By Brian Deakyne
WEST LONG BRANCH – With last season on its collective mind, the Rumson-Fair Haven girls’ lacrosse team left nothing in doubt in last Friday’s Shore Conference Tournament championship game.
An impressive second half during which Rumson outscored Red Bank Catholic, the defending tournament champions, 6-3, and forced the Lady Caseys to play an up-tempo pace, allowed the Lady Bulldogs to cruise to the tournament championship – its first since 2010.
“It feels super. It’s well deserved. They played awesome and they’re just a good group of kids and they deserved it,” Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Amy O’Keefe said. “Everybody just came up huge today. We knew we had to come into this game and the attack had to do their job and the defense had to do their job.”
Junior attackman Nicolette Dunphy and junior attackman Mary Scarrone each scored a team-high four goals for the Bulldogs, with both scoring three in the first half, to lead Rumson to the big win.
Junior midfielder Amanda Casten scored a game-high five goals for Red Bank Catholic – including four in the first half – to keep the Caseys close in the game.
“It feels great; I know our entire team feels awesome,” Scarrone said. “We came together and got the win for each other. We worked hard for this all season and we’re just so happy to come out with the Shore Conference.”
After Rumson jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, the Lady Caseys fought back to tie the game on three separate occasions, but they were never able to take a lead of their own.
Red Bank Catholic tied Rumson, 2-2, behind two quick goals from Casten, and later, tied the game at 3 and 4 before the Lady Bulldogs took off on a three-goal run to take a 7-4 lead.
Even then Red Bank Catholic wouldn’t go away. Junior midfielder Grace Fallon and Casten each scored a goal late in the first half to draw the Bulldogs’ lead to 7-6 before Scarrone posted a late goal to take an 8-6 lead into halftime.
The Caseys made a bid to cut into Rumson’s lead again to open the second half, but the Bulldogs’ back-line, specifically senior goalie Maddie Mullen, stood tall. Red Bank Catholic held possession for the first 5 minutes of the second half, but it wasn’t able to produce any goals.
“The defense just knew that they couldn’t let anything in and we had to get the ball downfield,” O’Keefe said. “They just came up huge today, it’s amazing. We knew their big guns, we saw them once before in the season, and we kind of knew that they kind of look for those three girls.”
Following the Caseys failed offensive possession, Rumson took full advantage, scoring three quick goals to take an 11-6 lead.
Dunphy took a pass from Scarrone and scored on a low shot, freshman attackman Maggie Jennings scored off a quick dodge high in the box and junior midfielder Bridget Curran posted a goal off a spin-move from behind the net to put Rumson well on its way to a championship.
“Last year we lost to Manasquan before we could even make it to the final and I think that was in the back of everyone’s heads before this game,” Scarrone said. “We all wanted to come out and try to play our best to get that win, especially since they were the defending champions.”
Rumson and Red Bank Catholic split goals the rest of the way, but the five-goal lead was easily protected by the Bulldogs.
Curran finished with two goals for Rumson while senior attackman Emily Knapp, senior attackman Emily Hayes and sophomore midfielder Jillian Swikart each added a goal as well.
Aside from Casten and Fallon, sophomore attackman Emily Schissler, junior midfielder Maeve Cowley, and junior attackman Julie Anne Krasutsky each posted goals.