Bulldogs top Summit, 9-5, to win Group II lacrosse state championship


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RUMSON — Redemption has been on the minds of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School’s boys lacrosse players since the 2021 NJSIAA Group II state tournament championship game.

Losing to Summit High School a year ago motivated the Bulldogs to return to the state final this spring with a chance to defeat the three-time defending state champions.

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The 2022 Group II state championship game began on June 1, but was suspended with 11:55 to play in the first half due to lightning and Summit leading, 2-0.

The game resumed on June 3 and the Bulldogs came from behind to win, 9-5. Four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter lifted the Bulldogs to the program’s second state title.

“This is for sure redemption,” senior Cole Cashion said. “Most of the guys have saved on their phone the score of last year’s game. This is the game we wanted to win and it feels amazing.”

The Bulldogs won their previous state title (the Group I championship) in 2015.

Coach Marc Moreau took over the lacrosse program two years later. Since then the Bulldogs have won three state sectional tournament titles and have reached the state tournament group final three times.

The team’s third appearance in a state group final proved to be the charm for Moreau and the Bulldogs. The coach was proud to see his players achieve their goal of winning a group championship.

“We played Rumson-Fair Haven lacrosse today,” Moreau said. “This is our goal every year and we have fallen short every year I have been here. This (state group championship) is for all the guys who came before this year’s team who helped lay the groundwork for these players to be successful today.”

When the Group II final resumed on June 3, the Bulldogs scored two goals to forge a 2-2 tie at halftime.

When the third quarter began, Summit scored twice in the first two minutes to take a 4-2 lead.

But the Bulldogs did not panic. Freshman Grayson Goldin scored to trim the Hilltoppers’ lead to 4-3 and senior Tommy French found the net with 2:32 left in the quarter to tie the game at 4-4.

Summit took a 5-4 lead moments later, but the Bulldogs had the final word on a clutch play by Cashion.

With :07 left in the quarter, Cashion rolled behind the Summit net and then came in front to score his only goal of the contest as time expired to tie the game, 5-5, heading into the fourth quarter.

“It gave us a sense of confidence,” Cashion said of his goal. “After that goal, we scored a couple more and had the confidence we could be state champs.”

The Bulldogs were outstanding in the fourth quarter.

Following a Summit penalty to begin the quarter, Cashion helped the Bulldogs take advantage of the man advantage as he assisted Quinn Stankovits on the goal that gave RFH its first lead, 6-5. The goal was Stankovits’ second of the afternoon.

“The sound of that shot going in just sent adrenaline through us,” Stankovits said. “It was a great momentum changer; one of the best experiences I have ever had.”

Stankovits finished the Group II final with three goals, giving him three straight games with a hat trick. The junior leads the Bulldogs with 54 goals.

Midway through the fourth quarter the Hilltoppers were penalized again and the Bulldogs jumped on the opportunity. Cashion dished a pass up top to French, who dropped down and fired home his second goal for a 7-5 lead with 5:04 to play.

The lead grew to 8-5 moments later as senior Philip Passalaqua scored for the Bulldogs.

“That fourth quarter was electric,” said Cashion, who had three assists in the Group II final. “We were all working on all cylinders. We really knew we could do it and close it out.”

Stankovits’ third goal with under 2:00 to play made it 9-5 and began the party for the Bulldogs, who along with their fans could sense history and redemption coming their way.

When time expired the Bulldogs stormed the field to celebrate their state championship.

“We have been planning for this game since last year,” French said. “We came in (to the resumed game) down 2-0 and came out firing. It feels amazing.”

Senior Christian Bockelmann scored once in the championship game and junior goalkeeper William Setteducate recorded five saves.

As the Group II champion, Rumson-Fair Haven (21-4) has advanced to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions as the No. 1 seed.

This will be the final time the NJSIAA conducts the Tournament of Champions (which brings all of the group champions together) and Moreau and the Bulldogs want to etch their names in the history books by winning the program’s first Tournament of Champions title.

“We are so thankful for having the opportunity to win the last one for now,” Moreau said.

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