RFH lacrosse looking for a repeat of last season

BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent

After winning the Shore Conference Tournament title to highlight what was a stellar 13-4 season last spring, the Rumson-Fair Haven boys lacrosse team has a tough act to follow this season.

That task becomes even tougher when you consider how many new faces take the field every game.

However, fifth-year head coach Jim Barbiere is not willing to lower his expectations for his squad.

Rumson-Fair Haven, which entered the season ranked second in the Shore behind perennial top pick CBA, remains one of the most talented teams around. Despite losing two All-Americans in goalie Shaun Lynch and midfielder Chris Sharkey (among others) to graduation, the Bulldogs have reloaded with some talented newcomers to complement a group of savvy upperclassmen.

The result is a team that looks to be the class of the loaded A Central race, and perhaps the squad with the best chance to unseat CBA as the Shore’s elite team.

Early on, Rumson-FH has been even better than advertised, jumping out to a 4-0 start. It hasn’t been easy, however, as the Bulldogs have been tested in all four of its games.

“We won (Monday) against (10thranked) Jackson Memorial in triple overtime on a Ryan Korn goal,” Barbiere said. “It was a very exciting game, and we pulled it out in the end.

“We’ve had a couple of real close games thus far. Our first game of the season we won with one second left on the clock when Kevin Sharkey hit Mike Huttner with a nice pass and Mike roped it in for the win (over Hopewell Valley).”

Rumson also beat fifth-ranked Toms River North, 9-6, with junior attacker Colin Quinn leading the way with a fourgoal, two-assist effort. They followed that up with a 7-3 win over rival Manasquan in a game that gave RFH the early edge in the divisional race.

“That’s always a huge game for us every year,” Barbiere said.” We played a great game against a great team. And that’s a division game too so it was even more important.”

The biggest surprise early on has been the solid play of sophomore goalie Trevor James, who has been nothing short of brilliant in net through four games.

“The goalie position was a bit of a question mark coming in, especially after graduating Shaun Lynch, who was pretty much automatic for us last year,” Barbiere said. “Trevor had some awfully big shoes to fill and he has just played spectacularly for us. He was also the varsity soccer goalie this year and I think that experience is really helping him this spring.

“He had five saves in overtime for us (against Jackson), and three of them were one-on-one breakaway attempts. We had some trouble with our transition game, and he did extremely well in bailing us out.”

The Bulldogs are also being led by their three senior co-captains, Korn, Matt Walrath and Owen Eastwood. Korn, who will play at Providence next year, leads a strong midfield that also features senior Robert Benedickson, sophomore Chris St. Cyr, and senior Cory Delaney. Also seeing some time at midfield this year are Huttner and Ian Moore, both freshmen, aswell as senior Creston Evarts, junior Pete Troynousky, sophomores Rob Kelly, Tucker Eadon, John Reynolds and Blair Potter.

Walrath, who is headed to Stevens Tech, and Eastwood, a Scranton recruit, key a stellar defensive unit that also includes junior Paul Babiak, as well as freshman Matt Gilbertson. The loss of injured senior Ken Ebner, who is headed to play atArmy next year, hurts the defense, however, RFH still has plenty of depth.

The starting attack features juniors Sharkey and Quinn, as well as senior Steven Sutphen, while freshman Dylan Benedickson, senior Nick O’Connor, and junior Harlan Bernardo will also see time.

While James will see most of the time in net, senior Dave Previdi will also see time in goal.

Early on, RFH has been spreading the scoring around, with Quinn (6), Sharkey (5), Sutphen (4), Korn (4) and Eastwood (4) leading the way. Quinn has added five assists to lead the team.

But it’s the team’s balance that has Barbiere feeling optimistic at this point.

“The chemistry on this team has been fantastic,” the coach said. “The kids are so supportive of each other and are really gelling so far. On paper, we may not be as talented as last year’s (13-4) team, but I actually think we’re playing better at this point in the year.”

But with a tough A Central schedule offering few breaks, RFH will need to maintain its high level of play if the Bulldogs have any hope of matching or surpassing last year’s success.

“This week’s game against (fourthranked) Red Bank (4-0) is a big one for us,” Barbiere said. “It’s a division game, they’ve got a lot of talented kids, and it’s for bragging rights – the Battle of Ridge Road. This game is going to make a major statement for us one way or the other.

“And CBA is a little bit down the road, but they’re always the team to beat, so we are looking forward to taking them on on May 5.”

In talking to Barbiere, you can hear the optimismin his voice. If RFHcan come even close to achieving what their exuberant coach believes they’re capable of, it will be another special season for the Bulldogs.