By Warren Rappleyea
On the heels of its first NJSIAA South Jersey, Group I championship and with a cadre of talented players returning, expectations are high this spring for Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s boys lacrosse team.
A year ago, Rumson-Fair Haven started out 0-4 but quickly recovered to go 18-7 overall. Along the way, Rumson-Fair Haven reached the finals of the Shore Conference Tournament before falling to Southern Regional High School in a rematch of the 2014 and 2013 finals, which were both won by the Bulldogs. In the state tournament, Rumson-Fair Haven downed Delran High School, Delaware Valley Regional High School, Madison High School and New Providence High School before losing the final to Summit High School.
Thus far, the Bulldogs are 1-1. Rumson-Fair Haven lost a 7-6 nail-biter to James Caldwell High School on opening day; the same score as its opening day lose to the same team last spring. The game was tied 5-5 going into the final quarter. Coach Andy Eastwood’s team bounced back with a solid 9-5 victory over Shawnee High School April 2, as Robbie Garavente led the way with three goals and a trio of assists.
“The bar is high, there’s no doubt about it,” Eastwood said. “Also, this year we’ve moved up to Group II, so we’ll be seeing some different competition. This team is up to the challenge, and they have high expectations for themselves.”
With balance throughout the lineup, the Bulldogs are a difficult team to play against. With five players who scored 20 goals or more back, Rumson-Fair Haven can come at opponents in waves. Garravente, who already has five goals, led the team last spring with 46 and 34 assists.
Also on the attack is Griffin Schultz, who pumped in 30 goals to go with 15 assists, and Henry Sillen, who scored 28 times and contributed 19 assists. In reserve is junior Colin Pavluk, who can put the ball in the net, too, as evidenced by his 16 goals a year ago.
“We have a balanced attack, so it’s hard for another team to key on any one player,” Eastwood said. “We’re really fortunate to have so many guys who can finish.”
There’s additional firepower in the middle with juniors Bryan Hess, Charlie Curran and Matt Waters. Hess is coming off a 23-goal, three-assist campaign with 45 ground balls, and he notched a hat trick in the Bulldogs’ loss to Caldwell. Curran pitched in with 20 tallies and eight assists, while Waters scored 14 times and picked up six assists.
Juniors Ryan Tuorto (five goals, six assists), Alex Werner and sophomore Wyatt Feinberg also patrol the middle, and Stephen Edler, another sophomore, is the long-stick middle.
While the Bulldogs should be explosive on the attack, look for them to give up goals grudgingly. Lachlan Hull, who picked up 58 ground balls, is back with Ian Clarke and juniors Emmett Thomas and Dan Maloney on the back line. Senior Kyle Knapp returns in goal, where Connor Deveron, a junior, will also see time. Both goalkeepers turned aside more than shots last season.
“Our guys know they’ve done it before and that they can compete at the highest level,” the coach said. “There’s no substitute for that experience. Our guys know what it takes to win and how to play as a team.”
After its match with Southern Regional High School April 5, the Bulldogs are slated to meet Allentown High School April 7 and visit St. John Vianney High School in a Shore Conference Class B North matchup April 9.