CLARK, NJ - Five unanswered goals in the second quarter doomed the Arthur L. Johnson High Crusaders varsity lacrosse team to a home opener loss to the New Providence High School Pioneers by a final score of 11-5 Saturday morning.
“It’s a combination of playing a little too much man-down [short-handed] in that quarter, not being very disciplined on the defensive side and then not being able to maintain possession on the offensive side,” Johnson head coach Lou Van Bergen said.
The game featured two teams looking to rebound from tough season-opening losses. Johnson fell to Robbinsville Wednesday, 8-4, and New Providence lost to Bernards, 9-4, on Thursday.
The Pioneers were led by junior Tyler Lawton’s five goals. With two assists to go along with them, Lawton picked up seven points in the New Providence win.
“We started off 0-1,” Lawton said. “It’s never good to start off 0-2 and we have a tough game on Tuesday against Delaware Valley. We want to put ourselves in a good situation. We were mad about [losing at Bernards] Thursday and we’ll get after it on Tuesday and it’ll be good.”
New Providence struck first at the 1:02 mark of the first quarter, before Johnson struck back.
Crusader junior Mike Bruno banked home a shot just 35 seconds after the first Pioneers goal to tie the game 1-1. Sophomore Brandon Hund got the assist on Bruno’s second goal of the season.
The Pioneers re-took the lead in the back-and-forth first quarter, with a goal from sophomore Tom McGrath at the 7:54 mark of the first quarter, making it 2-1 New Providence. He had two goals on the afternoon.
“Being 1-1 is completely different than being 0-2 and this win gives us a nice ride into the home opener,” McGrath said. Tuesday is the Pioneers’ home opener against Delaware Valley HS.
The Pioneers then went on a power-play with sophomore Eric Bertz in the box for slashing with 1:18 left, but Johnson turned the tables on one major rush.
Following a major defensive block, the Crusaders rushed towards the Pioneers net, ending it with a man-down (short-handed) goal from freshman Evan Parenti, tying the game 2-2 at the 11:22 mark of the first quarter.
The slow start for New Providence was visible to the coaches.
“The biggest thing we focused on in that huddle for the second quarter was kind of waking up a bit, playing together and playing with effort,” New Providence head coach Russ Anderson said. “That’s what it really came down to. The kids fight for ground-balls, playing together and they played with great effort and that’s what the result is on that.”
The result was a Pioneers offensive outburst in the second quarter. Lawton struck with two straight goals, at :59 and at 3:54, to give the Pioneers a 4-2 lead.
They weren’t done and continued to build up pressure on both sides of the ball against the Crusaders. Three more goals would be scored, one from McGrath and two from junior Jack Barletta before halftime came. New Providence went into the break with a 7-2 lead over Johnson.
As the third quarter got underway, the Pioneers picked up right where they left off. Lawton tallied his fourth and fifth goals of the game, just 35 seconds apart, building New Providence’s lead to 9-2.
Johnson picked up the pace.
ALJ junior Greg Zukowski tallied his first goal of the season, cutting the Pioneers’ lead to 9-3, responding 30 seconds after Lawton scored his fifth goal. The Crusaders continued to build pressure and push back.
Crusader senior Jack Lomeli scored 90 seconds after Zukowski’s goal to make it a 9-4 lead.
Five minutes later, Bruno tallied his second goal of the game, making it a 9-5 New Providence lead at the 9:18 mark of the third quarter. That would be the score heading into the fourth quarter, but it would be the closest the Crusaders would get in their comeback attempt.
“Johnson’s always been a tough team,” Anderson said. “They’re tough kids. I respect the way they play. That’s what I told the team, ‘They are not going to give up, Johnson won’t give up and we just stay the course, play the game we’re supposed to play and we’ll be all right.’”
The Pioneers shut down the Crusaders offenses, giving up no more scoring chances. New Providence sophomore Joe D’Anna tallied two goals to boost the lead to 11-5, which would be the final score on the morning’s game.
“We played great defense and the offense executed their plays,” D’Anna said. “We put in goals and they didn’t get any because of our team defense, so on Tuesday, we will get it [against Delaware Valley]. It was good defense.”
Johnson sophomore goaltender Josh Hill made 11 saves on 22 shots in the loss.
New Providence junior goaltender Patrick Trezza made seven saves on 12 shots to pick up his first win of the season.
The Johnson Crusaders (0-2) will face off against West Orange HS at home Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.
The New Providence Pioneers (1-1) will face off against Delaware Valley HS in their home opener Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.
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