Holmdel History: Hornets top Allentown to reach first NJSIAA South Group 2 semifinals
HOLMDEL -- The case can certainly be made that Wednesday afternoon's game at Bob Roggy Memorial Field was the most significant in the history of Holmdel High School's boys lacrosse program. And with a chance to accomplish a feat never before realized on Crawfords Corner Road, the Hornets brought a level of effort and execution that matched the moment.
Senior goalie Andrew Arredondo made 19 saves to back up a stout defensive performance, freshman attackman Finn Buchan scored four times, and junior midfielder Will Gilfillan tallied two goals and three assists as the Hornets, seeded fourth in the NJSIAA South Group 2 state playoffs, started fasted and dispatched No. 5 Allentown, 10-7, to advance to the section semifinals for the first time in program history.
Buchan and sophomore attackman Brian Volpe each scored twice in the first quarter as Holmdel jumped out to a 4-0 lead. The Hornets had seized momentum immediately and they rode that four-goal cushion the rest of the way to knock off the Redbirds and advance to Friday's semifinal round against top-seeded Manasquan. Buchan finished with four goals and two assists, Volpe had two goals and two assists, and senior attackman Kyle Kapcsos and junior midfielder Gary Collyer each scored once.
"It's great, first time in program history," Arredondo said. "Everybody had each other's back. We played for the seniors, we played for each other. We wanted one more day and we got it."
"Coming into this game we knew it was going to be an absolute war," said Holmdel head coach Brendan Quinn. "Allentown is a great program and they have some quality wins this year so we knew this wasn't going to be a pushover. Just setting the tone right away in the first quarter, we were able to start fast and keep our foot on the gas."
The statistics will show that Allentown and senior face-off ace Walter Zhao won 67 percent of the face-offs, a great number for most teams, especially in the playoffs. But considering that Zhao entered having won 91% of the draws this season, Holmdel's collective effort at the face-off X was monumental. Sophomore FOGO Jack Powers made sure Zhao won few face-offs cleanly, battling off the clamp and allowing wing players Matt Tempone, Jack Cannon, Greg Linsalata, Gilfillan, and Collyer to swoop in and collect the loose ball for key possessions. They needed to make sure Zhao didn't take over the game, but they did more than that. Face-off wins on the first two draws of the game led to goals by Volpe and Buchan in the opening minute for a quick 2-0 Holmdel lead.
"Jack was able to hold serve a bit and our middies got involved and turned it into a scrum," Quinn said. "We tell them all the time, clear the ball and pick up ground balls and you have a shot in any game. At the face-off X, that bailed us out today and it let us play a lot more offense than we expected."
Gilfillan was the distributor on the first two goals, setting up Volpe for a 1-0 lead just 20 seconds into the game and then finding Buchan on the crease at the 11:15 mark. Excellent 6-on-6 possessions by Holmdel's defense led to the third and fourth goals as Volpe scored off an assist from Buchan at 8:08 and Buchan scored his second off a transition feed from Volpe at 4:37. Zhao got Allentown on the board with an unassisted goal at 1:41 but Holmdel responded with 0.8 seconds on the clock as Gilfillan showed great patience against a double team to find Buchan parked on the crease for a 5-1 lead.
"In a state game with the stakes like this, to go up 4-0 like that was incredible," Arredondo said.
The teams traded goals in the second quarter with Allentown's Jordan Duffy scoring off an assist from Dylan Fotheringham at 8:58, Buchan completing his hat trick, and Fotherhingham scoring again to make it 6-3 with 3:15 left in the first half. The goal by Buchan began with a great clear from Arredondo, launching a pass from his own end to Volpe, who dished to the wide-open freshman on the crease. Allentown had trimmed its deficit to three goals but Holmdel was able to respond in the final 2:30 on an unassisted goal by Kapcsos and a man-up goal by Gilfillan off a pass from Buchan. The ball went to Buchan on the crease but this time he sent it right back to Gilfillan, who had time and space to blast a shot past Allentown goalie Jack Conroy with 28 seconds left for an 8-3 halftime edge.
Buchan's four first-half goals gave him a team-leading 54 goals on the season while Gilfillan is now up to a team-high 97 points (47g, 50a).
While the offense was putting in eight goals, the defense and Arredondo were working their zone defense to near perfection in their own end. The senior standout was stopping almost everything he saw and had 10 saves at the break. The defense also held Allentown's top scorer, sophomore Sean McCafferty, without a goal. He entered the game with 56 goals and 38 assists for 94 points.
"I was talking to (Arredondo) during halftime and he said he felt like a brick wall," Kapcsos said.
"We usually play a zone and we saw when RBC zoned them (in a 7-6 win) they struggled a little bit," Arredondo said. "We knew if we played our game and kept the middle clear we would be fine."
Even up 8-3, Holmdel knew the game was far from over.
"The message was don't let up," Arredondo said. "It's a dangerous lead. Five goals can go like that in two minutes so we had to stay on our game."
Allentown won the final two quarters, but the work Holmdel had done throughout the first 24 minutes afforded them some leeway in the second half. Brian McCaffery scored at 5:21 and at 2:53 with a man-up goal for Allentown. Gilfillan had a goal sandwiched in between that gave Holmdel a 9-5 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
Holmdel's defense was again up to the task in the fourth quarter, forcing Allentown into long possessions and capitalizing with well-timed checks and ground balls. At the other end, the Hornets slowed the pace considerably and drained time off the clock until Collyer scored with 2:15 left for a 10-5 lead. Allentown sank two goals in the final 1:41, including a goal with eight seconds left, but could not change the final outcome. Now, Holmdel is one win away from reaching a sectional final.
"Coach always says at practice to play for one more game, and that's what we're doing," Gilfillan said.
Winning that next game will require a Herculean effort, however. Standing in Holmdel's way is Manasquan, the No. 1 seed and No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10. The Warriors crushed Seneca, 18-3, in their quarterfinal matchup and will host Holmdel at 4 p.m. on Friday at Pat Barnaba Field. Manasquan has won four sectional titles and three Shore Conference Tournament titles since 2016. Holmdel has its hands full, no doubt, but the Hornets played the Warriors tough in an 11-8 loss in this year's SCT quarterfinals and will enter Friday afternoon's contest with plenty of confidence.
"We had confidence in that first game and we showed that Holmdel is a great program," Arredondo said. "I've been waiting since state seeds came out to see Manasquan again and this is our chance."
"We're very excited," Kapcsos said. "We really want to win this one and we're going to come out firing like we did this game."
"That's why you play the games," Quinn said. "On paper, they might be heavily favored but with this group we have, if we're clicking and firing on all cylinders anything can happen."