Special Forces: FOGO Michael Hoarle, Goalie Lucas Seelinger come up clutch for No. 3 Wall in thrilling win over No. 4 Manasquan
WALL TOWNSHIP -- A lacrosse team can have snipers on the attack line, thoroughbreds in the midfield, and stalwarts on defense, but the two positions that can swing the balance of a game more than any other are goalie and face-off specialist. Their importance is magnified in the biggest of moments where the margin for error is slim and one extra possession can end up being the difference between victory or defeat.
That was the case for Wall on Wednesday afternoon when sophomore face-off ace Michael Hoarle and junior goalie Lucas Seelinger led the Crimson Knights to a massive victory over their archrivals.
Seelinger was sensational with 10 saves, headlined by a 1-on-1 save on the crease with under three minutes left in a tie game, while Hoarle won 14 of 17 face-offs to power Wall's comeback as the Crimson Knights, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, rallied for a dramatic 7-6 victory over No. 4 Manasquan in a Class B South showdown on the stadium field at Wall High School.
Junior midfielder Shea Brennan sank the go-ahead goal with 1:23 left in regulation, Hoarle won the ensuing face-off, and senior attackman John McCurry played keep-away long enough to prevent Manasquan from getting a settled possession in the final seconds. It all added up to an emotional victory that checked several boxes for Wall. It will likely decide the Class B South champion, for one, but in the macro view, it was the type of win against a championship-caliber opponent that the Knights will need in May and June.
"Mikey and Lucas were the biggest part of this game," Brennan said. "They won that game for us."
"When it's Wall-Manasquan it's always a playoff atmosphere," said Wall head coach Victor Rivera. Emotions are high, guys are fired up, and you have to bring your best no matter if it's the regular season, Shore Conference, or state playoffs. It's a very encouraging (win)."
Manasquan opened a 3-1 lead after the first quarter and led 5-3 entering the final 12 minutes. McCurry, who is committed to Navy and tied for the Shore Conference scoring title last season, plowed through a defender and scored in the opening minute of the fourth quarter to pull Wall within a goal. Four minutes later, Manasquan re-gained its two-goal cushion when junior midfielder and Lehigh commit Brody Muly scored his second of the game, giving the Warriors a 6-4 lead with 7:41 on the clock.
Manasquan junior goalie Nick Bounassi and Seelinger traded great saves to keep it a 6-4 game until Wall junior midfielder Will Madden scored his second goal of the game to make it 6-5 with 5:37 to play. Just 36 seconds later and after another face-off win by Hoarle, McCurry netted his third goal of the afternoon to knot the score 6-6.
With under three minutes left to play, Manasquan had possession and worked the ball around to Muly for a shot that was stopped by Seelinger. But on the clearing attempt, a tough ride by senior attackman Matt Porazzo and senior LSM Connor Kelly resulted in a turnover when Kelly deflected a pass. Porazzo was there to scoop up the ground ball and race in all alone vs. Seelinger with a chance to give Manasquan the lead. Porazzo shot high and Seelinger was ready, making a massive save on a high-danger chance to keep the score tied 6-6.
"After the turnover on that clear I just got back to the goal as fast as I could, made sure I was in a good position and kept my eye on the ball," Seelinger said. "Just staying calm and not over-committing. His stick was high so I stayed high and watched his shoulders."
"Our goalie played tremendous today," Rivera said. "Manasquan took some great shots at the end so hats off to Lucas today, if someone is getting the game ball it's him. He made some tremendous saves, some you think are going to be automatically in because of the position he's in. For him to step up the way he did, he really saved us at times today."
Wall was able to turn the ball the other way and work for the go-ahead goal. Brennan received a pass high in the box, dodged to his right, and whipped a shot into the back of the net to give Wall the lead for the first time in the game. Hoarle's 14th and final face-off win was the dagger that allowed Wall to run the clock all the way down to seven seconds before Manasquan was finally able to knock the ball away from McCurry. Manasquan was able to get off one last shot by Porazzo but it was from distance and easily stopped by Seelinger to clinch the win and set off a celebration behind the Wall goal.
"The close games are the best games," Brennan said. "We went down two and we just keep working and you saw what the outcome was."
"Manasquan did a great job possessing the ball and they killed so much clock in the third quarter," Rivera said. "We had to stay composed and know we were eventually going to get the ball back. You can feel like it's a five-goal deficit at times when it's one or two, so as coaches we try to remind them we can get it back. When you have Mikey playing the way he was at the face-off X we just try to remind them on the next possession it will come. They never gave up and they fought to the end."
McCurry led all players with four points on three goals and one assist to bring his season totals to 30 goals and 18 assists for 48 points. Brennan finished with two goals and one assist and Madden also scored twice. The defense was strong in front of Seelinger, led by senior Billy Carr at close defense and senior LSM Dominick Giglio. Carr is committed to Denver and Giglio to Monmouth.
"I love my defense and they made it really easy for me if I'm going to be honest," Seelinger said. "I really appreciate all the work they do. They play hard and they play smart."
Muly and senior midfielder James Farinacci had two goals and one assist and Bounassi finished with seven saves to lead Manasquan. Sophomore attackman Brandon Kunz had a goal and an assist and senior middie Blake Gorski scored once.
Wall has elevated itself into the upper echelon of the Shore Conference boys lacrosse scene over the last handful of years. The one void is a conference or state sectional championship. They've been close, reaching the Shore Conference Tournament final last season and the South Jersey Group 2 final in 2021. To accomplish those goals, the Knights will have to play and win exactly the type of game they did on Wednesday.
"We had each other's backs, kept positive energy, and were able to carry that to victory today," Rivera said. "We were coming off a couple big losses to Bergen Catholic and Ridgewood but it was a good experience for us to never quit and never give up. We're hoping to carry that throughout the season."
No. 3 Wall 7, No. 4 Manasquan 6
GOALS - M: James Farinacci 2, Brody Muly 2, Brandon Kunz, Blake Gorski; W: John McCurry 3, Shea Brennan 2, Will Madden 2.
ASSISTS - M: Brandon Kunz, James Farinacci, Brody Muly: W: John McCurry, Shea Brennan.
SAVES - M: Nick Bounassi 7; W: Lucas Seelinger 10.