Rumson-Fair Haven wins three titles during 2021 lacrosse campaign

Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School girls lacrosse player #33 Jackie Braceland congratulates teammate Mia James for scoring a goal during a game against Allentown on June 10 in Rumson. Rumson-Fair Haven went 21-3 this season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School girls lacrosse player #33 Jackie Braceland congratulates teammate Mia James for scoring a goal during a game against Allentown on June 10 in Rumson. Rumson-Fair Haven went 21-3 this season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The Rumson-Fair Regional High School girls lacrosse team won three championships during the spring of 2021 and made the season one to remember.

The Bulldogs (21-3) won the Shore Conference Tournament championship, the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II state sectional tournament title and the NJSIAA Group II state crown.

The 2021 squad match the accomplishments of the 2016 Builldogs.

“I knew we could go far after a couple of our scrimmages early in the season,” Coach Amy O’Keefe said in an interview. “The girls really came together throughout the season and had such great camaraderie with each other. Our defense came a long way from the beginning of the season and made some big plays in the championship games to help us win.”

RFH was an offensive juggernaut in 2021 and most of that firepower came from the stick of senior Chase Boyle, who is heading for Loyola University of Maryland.

Boyle scored 89 goals, added 57 assists and recorded 177 draw controls in 2021.

She scored seven goals and dished out two assists to help RFH cruise to an 18-6 victory over Allentown High School in the state sectional tournament final on June 10 in Rumson.

On June 12 against Summit High School in the Group II state championship game, Boyle and senior Mia James each scored five goals in the Bulldogs’ 14-13 victory on the turf at Middletown South High School.

The victory marked the first time in program history that RFH defeated Summit, which had beaten the Bulldogs four times in the state tournament over the last 10 years.

“It was very special,” O’Keefe said of her team’s victory over Summit. “It was a big hump for us to get over. A special win for sure.”

James had a terrific senior campaign as she scored 77 goals and added 24 assists. Senior Ava Poupard was outstanding as well as she scored 78 goals and added 24 assists in her final campaign at RFH.

O’Keefe said it was fun to watch Boyle, James and Poupard play in 2021. All three young women are set to play lacrosse at the NCAA Division I level.

The play and leadership of Boyle, James and Poupard were crucial elements to the Bulldogs’ success in 2021, according to O’Keefe, who said, “I honestly could not get more from them. They led us to all of our success this season. They are three amazing players. They set the tone for us and were great role models to the underclassmen.”

By winning the Group II state title, RFH advanced to the Tournament of Champions where the Bulldogs faced Shore Conference foe Trinity Hall in the quarterfinals on June 15.

On May 13, Trinity Hall had defeated the Bulldogs, 8-7. O’Keefe said that loss “fired up” her players to get their season back on track and to be ready for the teams’ next meeting.

On May 31, RFH and Trinity Hall met in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game. This time the Bulldogs came out on top, winning 8-6 to claim the program’s eighth consecutive conference crown.

In the state Tournament of Champions quarterfinals on June 15, the Bulldogs defeated Trinity Hall for the second time in 2021, winning 17-10. The victory was the first one for RFH in the Tournament of Champions.

“Beating Trinity Hall in the Shore Conference final really lit a fire in us and helped us get on a roll in the state tournament,” O’Keefe said.

The Bulldogs’ run in the Tournament of Champions ended in the semifinals with a 15-13 loss to Oak Knoll, which went on to win the tournament with a 10-9 victory over Moorestown.

Boyle scored seven goals in the season finale and finished her three-year career with 185 goals.

Following the Tournament of Champions, O’Keefe and the Bulldogs teamed up for one last run in the Girls High School National Championship Tournament in Farmington, Conn.

RFH placed second in its bracket. Only the top team in each bracket advanced to the next round.

O’Keefe said she thought her players had a great experience competing against top teams from across the country. She said she is proud of the success the 2021 squad enjoyed and is grateful for the talented athletes who have played in the program over the years.

“We get a lot of talented players from the area and it helps us continue to be competitive each year. Our town’s youth lacrosse program does a great job developing the girls. They are ready to go when they get to high school, so we can help them take their game to the next level,” the coach said.