HOLMDEL – Lacey head coach Shane Allen has hammered home the mentality of closing games strong, using laser focus and outworking opponents over the final 12 minutes to emerge with a victory. The Lions call it the “character quarter” and the team has bought into the mantra in a big way.

Earlier this season Lacey nearly stole a game where it trailed by six goals entering the fourth quarter. Wednesday presented another chance for the Lions to rally back in the final frame, and this time they finished it off for their biggest win of the season.

Behind by two goals after three quarters, Lacey scored six times in the fourth quarter to surge past Holmdel for a 12-10 victory in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 playoffs at Bob Roggy Field. Senior attackman JoeCarlo Chimenti and junior attackman Dylan Vitale each rang up three goals and two assists, junior attackman Dom Waltonowski added two goals and two assists and senior goalie Justin Covey made some great stops and finished with 14 saves.

“It’s the character quarter, it’s the quarter you have to win every game,” Waltonowski said. “That’s how we come to play every time.”

“It has to do with our character and challenging guys to finish games,” Allen said. “We fell short early on in the season where we didn’t’ finish and at the Shore game we showed some pride in battling back and getting to overtime. Unfortunately, we gave that one up but it’s been a battle cry for us the entire year. Until the clock reads zero you’re always in the game and we took advantage that opportunity today.”

The Lions will next face defending champion and No. 2 seed Rumson-Fair Haven in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Bulldogs dispatched 15th-seeded Lawrence, 18-2, in their first-round game.

Tied 4-4 at halftime, Holmdel used a 4-2 run in the third quarter to gain an 8-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Dan Tempone scored an extra-man opportunity goal with three minutes left in the first half and Jack Kapcsos then scored with 45 seconds left to tie the score, and the Hornets rode that momentum into the third. Tempone scored another EMO goal off a pass from Justin Arredondo 30 seconds into the second half, and just over a minute later Arredondo sank a goal off a pass from Kapcsos to give Holmdel a 6-4 lead. Dan Bunting’s goal at 8:35 made it five straight goals for Holmdel and extended its lead to 7-4.

Lacey got back on the board when Ryan Giles scored at 7:56, but Bunting answered 34 seconds later to give Holmdel back its three goal-lead. The Lions were about to go on a five-goal stretch of their own to win the game, and it started with Waltonowski’s goal with 2:21 left in the third to cut the deficit to 8-6.

Waltonowski tallied again at the 9:40 mark of the fourth quarter to make it 8-7 and just 25 seconds later Brett Spafford scored off a pass from Waltonowski to tie the score at eight. Within 45 seconds Lacey had taken the lead as Chris Augustine took a pass from Jared Lotruglio and blasted it past Holmdel goalie Nick Tuccillo. Lotruglio added a goal at 5:57 to push the lead to 10-8.

Holmdel scored to cut the lead to 10-9 but Lacey answered on goals by Vitale and Chimenti to stretch its advantage to 12-9 with 2:13 to play. Jake Preziose scored for Holmdel with six seconds left to cap the scoring.

Lacey’s offense, notably the attack line of Chimenti, Vitale and Waltonowski used efficient ball movement and crisp possessions to create holes in Holmdel’s defense. Seven of the Lions’ 12 goals were assisted.

“This week in practice we worked a lot on moving the ball around and even me and our backup goalie were in on it, too, just moving it around the circle; right hand, left hand,” Covey noted. “It definitely showed today. We had a lot of assists from the attack line, drawing and dumping.”

“The last couple of days we’ve had good, clean, efficient touches; stick-side stuff where you can be faster in terms of your possessions and opportunities you create for yourself,” Allen said. “We know they’re a talented squad here at Holmdel and we had to have those types of possessions in order to finish against these guys. Our attackmen did a nice job being aggressive on the crease in spite of getting some slides early on.”

Over the final 18 minutes, Lacey’s defense was able to lock down on Holmdel and allow the Lions’ offense to rally back. After Holmdel took an 8-5 lead with 7:22 left in the third quarter, the Hornets did not score again until 5:34 to play in the game, and by that time Lacey had stormed back to take the lead.

“They’re always kind of the unsung heroes of your successful opportunities,” Allen said of the Lacey defense. “They’re not the flashy goal-scorers but when they slide early or force a turnover or draw a penalty or cause a failure to advance those are all morale builders and they keep you in ball games.”

“Our guys did a nice job of playing aggressively, and we asked them to do that because we know Holmdel is a talented team and we needed to stay on their hands.”

Covey was on his game from the start with a few saves high on the degree-of-difficulty scale. He was at his best in the fourth quarter with five of his 14 saves.

“Justin Covey, our senior goalie, gives us a lot of leadership and direction,” Allen said. “He’s a good leader for us and he keeps the defense playing well.”

Another big factor in the game was Lacey’s man-up unit, which went a perfect 4-for-4 and helped the Lions pull ahead, 4-2, in the second quarter.

“Holmdel gave us a different look that challenged some of what we do there,” Allen said. “We had to go to plan B on some things and it worked to our favor.”

Now the Lions get their shot at Rumson, the defending champion and the favorite to win the bracket again despite being the No. 2 seed.

“I’m very excited, I’ve always wanted to play Rumson,” Covey said. “I grew up playing travel lacrosse with a lot of Rumson guys so it will be good to get after it with them.”


Box Score

Lacey 12, Holmdel 10

Lacey 1 3 2 6 – 12

Holmdel 1 3 4 2 – 10

GOALS – L: JoeCarlo Chimenti 3, Dylan Vitale 3, Dom Waltonowski 2, Ryan Giles, Jared Lotruglio, Brett Spafford, Chris Augustine; H: Dan Bunting 3, Dan Tempone 3, Jack Kapcsos, Justin Arredondo, Jake Preziose, Sean Dolan.

ASSISTS – L: JoeCarlo Chimenti 2, Dylan Vitale 2, Dom Waltonowski 2, Jared Lotruglio; H: Jack Kapcsos 2, Justin Arredondo 2, Justin Cohen.

SAVES – L: Justin Covey 14; H: Nick Tuccillo 8.

SHOTS: Lacey, 33-31.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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