Red Bank Regional lacrosse to face tough schedule

Bucs are in only their third year of existence

BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent

In just its third year as a varsity program, the Red Bank Regional boys lacrosse team may actually be ready to compete for a division title.

That is no easy task, especially since head coach Mark Altar’s Bucs play in the Shore Conference’s Class A Central.

“With teams like Rumson-Fair Haven and Red Bank Catholic, among others, it’s just a very tough division from top to bottom,” Altar said. “If we can finish in the top three, we’d be happy.”

For a team that has improved as much as RBR has in the first two years of its existence, a top-three finish certainly seems plausible. After putting together a very respectable 10-11 season in their first year, the Bucs finished 10-5 last year and showed signs of becoming the type of team that can compete with the best squads in the Shore.

“It’s still only the third year for the program, but these are the kids that started it for us as freshmen and sophomores,” Altar said. “Now they’re juniors and seniors, they’re a lot bigger and stronger, and they’re looking forward to taking this program to the next level.

“As a coach, you always want your team to continue to get better, and I’m just hoping these guys continue to step up and show some leadership this season.”

What the Bucs have in their favor is the return of nearly all of their starters from a year ago. That experience throughout the field should make them a more polished team than opponents are accustomed to seeing from RBR.

“We’ve got pretty much the whole starting team back from a year ago, and they’re looking pretty strong early on,” the coach said. “We went 5-0 through the preseason and played well.”

The coach is particularly pleased with the improved fundamental skills he sees from his team.

“Our throwing and catching, just the basic lacrosse skills, are vastly improved,” Altar said. “Just being able to catch the ball, field ground balls and make plays, we’re much better than we were over the first two years.”

Offensively, the Bucs feature a trio of juniors on the attack in Connor Lawlar, Michael Damien and Stuart Kiely.

The midfield is led by senior Charlie Pontone and juniors Corey Lunney and Wes Chamberlain. Altar is also excited about his second line of midfielders, featuring seniors P.J. Russell and brothers Bob and Chuck Newmann.

Defensively, seniors Matt Cetera and Greg Lucking are back, while fellow returning starter Rob Child suffered what may turn out to be a season-ending broken elbow injury in the preseason. He’ll be replaced by sophomore newcomers Matt Mikulski and Cody Child.

Freshman ZachWitter is another newcomer who will see some time on the attack, according to Altar.

In the cage for RBR is senior Jake Brutman. When he looks at his team, Altar is particularly excited about its speed.

“We’re real fast in the midfield, and that should help us in our transition game,” he said.

Andwhile he’s obviously pleasedwith his team’s performance in the preseason, he still sees plenty of room for improvement.

“Every position, every spot can always use improvement,” he said. “But we just have to go out and play hard, and we’ll be successful.”

RBR opened up yesterday against rival Red Bank Catholic and will travel north to Glen Rock tomorrow for its first nonconference contest.

“The guys are anxious to get out there and get that first win,”Altar said. “RBC is like a crosstown rival, and they beat us pretty good two years ago, before we came back to beat them in overtime last year.”

As for the Glen Rock game, just scheduling the contest shows how far the RBR program has come in three years.

“That’s just a matter of us getting out of the Shore Conference and seeing some teams that we haven’t seen before,” Altar said. “It will be good for us to see what else is out there and how we match up.”

One thing’s for certain, the RBR Bucs believe they’re ready to match up with the best teams the Shore has to offer.