Seniors Nicolette Dunphy, Mary Scarrone and Bridget Curran led the No. 1 seed Rumson-Fair Haven girls lacrosse team to an impressive 17-4 victory over No. 5 seed Ocean Township in Monday’s Shore Conference Tournament semifinal game at Ocean Township High School, the neutral site for the SCT semifinal doubleheader.
Dunphy’s seven goals led the team in that category, Curran’s seven assists led the team in that category and Scarrone provided three goals and two assists as the Bulldogs (16-3) built a 9-1 halftime lead en route to their fourth win in a row.
“That’s what we are concentrating on and that’s being a more well-rounded team,” Rumson-Fair Haven coach Amy O’Keefe said. “We need everyone to play defense and I feel like that has really helped us this year. Even our attackers are defending and that’s making it hard for the other team to just run the ball up the field.”
The Bulldogs started the game on a 5-0 run and never looked back as Dunphy scored the first two goals, Scarrone had the third goal, Curran had the fourth goal and Dunphy had the fifth goal in that run.
“I thought our defense looked really good. We were able to get our slides and the hedging on their drivers,” Scarrone said. “Ocean’s McKayla Conti is a strong driver and we were able to close in on her and our defenders had each other’s back.”
Conti (two goals) did get free from Rumson-Fair Haven’s stingy defense for the first of her two goals with 15:17 left in the first half as Ocean trimmed the deficit to 5-1. However, Rumson-Fair Haven then ended the first half on a four-goal run with sophomores Maggie Jennings (two goals), Madison McGuire (one goal, one assist) and Morgan Steinhacker (one goal) each getting a goal in that run and Dunphy closing out that surge with her fourth goal, which came with 1:42 left in the first half.
“I always tell the girls if you can play individual defense you can play team defense. We wanted to go hard, keep our sticks up and look for interceptions. We knew they were going to be a tough draw,” Ocean coach Andrea Schweitzer said. “We really wanted to make them work for their goals and for them to have to score on the second or third try and the majority of their goals came on the second or third try (of a play).”
Ocean (15-3) had a strong start to the second half as the Spartans scored back to back goals. First, Caitlin Herod tallied with 23:16 left in the second half and then Conti scored again with Herod assisting on the play with 22:17 that cut the Rumson-Fair Haven lead to 9-3. But the Spartan’s eight-game winning streak came to an end when the Bulldogs erased any thoughts of an Ocean comeback as Rumson-Fair Haven went on a game-breaking, eight-goal run starting with Jennings’ goal with 18:42 left to Scarrone’s goal with 7:41 left which increased the lead from 9-3 to 17-3.
Rumson-Fair Haven’s victory sets up a showdown with No. 2 seed Red Bank Catholic for Thursday’s 4 p.m. SCT final at Monmouth University.
“I think we are all really excited for the SCT final,” Scarrone said. “We just all need to have a clean game because Red Bank Catholic is a really good team and has a lot of really good players.”
Red Bank Catholic defeated No. 6 seed Freehold Township, 15-8, in the second SCT semifinal on Monday night to get a rematch with Rumson-Fair Haven this season. In a nondivisional game on April 23, Rumson-Fair Haven defeated Red Bank Catholic, 11-5. The schools also met in last year SCT final in which Rumson-Fair Haven won 14-9.
The defending SCT champion Bulldogs have won two SCT titles with their first title coming in 2010. Meanwhile, Red Bank Catholic has won three SCT titles with the Caseys’ last title coming in 2012.
“We’re pumped and we are excited. We want to win the SCT final again. We’ve never won it two years in a row,” Dunphy said. “So, this is definitely new to us.”