HOLMDEL — The first half of Tuesday’s Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal matchup was controlled by Holmdel in nearly every category except the one that mattered most. The scoreboard.

The fourth-seeded and host Hornets had the lion’s share of possession time and owned a 24-10 shots advantage through the first 24 minutes, but it was the visiting Crimson Knights that held a two-goal lead at the break thanks to exemplary work in the cage by senior goalie Lucas Seelinger and two crafty goals by sophomore attackman Wyatt Capro in the final 1:45 of the half.

The Hornets were frustrated, and that emotion certainly could have carried over to the second half and nudged them off their game despite a strong first half in the offensive end. A simple message of reinforcement at halftime kept them locked in.

“Keep shooting,” Holmdel head coach Brendan Quinn said. “Seelinger was playing out of his mind but we have guys who can score and we told them the offense is getting good looks. Keep shooting, because they’re going to start to fall.”

Holmdel kept firing away and those shots did indeed begin to hit the back of the net as the Hornets won the second half en route to a thrilling 9-8 victory over fifth-seeded Wall in the SCT quarterfinals at Bob Roggy Memorial Field. Sophomore attackman Finn Buchan scored a game-high four goals, including the go-ahead goal off a behind-the-back-shot with 5:54 left in regulation that propelled Holmdel into the SCT semifinals for the first time since 2011.

Holmdel will travel to top-seeded Manasquan on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.


Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
Holmdel sophomore attackman Finn Buchan scored a game-high four goals, including the go-ahead goal in the fourth quarter. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com)

“Our offense, coach Lawlor always teaches us to keep shooting and that’s what we did,” said senior midfielder Gary Collyer, who tallied three goals and one assist. “We knew our shots would start falling. We wear down the goalie and we know in the third and fourth quarters is when we’re going to take over and score more goals.”

Wall led 6-4 at halftime but Holmdel (12-4) tied the score on goals by Buchan and Collyer in the first 3:16 of the second half. The teams went back and forth from there with Collyer whipping a shot past Seelinger off an assist from sophomore midfielder Jack Cannon to tie the game 8-8 with 1:07 left in the third quarter.

The game was deadlocked 8-8 heading to the fourth quarter and remained that way through the first six minutes. Holmdel and junior FOGO Jack Powers won the opening face-off of the fourth but the possession was brief. Wall then went to work on consecutive long possessions, earning a second after a failed clear by Holmdel. The Hornets’ defense had moved past its overly aggressive tactics of the first half and settled back into its zone, which enabled them to stave off the Knights on both possessions to set up the eventual game-winning goal. After gaining possession via a ground ball, Holmdel moved quickly in transition with a pinpoint passing play that saw junior attackman Brian Volpe make the extra pass across the crease to Buchan, who finished off the goal in style.

“It definitely felt good to put one in the net right there,” senior LSM Matt Tempone said.

Tempone helped lead the way in the second half for a Holmdel defense that held Wall to just two goals over the final 24 minutes.

“We were going for the home-run check in the first half,” Tempone said. “We had to slide with the body, play as a team, and trust each other to get back in the zone and play our game.”

“Defensively, we talked about limiting them from getting on the run,” Quinn said. “(Wall) is a team that is very good in transition so we felt if we could limit that we could get stops.”


Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
Holmdel senior midfielder Will Gilfillan. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com)

Holmdel threw 13 shots toward the cage in the first quarter but Seelinger was up to the task with eight saves to help the Crimson Knights (4-10) forge a 3-2 lead after the opening quarter. The heaviest pressure came during the first six minutes, but Wall survived the flurry and struck first when senior midfielder Will Madden scored with 4:23 on the clock. Four goals were scored in the final three minutes of the quarter with Buchan scoring off a setup from Cannon at 2:49 and an own-goal on Wall giving the Hornets a 2-1 lead with 1:20 left. Junior attackman Jackson Lemongelli tied the score 2-2 with 42 seconds left and Capro converted a pass from senior midfielder Shea Brennan with 1.2 seconds remaining for a 3-2 Wall lead.

Lemongelli extended Wall’s lead to 4-2 early in the second quarter when he corralled the rebound off his own shot and flicked it past Holmdel goalie Jack Tiller. Holmdel responded with two straight goals to knot the score 4-4, first when senior midfielder Will Gilfillan capped a long possession with a goal off a feed from Collyer at 5:48 and then when Buchan picked up a ground ball after a long scramble and tucked it past Seelinger at 3:52. Capro would have the final say of first half, however, with two splendid goals to complete a first-half hat trick. With 1:45 left, he ripped a shot into the top-left corner of the net for a 5-4 lead, and with 4.3 seconds left he pulled off a behind-the-back beauty in transition to put Wall up 6-4 at the break.

“I think halftime came at the perfect time for us,” Tempone said. “They scored two quick goals but we got to rest a little at halftime, coach gave us a nice talk, and then in the third quarter we took it to them and in the fourth we really tightened up and played as a team.”

Following the goals by Buchan and Collyer that tied the score 6-6 in the third quarter, Wall regained the lead, 7-6, when sophomore midfielder Patrick Freud scored off a pass from Madden at 5:46. Collyer tied the score at seven with a quick catch-and-release off a pass from Cannon for an extra-man goal, but Wall came right back to take an 8-7 lead when Brennan scored another transition goal 27 seconds later. That was the last time Holmdel would yield a goal. Collyer tied the score two minutes later and Buchan provided the eventual game-winner in the fourth.

“A bunch of our senior leaders, we didn’t want it to happen again like it has the past couple years losing one- or two-goal games,” Gilfillan said. “We didn’t want to be on the wrong end of that and we found a way to pull it out.”

Holmdel also showed great poise with a long, smart possession with four minutes to play. Gilfillan also drew a slashing penalty with 1:36 left, and by the time Wall regained possession, there were under 10 seconds left in the game.


Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com
Holmdel sophomore midfielder Jack Cannon. (Bob Badders | rpbphotography.com)

“The thing that stands out the most is killing the clock at the end of the game,” Quinn said. “It shows just how much our IQ has grown by the day.”

“Everyone has to be disciplined,” Collyer said. “No one is selfish on the team and we moved the ball around and knew we were going to get the right look and kill the clock.”

Next, Holmdel will try to take down one of the Shore Conference’s powerhouses when it heads to Manasquan on Thursday. The Warriors won the regular-season meeting in dominant fashion with a 15-3 win on April 17. The two teams, which feature mostly the same lineups as last season, squared off twice in 2023 with Manasquan winning 11-8 in the SCT quarterfinals and 10-4 in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 sectional semifinals.

“I’d love to go back down there again,” Collyer said. “We have some unfinished business so I’m excited. We’ll have a good practice and I can’t wait to see what happens.”

More From Shore Sports Network