WindMill Shore Conference Boys Lacrosse Team of the Week: Manalapan
Every week this spring, WindMill Restaurants and Shore Sports Network will be teaming up to select a Lacrosse Team of the Week based on its performance over the past week.
The WindMill Boys Lacrosse Team of the Week for Week 7 is Manalapan, which rallied to defeat Rancocas Valley in overtime to secure the first NJSIAA Tournament victory in program history. Shore Sports Network stopped by practice to present the Braves and head coach Nick Filippone with a Team of the Week certificate and a WindMill gift card.
A third-year varsity program, Manalapan has steadily improved each season and posted the program's first winning record this season while earning the first home state playoff game. The opening-round game vs. Rancocas Valley was an even battle but the Braves trailed by two goals most of the game. They rallied to tie the score in the fourth quarter on goals by junior attackman Anthony Macchio with 6:45 left and the game-tying goal by sophomore Matt Avivi off an assist from Macchio with 3:19 remaining in regulation.
A tense overtime period began with Manalapan winning the face-off but not being able to put a shot on net. The Red Devils executed a clear, called timeout, and set up a play. Manalapan then came up with a huge defensive stop thanks to a well-time body check from Aidan Wilmot, who then led the transition break. The ball went over to Macchio on the right wing, across the box to Christian Zdziarski, and finally down to the crease for sophomore attackman Jake Schatz. He avoided multiple checks and bounced a shot over the Rancocas Valley goalie to give Manalapan a thrilling 9-8 victory in front of a jubilant home crowd.
Junior midfielder Marc Stefanelli led Manalapan with three goals while Macchio delivered a goal and three assists. Senior midfielder Luke Mann, sophomore midfielder Jason Rinaldi, and Avivi each scored once, and Manalapan also had a goal that resulted from an errant pass into the net by a Rancocas Valley defender. Freshman goalie Connor Doel made nine saves, including one in overtime, and was clutch all game to help Manalapan remain within striking distance.
The Braves advanced to the quarterfinals where they were defeated by top-seeded Eastern, concluding a season that saw the Braves take a major step forward. They qualified for the Shore Conference and state tournaments for the third straight season, pushed for a spot in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, and clearly established themselves in the conference hierarchy. All five of Manalapan's conference losses came to teams ranked in the SSN Top 10, including a tight 12-10 loss to Red Bank in SCT.
With a young roster and a budding youth program, the Braves are set up for long-term success. Their top three scorers, face-off specialist, No. 1 and No. 2 goalies, and key defenders all return next season.