Shore Regional girls net another SCT lacrosse crown

Blue Devils capture title by beating Rumson-Fair Haven

BY DOUG McKENZIE Correspondent

The Shore Regional girls lacrosse team showed another side of itself, and in doing so, cemented its status as the elite team in the Shore Conference.

While we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Blue Devils routinely rout the opposition, there have been very few occasions in the past several years (short of state tournament games against state powers like Moorestown) where the Blue Devils have found themselves trailing late in the game.

It is in thosemomentswhen the championship teams reveal their true character and drive – two characteristics Shore Regional has displayed triumphantly in winning six of the last seven Shore Conference championships, including the last three.

On May 14, at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, Shore showed that championship resiliency in coming back to score the final three goals to defeat a hungry Rumson-Fair Haven team, 12-10, in the SCT final, winning their fourth straight SCT crown, and seventh overall.

After losing two hard-fought regularseason games to theirACentral rivals earlier this spring (19-11 and 14-10), RFH threw its best punches at the Blue Devils in the SCT final and seemed poised to officially close the gap between themselves and the Shore’s elite team.

However, the Bulldogs were unable to land the knockout punch, and Shore took advantage to cement their status as the Shore’s best.

Early on, Shore (17-1) looked poised to run away with the win, as they raced out to an 8-3 halftime lead with Cori Murray and Kelly Draper leading the way, with three and two goals respectively. However, RFH (13-3) got the final tally of the half when Hope Atkinson found the net with just over two minutes to play, and carried that momentum into the second half, completing a 7-0 run to take a 9-8 lead with 8:22 left. Rumson’s impressive run included two goals from Celee Belmonte, withAtkinson and LeighAnn Torcivia also notching goals.

The Bulldogs’ emergence was the result of their dominating the draws for much of the second half. You can’t score if you don’t have the ball, and RFH’s ability to control the action had Shore looking surprisingly vulnerable for the first time this year.

“It started with the draws,” said Shore coach Chris Raichle. “The first five or six possessions (of the second half), they won all the draws. Once we turned that around, we gave ourselves a chance.”

Raichle’s team responded, as the brilliant Draper tied the game with a goal at the 7:44 mark. RFH answered with a Torcivia goal with 6:02 to play to take the lead once again, 10-9, but it was all Shore from there. Draper tied it once again with a tally at the 3:43 mark, before assisting on a Kaylee Mikolon goal with 1:21 left. Up 11-10, Devin Whalen then put the game away with a goal with 11 seconds to play (off another Draper assist) and give Shore its fourth straight SCT crown.

“We were a little flustered, but the experience of being here before helped us in the last three minutes,” Raichle said. “We have some people that we can rely on to take the ball.We calmed down a little, and we took care of business.”

Draper finished with a game-high four goals and a game-high three assists.

Murray finishedwith three goals andAli Houlis had one goal and one assist.Rumson- FairHaven’sAtkinson and Torcivia each finished with two goals and two assists while Belmonte had two goals and one assist.

Both teams will now turn their attention to the NJSIAA Group I South sectional tournament, where the Blue Devils are the top seed and the Bulldogs are seeded fourth. Shore was to take on the winner of the Delran-Bishop Eustace firstround game onMonday, while RFH was to take on fifth-seeded Summit in its tournament opener on Monday. Should both Shore and RFH win, they will meet for a fourth time today in a sectional semifinal game that could very well involve the two top teams in the bracket. The winner of today’s game will play for the sectional title on May 28.