By Brian Deakyne
RED BANK – Beating any team three times is difficult in sports.
Defeating the defending Shore Conference Tournament and South Jersey, Group II sectional champions? Seems impossible.
Don’t tell that to the Rumson-Fair Haven girls’ lacrosse team, which won its third game in as many tries against Red Bank Catholic last Friday. The Lady Bulldogs have piled up wins against the Lady Caseys in the regular season, the Shore Conference Tournament final and now the South Jersey, Group II sectional semifinal round.
After a 13-7 regular season win on April 24 and a 14-9 win in the SCT final on May 17, Rumson battled back from a two-goal halftime deficit on Friday, May 24, to take care of Red Bank Catholic, 12-9, to advance to the sectional final against Allentown.
“We were really worried,” Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Amy O’Keefe said. “We knew that if we just played our game and that we had been down two before – the first time we saw them – so even being down by two at halftime, we knew we could pick away at it if we just played our game and didn’t let them rattle us. They really stepped up in the second half and knew what they had to do. We didn’t really want to let them have the lead, but that’s what happened and we managed.”
In the Shore Conference Tournament championship two weeks ago, it was Rumson that led 8-6 at halftime and used a strong second half to pull away from Red Bank Catholic. In fact, the Bulldogs never trailed in that game.
Through 25 minutes on Friday afternoon, in a driving rain, it was the opposite. Red Bank Catholic had opened up an 8-6 lead over Rumson and would not surrender the lead, despite Rumson hanging around and tying the game on two separate occasions.
But, as was the case in the Shore Conference Tournament championship, the second half was dominated by the Bulldogs. Rumson outscored Red Bank Catholic 6-1 during the final 25 minutes and held the Lady Caseys without a goal until the last minute of the game.
“We didn’t really make any adjustments. I think the defense just was more keyed in after the first half as to what was going on,” O’Keefe said of her defense in the second half. “They were able to discuss and work together as a system to shut them down.”
Senior midfielder Kelsey Cuje scored both of her goals early in the second half to give Rumson its first lead at 9-8. The Lady Bulldogs continued to pour it on after that, going on a 6-0 run to take a 12-8 lead before junior midfielder Grace Fallon scored the Caseys’ only goal of the second half with 25 seconds left in the game.
Junior attackman Nicolette Dunphy scored a team-high three goals for the Bulldogs and sophomore attackman Emily Schissler scored a game-high four goals for Red Bank Catholic in the loss.
“I think that it was almost, really, that they needed to take the first half to warm up and get themselves going a little bit,” O’Keefe said. “It was kind of rainy and that doesn’t always work well with us. We always had the lead in the Shore Conference game and they never went ahead with us. So, we knew, even being down by two, that we’ve been here before with them. We just had to pick away at it and take care of the ball.”
Senior goalie Maddie Mullen made nine saves for Rumson; sophomore goalie Sabrina Arbes finished with five saves for Red Bank Catholic.
“I’m psyched,” O’Keefe said. “It was definitely a feat to freaking beat them three times.”