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Bulldogs top Wall to win SCT crown; RFH girls fall in tournament title game

The 2021 and 2022 seasons have been a road of success for the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School boys lacrosse program.

The team’s success story now includes the 2021 and 2022 Shore Conference Tournament championships after the Bulldogs defeated Wall High School, 12-7, in the 2022 Shore Conference Tournament championship game on May 17 at Monmouth University, West Long Branch.

The Bulldogs used a strong second half to pull away for the win after the game was tied 4-4 at halftime. Rumson-Fair Haven claimed its eighth Shore Conference Tournament crown.

“It feels amazing to represent the seniors who came before us and make them proud,” senior midfielder Tommy French said about winning consecutive conference championships. “We have built a brotherhood here the past couple of years. We just keep reloading. We don’t have to rebuild.”

The Bulldogs were able to tie the game at 4-4 thanks to outstanding all-around play by junior defenseman Beau Kemler during the final minute of the second quarter.

After forcing a turnover on the Bulldogs’ side of the field, Kemler scooped up the loose ball and ran the length of field before he fired in his fifth goal of the season to tie the score.

“It was for sure (a big goal),” Coach Marc Moreau said. “It’s better to go into halftime tied than down one. Beau has tremendous stick skills for a defenseman. He has the green light in those situations to bring the ball up the field and try to score.”

French was a key part of the Bulldogs’ offensive explosion in the second half. He scored back-to-back goals to begin the third quarter and give the Bulldogs a 6-4 lead over their opponents from Wall Township.

“When we were down, I knew we needed someone to get everyone going,” French said. “(Wall) switched to a man defense in the second half and I knew we could take them with our short sticks every time.”

The two goals by French opened the door to four unanswered scores by the Bulldogs to begin the second half.

Junior Cole Cashion recorded his third straight game with a hat trick to make it 7-4, and senior Jack McCarren scored his first goal of the game to push the lead to 8-4.

The Crimson Knights stopped the Bulldogs’ run with a goal to make the score 8-5 heading into the four quarter and then scored early in the final frame to pull to within 8-6.

The Crimson Knights were building momentum for a comeback, but the Bulldogs had an answer. Sophomore Grayson Goldin rolled behind the Wall net and scored his second goal of the game with 7:28 to play to give the Bulldogs a 9-6 lead.

The Crimson Knights answered with a goal moments later to make it 9-7, but French stepped up and completed his hat trick to make it 10-7 with 5:24 left to play. French finished with three goals and two assists in the victory.

Junior Quinn Stankovits and senior Philip Passalaqua scored late to make the final score 12-7 as the Bulldogs lifted the tournament trophy.

Junior goalkeeper William Setteducate finished with seven saves for the Bulldogs.

Rumson-Fair Haven (17-4) now turns its attention to the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II state sectional tournament, where the Bulldogs will try to win a second straight sectional championship.

“That’s our goal every year,” Moreau said about winning a sectional championship. “There are a lot of guys who came before these guys who set those expectations for the program. These guys have embraced that and they work hard on and off the field to achieve that.”

The Bulldogs took care of business in the first round of the state sectional tournament on May 18 with a 19-1 victory over Oakcrest. Senior Connor Spagnuola scored four goals to lead the way.

The Rumson-Fair Haven girls lacrosse team also played for a Shore Conference Tournament championship when the Bulldogs faced Trinity Hall on May 17 at Monmouth University.

Coach Amy O’Keefe watched the Bulldogs battle back from an early 3-0 deficit to tie the game at 3-3 with 9:09 to play in the first half.

Trinity Hall responded with four consecutive goals to lead 7-3 at halftime.

Rachel James scored early in the second half to make it 7-4, but the Monarchs took control from there and went on to win, 17-7, to claim the school’s first Shore Conference Tournament championship.

“We had a game plan coming in that we didn’t really do and capitalize on,” O’Keefe said. “We were trying to force things when we didn’t have to take those chances. We need to do better in those high pressure moments.”

James finished with two goals and Elliot Van Nice tallied three goals for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs (13-3) are the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II state sectional tournament. The 2022 team will be trying to win the program’s seventh state sectional title in the last 10 years.

“There is still a lot of season left,” O’Keefe said. “We are going to continue to work hard.”

Rumson-Fair Haven will host Seneca or Hopewell Valley in the state sectional tournament quarterfinals on May 24.

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