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Every team in every sport wants to be playing at their peak during the championship tournament portion of the season. Southern Regional’s boys lacrosse team has taken that mantra to a new level over the last week.

On Monday afternoon, the Rams completed a sensational sectional tournament run by walloping host Monroe, 14-4, to win the 2021 NJSIAA South Group 4 state sectional title as the No. 4 seed. After taking down top-seeded Montgomery in the semifinals on Saturday, Southern showed no signs of a letdown by authoring another complete effort to secure the program’s third sectional title and first since 2014.

Chuck Donohue Jr./Southern Regional Athletic Department
Chuck Donohue Jr./Southern Regional Athletic Department

Senior attackman Luke Bruther and junior attackman Ryan Sininsky each scored four times to lead the way on offense as Southern scored eight times in the second half to blow the game open. Sophomore attackman Joey DeYoung scored three times, sophomore attackman Hayden Lucas scored twice, junior midfielder Jake Washco had a goal and three assists and junior midfielder Zack Washco dished out four assists.

Southern’s defense was outstanding once again to hold a talented Monroe offense to just four goals and only one in the second half. The Rams switched to a full-time zone defense against Howell in the quarterfinals and the results were nearly perfect. It was more of the same against Montgomery in the semifinals and vs. Monroe in the title game. The defensive unit in front of junior goalie Tyler Sininsky has been excellent and Sininsky has made some game-changing saves when the situation has called for it. He has 37 saves in the last three games in what has been a special run for the Rams.

“It has been and we’ve been playing great defense pretty much all year,” said Southern head coach John Pampalone. “Coach Mike Jinks does a great job as our defensive coordinator and his son, Nick, who was a standout for us, is now coaching with us and has helped take it to the next level.”

“And I’ll tell you, when you go into a game with Tyler Sininsky as hot as he is in net we feel we can win any game.”

Southern set the tone early against a Monroe team that was coming off an 8-7 overtime victory over Lenape in the semifinals and had packed stands at their home field. Revenge also had to be on the Falcons’ minds after Southern beat them in the 2019 quarterfinals. But it was the Rams who struck first thanks to a face-off win by junior Kurt Falk and a goal by Jake Washco just 42 seconds into the game. Monroe won the ensuring face-off and raced into the zone, but Sininsky came out to make a big save.

Monroe would eventually tie the game 1-1 but Bruther scored with 5:05 left in the first quarter to give Southern a lead it would not relinquish. DeYoung added another with 1:45 on the clock to give the Rams a 3-1 lead after the opening quarter.

Monroe but Southern’s lead to 3-2 early in the second quarter but the Rams responded with three goals in a span of 2:16 late in the first half, including two directly off strong rides, to take a four-goal lead and bring a 6-3 advantage into halftime.

“We jumped on them 3-1 and then they got their footing, but we were able to steal the ball twice inside the box and score 1-on-1 with the goalie,” Pampalone said. “It took away all the momentum they had.”

Bruther scored his third early in the third quarter for a 7-3 lead and Sininsky then scored twice to make it 9-3. Bruther’s fourth of the game made it 10-3 with 1:51 left in the third. Monroe got one back to make it 10-4 but DeYoung scored with 5:47 left in the game for an 11-4 lead and then again at 5:07 to make it 12-4. Sininsky and Lucas closed out the scoring with goals in the final three minutes, providing the exclamation point at the end of a fantastic performance.

“Monroe plays a really good zone and we were able to make the extra pass and find the next guy,” Pampalone said. “And we rode really hard today to force turnovers that contributed to goals.”

Pampalone knew he had a talented team this season, the question was experience. They brought back just eight players with varsity experience. They had potential but it was going to be a process to put it all together.

“What’s crazy is that we have 16 first-year varsity players on this team,” Pampalone said. “I knew we were really talented but also very young. Even the juniors missed a year so they only have two years of high school lacrosse. I knew it would take a little time and we took some lumps early in games where we weren’t up for the challenge, but to these guys’ credit they learned lessons.”

“Ever since that Shore Regional game (a 10-5 loss on May 15) we’ve come together and played really good lacrosse. Today, it was working in all phases.”

The prior two times Southern reached the Group 4 title game they were defeated by Ridge and Westfield, respectively, in the 2013 and 2014 championship games. This time they’ll take on another stalwart from the north: Hunterdon Central. The Red Devils rallied with four goals in the fourth quarter to defeat Ridgewood, 10-9, in the North Group 4 final on Monday. Southern will be the underdog against the No. 12 team in New Jersey, but that perception matters little to a team that is playing with sky-high confidence.

“We should have the confidence after these big wins,” Pampalone said. “Hopefully the third time is the charm.”


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