By Warren Rappleyea
Although 13 members of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s overall Group II girls’ lacrosse championship team graduated in June, plenty of talent remains as the Bulldogs look to repeat.
After dropping an opening-day decision to perennially powerful Moorestown High School, Rumson-Fair Haven reeled off 25 successive victories last season, including a 14-11 win over Bernards High School in the Group II finals. Along the way, the Bulldogs picked up the Shore Conference A Central Division title, the Shore Conference Tournament championship and the South Jersey, Group II title.
Rumson-Fair Haven’s season finally ended with a 10-5 loss to Summit High School in the first round of the Tournament of Champions.
Coach Amy O’Keefe’s team again opened the campaign March 29 hosting Moorestown, and the visitors came away with an 11-7 win. The Quakers got out to a 7-3 lead in the first half, but Rumson-Fair Haven’s comeback attempt fell short, despite a three-goal, two-assist performance by leading goal-scorer Brittany Bruno.
In recent years, the Bulldogs have also played Moorestown early in the campaign, using the match against the Quakers as a measuring stick to determine areas for improvement.
“The best way to get better is play good teams,” O’Keefe said. “We’re always looking to get better and when you play against the top teams, you can better identify what you need to work on.”
The Bulldogs bounced back with a dominating 16-7 win over Red Bank Catholic (RBC) High School April 1. Attackers Bruno and Kyra Weiner scored four goals apiece, while Gillian Curran and Elizabeth Scarrone recorded hat tricks.
The victory over RBC mirrored many of Rumson-Fair Haven’s wins in 2016. O’Keefe’s girls tallied 362 goals while allowing just 201 goals against. With Bruno, Weiner and Scarrone all back, the Rumson-Fair Haven offense will again be a challenge for opponents. Bruno scored 62 goals and 21 assists a year ago, while Weiner posted 53 goals and a team-leading 37 assists and Scarrone, a midfielder, added 40 goals and 35 assists. With more playing time this spring, Curran is likely to improve upon the 22 goals she tallied last season.
At the other end of the field, Sophia Bocklage takes over in net from longtime starter Anna Babiak. The defense in front of Bocklage is comprised of veterans, including senior Caitie Clark and juniors Lily Bedell and Kylie Wise.
“The girls take a lot of pride in playing defense and limiting what other teams can do,” O’Keefe said. “They all pass very well, too. That enables us to transition to offense and move upfield quickly.”
Other returning players include Kate Caruso (three goals, five assists), Mel Guido, Meg MacGillis, Makenna Maguire and Taite Santos.
Rumson-Fair Haven was scheduled to visit Holmdel High School April 4 and will travel to Manasquan High School April 8.