Halmi’s consistency helps Cougars win A North lacrosse


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By Tim Morris

Colts Neck High School’s boys’ lacrosse team may have had an up and down season; however, the Cougars were certainly up at the right time.

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Thanks to a spotless record against public schools, the Cougars captured the Shore Conference A North Division title this spring, overcoming perennial winners Freehold Township High School and Howell High School. Their only loss was to non-public Christian Brothers Academy.

The Cougars also were up in the state tournament, providing their 7-9 season with another highlight: a first-round victory in the state sectional tournament, defeating Hightstown High School, 7-4.

At one time, the Cougars were 1-5 before a couple of lineup changes helped the team’s attack, and things turned around at the right time — when the A North schedule was starting.

“We had combinations that started to work, and they learned what it took to win,” head coach Jeff Rosenberg said. “They realized what they had to do to win.”

Rosenberg rotated a pair of sophomores, Nick Lago and Nick DiBella, with veterans Vinnie Garguilo and senior Chris Bisignano to bring some punch to the Cougars’ attack.

Colts Neck did have one constant throughout the season in goalie Andrew Halmi, who is headed to Ohio Wesleyan University to continue his education and lacrosse career. Rosenberg noted that his goalkeeper was clearly the Cougars’ most valuable player. He constantly came up with unbelievable saves that would stop the opposition’s attack and swing momentum over to Colts Neck.

“Halmi was unbelievable and definitely was the key reason we got the wins we did,” Rosenberg said. “He has great reactions. I am amazed at how quick he is.

“He runs the defense.”

Halmi was one of three senior tri-captains along with defender Joe Fifield and midfielder Jack Schaefer.

If the lineup changes helped a stalled offense find some rhythm, the 11-8 victory over Freehold Township (the first in several years) provided the needed confidence.

“Once we beat Freehold Township, the kids knew we had a good shot at [A North],” Rosenberg said. “The kids really wanted to beat them.”

Garguilo sank six goals in the victory against Freehold Township, while Halmi collected 15 saves.

It was one down and one to go to the championship. All the Cougars had to do was beat Howell, which had shared A North with Freehold Township last year.

With an outside shot at winning the division themselves, Howell was in no mood to make the game in Howell a coronation for the Cougars. Colts Neck needed Halmi at his best, and he made 17 saves, as the team slipped past the Rebels, 9-8, to win the public school crown.

Garguilo led the way with three goals and an assist, while Schaefer chipped in with two goals and two assists.

In the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group III playoffs, the Cougars were seeded 10th and traveled to No. 7-seed Hightstown. The Rams had beaten the Cougars, 9-4, during the regular season, but Colts Neck returned the favor when it mattered most, topping the Rams, 7-4. Halmi saved 15 more shots in this victory.

Garguilo and Thijs Smit each hit for two goals. Schaefer added two assists, and Anthony Mauriello, Colin Scalea and Colin Vill each scored one goal for the Cougars.

Second-seeded Clearview Regional High School brought the curtain down on the Cougars’ season, 18-5. Garguilo scored four of the Cougars’ five goals.

While it was a roller-coaster season, the Cougars’ peaks certainly outweighed the valleys, and any season that produces a championship is a good one.

Freehold Township also enjoyed some postseason success. The Patriots, the No. 7 seed in South Jersey, Group IV, defeated East Brunswick High School, 11-4, in their opening-round game in Freehold Township.

Josh Nastarowicz had a seven-point game in the win, scoring four goals and assisting on three. Andrew Dunn matched his four goals and had one assist.

Chris Novella, Matt Lach, Mike Ferdinandi and Mike Colicchia each scored a goal. Colicchia and Novella each had two assists.

“It was a good win,” Freehold Township head coach Ryan Eichner said. “We won the hustle plays, ground balls, rides and clears.”

Freehold Township’s season would also be undone by a No. 2-seed. In the Patriots’ case, Lenape High School handled them, 18-3.

Lenape took the Patriots out of the state sectional in the quarterfinals last year.

The Patriots completed the season with an 11-6 overall record. They also reached the quarterfinals in the Shore Conference Tournament.

Howell (9-9) was seeded 14th in South Jersey Group IV and lost at No. 3-seed Monroe Township High School in the first round, 14-4.

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