By Brian Deakyne
TOMS RIVER — The idea was unfathomable to Amy O’Keefe.
Rumson-Fair Haven, the top seed in the Shore Conference Tournament, and the essential kings of the conference throughout the regular season, is used to beating teams handily.
That wasn’t the case in Thursday’s Shore Conference Tournament semi-finals, as the lady Bulldogs fell to fourth-seeded Manasquan, 10-7, blowing a 4-2 halftime lead.
“We turned the ball over, I don’t know. We just didn’t show up to play today,” O’Keefe, the Bulldogs head coach said. “You can’t take anything for granted, really. We didn’t handle the pressure well and we faltered.”
After giving up its lead early in the second half, Rumson-Fair Haven couldn’t recover. Manasquan took a 5-4 lead with 19:55 left in the game, and later extended the lead to 7-5, 8-6, and eventually, 10-7.
Bridget Curran brought the lady Bulldogs back even with the Warriors, 25 seconds after Manasquan took its initial 5-4 lead, but that would be as close as Rumson would get.
The Warriors took the lead back on goals from Shea Cowley, who had a team-high three goals for Manasquan, and Gretchen Fay, and later Emily Volker put the Bulldogs back within a goal when she put a shot home with 12:26 to go in the game.
Manasquan extended their lead once again, scoring the last three goals of the game over the final seven minutes and playing keep-away from Rumson-Fair Haven until time expired.
“I don’t really understand it myself. They played us very good, their defense and midfield was very good. They doubled the ball well. Their goalie stepped up on some of our shots,” O’Keefe said.
Rumson-Fair Haven jumped out to an early lead on two goals from Kelsey Cuje. Cuje buried the games opening goal less than four minutes in, and later posted another one with 12:21 left in the first half to put the lady Bulldogs up, 2-0.
Volker added a goal later in the first half, taking a feed from Claire Scarrone and scoring, putting RFH up 3-0 with just under eight minutes remaining.
Scarrone added a goal at the tail end of the first half, putting Rumson up, 4-2.
Overall, the teams split draws throughout the day. The Warriors took 4 out of the 7 draws in the first half and the teams split the draws, six apiece, in the second half.
“I really wasn’t expecting this close of a game,” O’Keefe said. “I had confidence in our girls to play our game. Things can turn when you turn the ball over and don’t do the things you’re supposed to do.”
The lady Bulldogs rarely trailed any team in 2012, compling a 10-3 regular season record, with losses to Shore Regional, Radnor (V.A) and unbeaten Moorestown.
“For the most part this season, we’ve played well from behind. I didn’t really think that we were going to be behind, so maybe that’s why we faltered.”
Rumson-Fair Haven will begin the state tournament next week, moving to the North II grouping. They earned the third-seed and will host Pope John in the opening round.
“We’re going to try to face Summit, probably, and see what happens,” O’Keefe said.