BULLDOGS CAPTURE SIXTH STRAIGHT SHORE CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP
By Eric Braun
WEST LONG BRANCH – Another year and another Rumson-Fair Haven versus Shore Regional final to see who brings home the Shore Conference Tournament championship title. The two teams have owned the Shore Conference Tournament championship for the past two decades and this season is no different.
Shore Regional entered the tournament finale with a record of 20-1 having beaten Rumson-Fair Haven twice during the season by scores of 2-0 and 1-0. This drew the Blue Devils the top seed in the tournament and made quick work of Raritan (10-0), Pinelands (8-0) and Pt. Pleasant Boro (1-0). Meanwhile, Rumson-Fair Haven struggled early this season as they lost numbers to graduation and had to adjust to first-year head coach Casey Hanna. With all that aside, the Bulldogs still entered the final with a record of 14-4 record and the No. 3 seed in the tournament. RFH beat Freehold Township (8-1), Wall (3-2) and Southern Regional (1-0), enroute to the final.
“We graduated a lot of players last season and we had a lot to prove this season with people doubting us and then we got a wake-up call against Shore early and learned to come together and keep our composure throughout the process,” said Hanna about the adjustments they made from the beginning of the season to now.
Shore Regional knows all too well how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season, after falling to Rumson three times last year. This season the Blue Devils were looking to repay the Bulldogs, already having beaten them twice – 2-0 on opening day and 1-0 at the end of September.
After the Shore Conference Tournament championship game was postponed from last Sunday due to rain, both teams were primed and ready to play on this past Saturday at Monmouth University. Playing in front of a large crowd on a beautiful sunny day in October, both teams took to So Sweet A Cat Field for one more crack at each other.
The first half was an entertaining back-and-forth contest that saw both teams have their equal share at getting the first goal, but as the time wore down on the first half they were still deadlocked at 0-0.
After halftime, the Bulldogs found a second gear that Shore was not up to the task for, as the Bulldogs were on top of every loose ball, making the longer runs and being in the right position. Then just like that, with 27:47 left in the game, Tyler Argilagos took a deep run down the right side of the field and sent a pass across to Helena Stoever who finally broke through the Shore defense and scored the game’s first goal, and also the Bulldogs’ first goal of the season against Shore Regional.
Rumson-Fair Haven took advantage of the momentum shift and kept pounding away at the stingy Blue Devils defense and just three minutes later, with 24:43 remaining, put their second goal of the game in for a 2-0 lead. Meadow Maguire was left alone in the center of the circle and Stoever delivered a perfect pass for Maguire to bury into the net. Shore Regional had no answer for the all-out attack on them and the Bulldogs put the game away with another goal from Sarah MacGillis just three minutes later on a penalty shot.
“The girls were just so hungry after being denied twice against them this season and having a third chance, how can you pass this up. The girls took each game at a time and were excited, then pushing it back a week added to the angst and anticipation,” said a jubilant Hanna after the victory. “Getting the third seed we had an extra chip on our shoulders and had to prove ourselves. At halftime I told the girls not to let the energy down and if we score don’t get comfortable and act like you are losing and keep going.”
“Getting the first goal against them was such an amazing feeling. They were tough all season long but we kept up the pressure and it paid off,” said Stoever of scoring the game’s first goal. “Then to be able to continue the tradition and legacy that the seniors who left us and then to play for our current seniors to send them out on top, is what inspires all of us; it’s an amazing feeling. Playing for Coach Hanna has been amazing. We can relate to her since she is closer to our age and has brought us closer together this season.”
Shore Regional would get one back later as Lily Santi rifled one from just inside the circle to cut the lead to 3-1. Rumson quickly regrouped and allowed Santi and the Blue Devils no more opportunities, enroute to their sixth straight Shore Conference Tournament championship.
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