With almost all of its starters returning in 2019, Shore Regional had the look of a team ready to ascend into the upper echelon of the Shore Conference. But even with ample talent and experience, reaching new heights was not guaranteed.

Gregg Malfa knew the potential the 2019 class possessed when it entered the doors of the West Long Branch school four years ago. Now, with players like Gil Goldsmith, Jack McCrae, Jake Turner, Tom Bocco and Gunnar Schuelzky readying for their senior years, was the time to put it all together.

Shore Regional’s best team on paper turned out to also be its best on the field as the Blue Devils turned in a program-defining 2019 season. Shore went 15-2, won its first division title and advanced to the semifinals of both the Shore Conference Tournament and NJSIAA state sectional tournament for the first time in program history. Guiding and molding this talented squad was Malfa, one of the most respected coaches in the Shore Conference who has, brick by brick, built Shore Regional into a consistent top-10 team in the conference.

For leading Shore Regional to its best season in program history, Malfa is our selection as the 2019 Shore Sports Network Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

Being realigned into the Class B South division for 2019 put Shore as the clear favorite to win its first division title. That was precisely the case as the Blue Devils steamrolled everyone in their path, including a resounding 15-2 win over second-place Lacey, to clinch the division championship.

Moving from B North to B South was a catch-22 for Shore, however. The road to a division crown was certainly easier without the likes of Rumson-Fair Haven on their schedule, but it also left them with fewer opportunities against top opponents. The Blue Devils were dominant in regular-season, non-divisional wins over former division rivals Holmdel and Ocean, but they lacked signature wins as the Shore Conference Tournament loomed.

That all changed on April 30 when the Blue Devils welcomed Freehold Township to Feeney Field. The Patriots, who have been a top-10 staple over the past several years and entered ranked No. 9 in the SSN Top 10, were no match for Shore as the Blue Devils came away with an emphatic 17-6 victory. That win helped Shore secure the No. 3 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament.

Their SCT run began with an 18-4 win over Ocean in the first round and set up a showdown with Southern Regional in the quarterfinals. Along with Manasquan, Rumson-Fair Haven and Christian Brothers Academy, Southern has been one of the conference’s premier teams of the last decade. The Rams, who were ranked No. 6 at the time, served as a gatekeeper of sorts. Shore was trying to get to the point of the tournament where Southern has been nearly every year.

Sparked by a six-goal second quarter and a career-high eight goals from Turner, Shore defeated Southern, 13-6, to punch its ticket to the SCT final four for the first time in program history. Goldsmith added two goals and six assists, junior goalie Scott Sirianni made 10 saves and the Blue Devils’ defense limited Southern to just two goals in the second half.

The victory over Southern put the Blue Devils into the semifinals against CBA, a historic program in the Shore Conference with four SCT titles to its credit. Shore’s road came to an end in an 8-7 loss to the Colts, but it was a thrilling, back-and-forth game that was not decided until the closing seconds.

Shore regrouped for the NSIAA South Group 1 Tournament and made another unprecedented run. The Blue Devils crushed Lower Cape May, 23-5 in the first round before rallying past Delaware Valley, 11-9, in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals for the first time. Being the No. 4 seed meant Shore had to tangle with Manasquan in the semifinals, and the Warriors were simply too much to handle in a 16-2 defeat that brought a memorable campaign to a close.

Under Malfa’s watchful eye, Shore averaged over 15 goals per game and held opponents to six goals per game. The Blue Devils had Goldsmith selected as a First Team All-Shore midfielder by the Shore Conference Lacrosse Coaches Association and four more – Turner, McCrae, junior defenseman Ryan Dolan and junior long-stick midfielder Jake Shirley – voted as Second Team All-Shore members. Goldsmith was also selected as the Class B South Player of the Year while Turner, Bocco, McCrae, Dolan, Schuelzky, Shirley and Sirianni were First Team All-Division picks and freshman midfielder Jamie Mazzacco and sophomore face-off specialist were Second Team All-Division selections. Shore will have five representatives in the SCLCA Senior All-Star Game when Goldsmith, Turner, McCrae, Bocco and Schuelzky take the field one final time.

In addition to being named the SSN Coach of the Year, Malfa was also honored as Shore Conference Coach of the Year by the SCLCA and US Lacrosse.

Shore will have to regroup next year after graduating a great senior class, but as long as Malfa the head coach, the Blue Devils will be in good hands.

 

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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