NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - While the New Providence High boys lacrosse team suffered a hard-fought one-goal loss to Watchung Hills on Thursday, head coach Russ Anderson was buoyed by the effort.
"We've been battling some injuries and had two starters missing but we worked our butts off," said Anderson, now in his fourth season at the helm of the Pioneers. "They played hard all game and we're definitely taking steps in a positive direction."
Watchung Hills snapped a five-game losing streak as it came away with an 8-7 victory at Lieder Field. New Providence fell to 6-5 with the loss.
The Pioneers were steered offensively by Sean Sweeney (three goals), Thomas McGrath (one goal, four assists, five ground balls), Justin Sullivan (two goals, one assist), Charlie Barth (one goal, one assist) and Jack Gertie (10 ground balls). Zach Marvin made 11 saves in goal.
Watchung Hills was fueled by Jack Taub (two goals, two assists, six ground balls), Justin Deferia (two goals), Scott Cunningham (one goal, one assist), Garrett Monty (one goal, one assist), Anthony Leone (one goal), Chris Susogolu (one goal). Brendan Wahlers had a game-high 11 ground balls while Joe DeNave won 11 of 18 face-offs. Matthew Spaulding made nine saves.
Leone leads the Warriors in scoring with 15 goals and three assists while Taub has totaled 10 goals, 15 assists and 40 ground balls. DeNave has won 65 face-offs this season.
After starting the season with a loss to Delaware Valley, New Providence reeled off five straight victories before bowing to Pequannock, 7-6, on April 11. All but one loss this season - a 16-10 setback at Scotch Plains-Fanwood on April 15 - have been by three goals or less.
The Pioneers' leading scorer, Joe D'Anna (31 goals, 72 of 81 face-offs won) was out because of injury for the Watchung Hills contest but should re-enter the lineup soon.
Sweeney, a senior, has totaled 20 goals and 10 assists while seniors McGrath (17 goals, 18 assists) and Matt Burke (14 goals, 11 assist) have also reached double digits in scoring.
"We started off great but the schedule got to us with a lot of back-to-back games," said Anderson. "But we've worked hard and pushing through adversity."
The Pioneers will find out where it is seeded for the upcoming Union County Tournament early next week. New Providence reached the UCT semifinals last season where it lost to eventual champion, Summit.
"I think we'll be the fifth seed having lost to Cranford and Scotch Plains," said Anderson. "Summit and Westfield will likely get the top two seeds."
New Providence, which was 16-5 a year ago, will be back in action on Tuesday, April 23 when it plays host to Kinnelon at 6 p.m.
Watchung Hills is scheduled to play at Mount Olive on Wednesday, April 24 at 4 p.m. before meeting Rutgers Prep in Somerset on Saturday, April 27 at 12 p.m.