By Brian Deakyne
WEST LONG BRANCH — In a season built on memorable comebacks and historic finishes, the Red Bank Catholic girls lacrosse team notched its most impressive win to date.
Red Bank Catholic erased two separate two-goal deficits to overcome fourth-seeded Manasquan, 10-9, in the Shore Conference Tournament final at Monmouth University.
The Blue Warriors appeared to have the game in hand late in the second half, taking an 8-6 lead with just over 18 minutes left in the game, and with draw possession even, they seemed poised to pull their second upset in as many days after taking down top-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven in the semi-finals on Thursday.
“We’ve done it all year, we’ve battled all year,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Lisa Caprioni said. “Nobody gave us credit when we beat Shore the first time, so we had to do it a second time. These kids have done it all year, they’ve stuck together. I think these guys, more than any team I’ve ever had, exemplify the word of team.”
Senior Kaitlyn Cunningham brought the lady Caseys back in the second half, scoring back-to-back goals to draw them even with Manasquan, 8-8.
Sophomore Grace Fallon connected with Cunningham for her first goal, and the senior midfielder later buried an 8-meter goal with 11:57 left.
“It was huge, and I got a little nervous, but throughout the whole game I just had this feeling that we would win,” Cunningham said. “I just had the feeling that we would pull it out.”
Second-seeded Red Bank Catholic took the lead 42 seconds later when senior Catherine Luick put home an 8-meter goal, pushing the lady Caseys to a 9-8 lead.
The Warriors fought back momentarily, getting a goal from JoJo Reilly with just under 10 minutes remaining, but Luick and Red Bank Catholic would have the last stand.
With 4:12 to go in the game Luick, who scored the opening two goals in the half for RBC, assisted Victoria Brown on a goal on-crease, giving the Caseys’ their 10-9 lead for good.
Brown assisted on Luick’s goals earlier in the half.
“We work really well together and we have great chemistry,” Luick said of her work with Brown. “We’re best friends and it was awesome because she gave me two and I gave her back one.”
Red Bank Catholic was able to hold possession over the final four minutes, including Fallon’s win on a throw with 3:15 to go in the game.
Manasquan had one last attempt, with Reilly getting a shot off a foul with 45 seconds left, but RBC goalie Rebecca Barlie stood tall, turning away the shot.
“It’s nice to get that trophy back,” Caprioni said. “It’s a tribute to the kids. We’ve worked so hard and it’s a nice attribute for all the hard work we put in. We put in a tremendous amount of work in the offeseason preparing for this.”
Red Bank Catholic entered the second half trailing, 5-4, but two quick goals from Luick put the Caseys’ back in the game before the teams traded goals throughout the final 25 minutes.
“I got the pass and just knew that I had to go and that our game was on the line,” Luick said. “It was awesome.”
Fallon and sophomore Maeve Cowley scored goals in the opening 1:06 of the game, helping RBC jump out to a 2-0 lead before Manasquan ever had possession.
The Warriors battled back, getting goals from Reilly and Gretchen Fay with 19:47 and 18:28 left, respectively, tying the game at 2.
Cowley scored her second goal of the first half with just over 14 minutes remaining, taking the ball from midfield and going the distance to put the lady Caseys back on top, 3-2.
Again, the Warriors bounced back, scoring three consecutive goals to take a 5-3 lead and sophomore Amanda Casten pounded in a goal late in the first half to draw RBC within a goal at 5-4.
“It was a little frustrating but Manasquan was playing so tough and doubling up on all of us. The time was just right,” Cunningham said.
“I’ve been waiting for this since I was a freshman,” she added. “We haven’t even made it to the finals in my four years so it’s a huge thing that we came out with a win.”