NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ –The parents and fans filling Lieder Field’s stands on Saturday for the South Jersey, Group 1 State Final were on the edge of their seats as Rumson-Fair Haven and New Providence boys lacrosse dueled back-and-forth all afternoon.
The RFH Bulldogs eventually outlasted New Providence, 12-8, despite the Pioneers late comeback.
The scoring battle started much earlier in the game, as Rumson-Fair Haven's Robbie Garavente and New Providence's Jack Harvey traded multiple goals in the first quarter, while Steve Anderson netted one more before halftime to keep the Pioneers within reach of RFH 5-3.
Both teams came out in the second half with a purpose, as Bulldog junior Griffin Schultz and New Providence's Quinn Killeen added to their team’s tally within the first two minutes.
Rumson-Fair Haven capitalized on two New Providence penalties, scoring four unanswered goals.
“We made uncharacteristic errors and when we’re playing a team at that caliber, you can’t give them possession,” Pioneers head coach Vinny Carangelo said.
As the clock ticked away in the fourth quarter, New Providence displayed their die-hard attitude, as Jack Harvey combined with Tyler Lawton and Quinn Killeen to score four goals in the last five minutes for New Providence.
“When the chips were down and there was no more pressure because we were losing by six goals, then all of a sudden you start to see our firepower,” Carangelo said. “We’re a pretty gosh-darn hard team to stop, but we weren’t playing loose.”
Although exciting to watch, the late effort wasn’t enough for the Pioneers to match the Bulldogs. Saturday’s game was New Providence’s first appearance in a state final round, while Rumson-Fair Haven recorded their third straight.
The loss was obviously not the outcome New Providence had hoped for, but proved to be clear evidence of the program’s great strides in recent years. In five years as head coach, Carangelo he has led the team to their first 10-win season, first semifinal round, and now their first state final game.
“Every year we’ve taken a step forward," he said. "There has never been a stagnant year where we’ve lost a step or just been where we were the year before. “The next step is to win the thing. I have every ounce of confidence that it will happen next year.”
The Pioneers finish the season with a remarkable 17-4 record, and will look to replace seniors Jack Harvey and Steve Anderson next season.