2010-05-20 / Sports

RBC makes it to the top, winning SCT lacrosse

Caseys top RFH in final
BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer Six years ago, Ryan Eichner started the boys lacrosse program at Red Bank Catholic High School. He was starting it from the ground floor and knew that some tough times were ahead. The first two years, he admitted, were disasters.

Kevin Whitlock (center) and Red Bank Catholic were No. 1 after the Caseys defeated Rumson-Fair Haven, 8-5, in the Shore Conference Tournament final played May 13 at the Summerfield School in Neptune. The Caseys celebrated their first-ever SCT lacrosse title after the victory. ERIC SUCAR staff Kevin Whitlock (center) and Red Bank Catholic were No. 1 after the Caseys defeated Rumson-Fair Haven, 8-5, in the Shore Conference Tournament final played May 13 at the Summerfield School in Neptune. The Caseys celebrated their first-ever SCT lacrosse title after the victory. ERIC SUCAR staff “No one had ever played lacrosse before,” he pointed out.

Yet Eichner remained confident that things would turn around and that there was a place for the sport at the school.

“I did believe we could win,” he said.

Eichner’s belief proved to be well founded, culminating in Thursday night’s Shore Conference Tournament championship.

Rumson-Fair Haven’s Ian Moore (l) is defended by Red Bank Catholic’s Doug Whitlock during the Shore Conference Tournament championship game played at the Summerfield School field in Neptune on May 13. Whitlock scored twice in the 8-5 RBC win. ERIC SUCAR staff Rumson-Fair Haven’s Ian Moore (l) is defended by Red Bank Catholic’s Doug Whitlock during the Shore Conference Tournament championship game played at the Summerfield School field in Neptune on May 13. Whitlock scored twice in the 8-5 RBC win. ERIC SUCAR staff The Caseys (14-2) defeated rival Rumson- Fair Haven, 8-5, at the Summerfield School in Neptune to win the program’s first SCT title.

Speaking to his team after the win, Eichner talked about his seniors, who came into a programthat up to that point had never had a winning season. Now they graduate as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference.

To win that elusive first crown, the Caseys played a completed game against a Bulldog team (11-5) that had been to the SCT final last year, falling to Christian Brothers Academy.

First, everyone knows how explosive the Caseys are with Kevin Whitlock and Pete Guastella, the Shore’s top two scorers, leading the way. What people may not have known is how good the Casey defense and keeper Austin Anderson are.

While Rumson controlled play for the first quarter, RBC allowed the Bulldogs only two goals. When Guastella scored with just 1:10 left in the opening quarter, it was a 2-1 game. Rumson head coach Jim Barbiere bemoaned the fact that his team didn’t do more when it was in control that first period.

“Our offense sputtered,” he said. “We didn’t convert our chances.”

RBC would make Rumson pay for their missed chances when its offense got going in the second quarter, scoring four goals in just 1:09 to take command of the final.

“Our offense has been like that all year — we score in spurts,” said Guastella.

Guastella scored two of those four goals, he said, by finding open seams in the Bulldog defense.

“I saw them [defenders] sliding over to Kevin and got open,” he said.

It was Kevin Whitlock who started the Casey onslaught with 7:39 remaining in the second quarter. Just 17 second later, Guastella tucked one away to put RBC up for the first time, 3-2.

Thirty-eight seconds after Guastella put the Caseys up, Doug Whitlock made it 4-2. The carnage ended 14 seconds later with Guastella scoring his third goal of the first half.

When the Caseys get it going like that, it is something else, as Eichner pointed out.

“Our offense is fun to watch,” he said. “I’m amazed at what they can do. They move the ball around so quickly and they see things others don’t.”

There’s no getting around how explosive the Casey offense is, just as there’s no getting around the fact that they play defense.

“We knew that we needed to play

tight defense,” said Guastella. “They [RFH] have so many guys who can score.

“Our defense was great,” he added.

The last line of defense, keeper Anderson made a number of outstanding saves that frustrated the Bulldog shooters. He had 16 saves on the night, some at pointblank range.

Defenders Luke Kinzel, Dicky Davis and Dave Stickle didn’t allow the RFH offense to turn time possession into scores. They held the Bulldogs without a score for more than 34 minutes from midway through the first quarter until the fourth quarter. In that time span, the Caseys had scored eight goals and led 8-2.

The proud Bulldogs, who have an SCT title in their trophy case, made it interesting, scoring the final three goals of the match, but it was too little too late.

There is much respect between these two rivals, who split their two regular-season games and shared the Shore Conference B North Division title.

“Every game comes down to a couple of plays,” Eichner said. “Tonight we made the plays.”

Guastella led all goal-scorers in the final with his three-goal hat trick, and Kevin Whitlock had two assists to go with his two goals. Doug Whitlock scored twice, and Mike Sansonne tallied once for RBC.

Bea Benardo and P.J. Maher scored twice each for the Bulldogs.

The top-seeded Caseys made their way to the final by beating No. 4 seed Freehold Township, 14-7, in the semifinals played May 11 at Dorbrook Park in Colts Neck.

Freehold Township trailed RBC by just 8-6 heading into the fourth quarter. Then it became the Pats’ time to experience RBC’s lethal offense. Six unanswered goals turned a close match into a one-side match. Guastella scored three times during the spree and had six for the game.

Rumson, seeded No. 2, beat No. 3 seed and defending champion Christian BrothersAcademy in a defensive struggle, 5-4. Dylan Benedickson broke the 4-4 tie with his goal in the final four minutes of the game. The win was a small measure of revenge for last year for the Bulldogs.

Both RBC and RFH turned their attention to the state playoffs following the SCT. RBC is the No. 7 seed in the NJSIAA Non-Public A Group and played Tuesday (May 18) at home against No. 10 seed Bergen Catholic. The winner gets No. 2 seed St. Augustine Prep today.

The state tournament is the next hurdle for the Caseys to clear.

“Winning the Shore Conference is nice, but there’s still a long way to go,” said Eichner. “We want to be one of the best teams in the state.”

The state tournament is the forum to make that point.

RFH is seeded No. 9 in Public Group I. The Bulldogs beat New Providence, 16-3, in their opening-round game Saturday. Maher had five goals and Bennardo added four. The Bulldogs’ next game wasMay 18 at No. 8 seed Glen Ridge (13-4), which was a 16-0 winner over Lenape Valley in its opening-round game.

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