By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK — Everyone knew it was coming.
Red Bank Catholic knew. Allentown knew.
It was only a matter of how the Caseys would respond.
Allentown erased deficits of six goals in the first half and four goals in the second half, but Red Bank Catholic would get the last say, pulling away over the final ten minutes to top the Redbirds, 17-13, in the South Group II sectional final last Thursday at Count Basie Park.
The lady Caseys held leads of 6-0 and 10-6, before surrendering the lead for the first time in the second half.
“We knew they were going to battle back. We scouted them three times and I talked to a couple other coaches and we told them before the game that there was going to be a set of runs, similar to basketball,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Lisa Caprioni said. “We needed to keep our composure, and when we had to, our defense made plays.”
After the Redbirds took their lone lead of the day at 12-11 with just under 15 minutes remaining in the game, RBC looked to the leaders that crowned them Shore Conference Tournament champions 13 days earlier.
The lady Caseys scored six of the final seven goals of the game, playing a major part in their come-from-behind victory.
Senior Catherine Luick banged in a pair of goals 17 seconds apart following Allentown’s short lead, putting Red Bank Catholic on top for good, 13-12, with 13:14 to go in the game.
Sophomore Maeve Cowley buried home an 8-meter goal two minutes later, extending their lead to 14-12.
Junior Victoria Brown, sophomore Amanda Casten and senior Kaitlyn Cunningham all added goals over the final 6:18 of the game, giving RBC the four-goal cushion that stood as the final score.
“I practice so much and it finally paid off,” Luick, who finished with a team-high six goals, said.
Luick scored four of her goals in the first half, playing a big part in the Caseys jumping out to a quick 6-0 lead less than nine minutes into the game.
RBC got early goals from Cunningham, who finished with three, sophomore Grace Fallon, along with Casten.
“All year long, these kids have worked and put a tremendous amount of time into the offseason,” Caprioni said. “Our big thing is that it’s not the best team that wins, it’s the team that plays the best together. We played the best together today.”
The Redbirds fired back late in the first half, scoring six straight goals to tie the game. Junior Alex Moore led Allentown’s attack with a team-high six goals, scoring two during their run in the first half and three during their four-goal run in the second half.
After Allentown came back to tie the game in the first half, the lady Caseys got two late goals from Luick and Fallon, grabbing a two-goal lead into halftime.
“We were a little nervous. We knew that we were a much better team, team-wise. Our coach said that we worked so hard for this and we pulled it through,” Luick said.
After Luick and Cowley scored to put RBC back on top in the second half, the Redbirds fought to get back in it, but they were held scoreless over the final 9:32 of the game, with the lady Caseys holding possession for the majority of that time.
The win comes nearly two weeks after topping Manasquan on May 11 in the Shore Conference Tournament final. Red Bank Catholic will look to complete the tri-sweep of championships this week in the tournament of champions.
“It’s just awesome, it’s amazing. The whole season has been,” Caprioni said. “We told them before the game, that every once in awhile you get lucky enough that all the planets line up the right way and that we had an opportunity to do something really special today. All year long these kids have come up big and they didn’t disappoint us today.”
“Shore Conference is great, but to win states is such a better feeling,” Luick said. “It’s really an honor.”
The tournament of champions is slated to begin play on Thursday.