attackman Brady Cooke and Carson Spallone scored goals for the Blue Devils.
Rumson will square off against a fellow Shore Conference lacrosse blue blood when it meets No. 4 Christian Brothers Academy in the SCT finals at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Long Branch High School.
"I think in all aspects were clicking right now," Kemler said. "We want to play fast and play as a team, that's RFH lacrosse. I think we're hitting the groove at the right time."
"I feel like this group is coming together really nicely," Cashion said. "As a leader on offense, I feel like we've developed a good plan, dialed in our stick work, and played to our strengths."
Cashion started the scoring just over a minute into the game and Croddick scored two minutes later to stake Rumson (14-4) to an early 2-0 lead. Raphalian then buried a goal off a setup from Passalaqua as Rumson rode the face-off work of Marascio to a significant possession advantage and a 3-0 lead after the first quarter.
Croddick netted his second of the game at 8:11 of the second quarter and Devlin scored less than 30 seconds later to make it 5-0. Shore was able to get on the board with 36 seconds left in the first half when Cooke scored an extra-man goal off a setup from senior Ben Levy.
Rumson's 5-1 lead could have been greater if not for the play of Hutner in goal, who had double-digit saves at the break. The Bulldogs eventually blew the game open, however, thanks to a five-goal surge in the third quarter. Croddick completed his hat trick with an assist from Passalaqua at 8:47 of the third quarter before Cashion set up Lydon and then Page for goals 14 seconds apart to make it 8-1. Spallone put another one in for the Blue Devils at 5:22 but Rumson closed with goals by Cashion and Croddick to take a commanding 10-2 lead into the final 12 minutes.
Kemler dished to Casazza for a transition goal with 4:39 to play and then scored in the closing seconds to account for the 12-goal margin of victory.
Rumson playing a challenging schedule isn't anything new, but it's worth examining how the Bulldogs reached this point of the season. They rolled to another Class B North division title with notable wins over Shore (16-5), Red Bank (15-3), Red Bank Catholic (16-1), and Holmdel (17-5). Outside of the conference, Rumson posted state-ranked wins over defending Group 4 state champion Bridgewater-Raritan (10-7) and defending Non-Public A state champion St. Augustine (10-9 OT), plus dominant wins over Haddonfield (13-3) and Ocean City (16-4). Rumson's losses have come to state No. 1 Seton Hall Prep, national No. 6 Manhasset (NY), Connecticut power New Canaan, and Randolph. The 9-8 loss to Randolph is the only surprise, but Rumson came right back four days later to defeat Bridgewater.
In addition to having to replace the normal group of seniors who graduated, Rumson also had to fill the holes left by 60-goal scorer Quinn Stankovits, who transferred to Deerfield Academy in Massachusets, and All-State LSM Matthew Bockelmann, who suffered an injury during the offseason and has not played this season. Cashion, Kemler, standout defenseman Luke Jamin, and senior goalie Will Setteducate have led the way as expected, but the production from players like Croddick, Lydon, Raphalian, Passalaqua, Devlin, Marascio, sophomore attackman Grayson Goldin, senior midfielder Zach Iwan, and junior poles Brody Page and Troy Monte have ensured Rumson hasn't missed a beat.
"We've had a lot of leaders this year, kids like Andy Croddick, who have stepped into their new roles and been great contributors," Cashion said. "We play to our strengths and that's what I think makes us a good unit."
"RFH lacrosse is not one team or one player, it's a program," Kemler said. "It's unfortunate we don't have Matthew but he's doing a great job teaching those guys and they're working hard every day."
Rumson's players have their sights set on a potential meeting with Mountain Lakes in the Group 1 final. It was the Lakers who ended Rumson's season in the T.O.C. final last season. Foremost will be securing the Shore Conference Tournament title and affirming their position atop the Shore.
It's super important for us," Kemler said. "As kids playing in summer tournaments together this was always our goal to win it when we got here. Our last three years we haven't lost a Shore Conference game so we say that proudly. We have two more to go. We're trying to complete the perfect run and go out as the best class ever to come through this conference."
"The (SCT) title means a lot," Cashion said. "Us seniors, we won it sophomore year and junior year and now we're trying to win it our senior year. It means the world. There's nothing like holding up that Shore Conference trophy."