Lady Bulldogs look for defense to complement strong offense

By Warren Rappleyea

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s girls lacrosse team is off to a 3-1 start and appears to have picked up where it left off after turning in a 24-2 record a year ago and reaching the overall NJSIAA Group II championship game.

The Lady Bulldogs opened the season against Moorestown High School but fell, 10-5, despite outshooting the Quakers, who also edged Rumson-Fair Haven last spring in the second game of the year.

“We played well, and I thought it was a game we should have won,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Amy O’Keefe said. “Our girls had the chances, and we just weren’t able to put them away. I don’t see that happening very often.”

Most likely it won’t happen often given the Lady Bulldogs’ firepower. Junior attacker Brittany Bruno is coming off a 63-goal, 19-assist campaign and already has eight goals to her credit. Jacqueline Littleson added 11 goals and 17 assists a year ago, and Allie Geiger and Kyra Weiner added 16 goals apiece. Kate Caruso, a sophomore, will get a chance to display her scoring prowess up front.

There’s plenty more offense in the middle with seniors Maggie Jennings, Elizabeth Scarrone and Morgan Steinhacker. Jennings entered the season with 85 career tallies after scoring 48 times and piling up 29 assists last spring. Scarrone contributed 43 goals and led the team with 37 assists, while Steinhacker pumped home 34 goals and assisted on another 17 markers. Sophomore Meg MacGillis also sees time in the middle.

Bruno, who scored three times in the opener, tickled the twine twice as Rumson-Fair Haven bounced back to down West Morris Mendham High School, 10-8, April 5. Scarrone added three goals and an assist, and Weiner had a hat trick as well. The Lady Bulldogs followed up with successive shutout victories against St. Rose High School, 12-0, and the Ranney School, 14-0.

“We had a short preseason, so our offense is just settling in and getting organized now,” the coach said. “We have a lot of girls who can score goals, and that makes it tough for our opponents. We’re not looking for any one person; we take what’s there. The whole team has bought into this. They are a very unselfish group.”

The offense overshadows a competent defense anchored by veteran goalkeeper Anna Babiak. The senior turned aside 61 shots last season and has plenty of big-game experience. In front of Babiak are the ever-present Madison Maguire and junior Caitie Clark. Senior Tess Chandler and sophomore Lily Bedell also start on the back line. Another sophomore, Kylie Wise, has filled in capably, while Chandler recovers from an injury. Kristen Yorke provides additional depth.

After falling to Moorestown last season, the Lady Bulldogs reeled of 22 straight victories, including a 14-5 victory against Red Bank Catholic High School in the South Jersey, Group II title game. O’Keefe’s team also brought home the Shore Conference Tournament championship.

“We really got on a roll last year, and we’re looking to do that again,” O’Keefe said. “The girls know what it takes because they’ve done it before. The key for us is to always play good defense and let the offense take care of itself.

“People know we can score, but we don’t let our opponents get back in games.”