Boys Lacrosse: No. 4 Wall Grinds Out Victory over No. 5 Shore Regional to Reach First SCT Semifinals
WALL TOWNSHIP – One of the marks of a championship team is finding a way to pull out a win when things aren’t going quite as planned. Wall’s high-octane offense was frustrated for most of the afternoon by a Shore Regional’s well-executed zone defense, but when it mattered most, the Crimson Knights got exactly what they needed.
Senior attackman Logan Peters set up sophomore attackman John McCurry for the go-ahead goal with 3:37 left in regulation and the defense produced several timely stops in the fourth quarter as fourth-seeded Wall survived an upset bid by fifth-seeded Shore to secure an 8-6 victory in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Tuesday.
McCurry’s low-to-high rocket found room just under the crossbar for his second goal of the game and senior midfielder Ryan Brice added a man-down goal with 1:35 left to clinch the win and send the Crimson Knights into the SCT semifinals for the first time in school history. They will head north on Saturday to face top-seeded and undefeated Rumson-Fair Haven.
Shore led 4-1 with under five minutes to play in the first half until Wall deposited three goals in the final 3:26 of the second quarter to knot the game at halftime. The teams alternated goals from there until Wall pulled ahead for good on McCurry’s goal, surviving a scare from a well-prepared and energetic Blue Devils squad.
Was it Wall’s most complete and well-played win of the season? No, the Crimson Knights had several unforced errors, were penalized nine times and yielded three man-up goals, but you don’t apologize for wins and how they are earned at this point of the season.
“The W is all the matters in the end but I think if you look at everybody’s face on the sidelines after the game we were a little disappointed in ourselves,” said Wall head coach Victor Rivera. “They got off to a pretty good start and we fought our way back in the first half to even it up 4-4, but you have to give credit to Shore, they’re a great program and they really came out with a lot of energy.”
“We’ve had this conversation before about beating ourselves. We were undisciplined defensively and even on offense some of our guys were trying to do too much. We ended up in the box for the majority of the game and gave them opportunity after opportunity. Moving forward against a team like Rumson, we just can’t beat ourselves. Hats off to our guys for finishing the game the right way but the next game can’t be like this or we’re going to be in for a rude awakening.”
“They came out and were firing and we weren’t on pace,” Peters said. “We came out slow and weren’t hitting as many shots as normal. The zone is frustrating because we have a lot of guys that like matchups, so we had to slow down and trust that the shots will come. (Shore’s) zone was playing smart, they were fundamental and were making many mistakes. We had to get the momentum back on our side and capitalize.
A good way to overcome those types of shortcomings is to have a player the caliber of Logan Peters.
Peters had another great game with eight points, including the 100th assist of his career. He scored three goals and assisted on five others, scoring a fourth-quarter goal to give Wall a lead, setting up McCurry’s go-ahead goal and also assisting on Brice’s insurance goal. The Rutgers signee is the first player in Wall program history to have 100 career goals and 100 career assists. McCurry and Brice each scored twice, junior midfielder Matt Dollive scored once.
“Logan is that guy for us and has been all year,” Rivera said. “If we need a big defensive stop he can go down and play defensive middie like he did today, and he had a great spin move between two guys and found the open guy on the crease to give us a lift. He’s one of our captains for a reason. He’s a great leader he’s lead us to the semifinals.”
Peters’ man-up goal, his 60th of the season, gave Wall a 1-0 lead midway through the first quarter but Shore answered just over a minute later on a goal by freshman Sam Madalone. Then with 7.7 seconds left in the first quarter, Andrew Decker scored off an assist from Carson Cooke to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead.
Shore’s lead grew to 4-1 on consecutive extra-man opportunity goals in a span of 1:35. Junior midfielder Jamie Mazzacco scored off a setup from Carson Spallone at 6:32 and Cooke made it a three-goal lead off a pass from Madalone at 4:57.
Wall’s rally began when Peters scored an unassisted goal with 3:26 left in the first half. He then made a great play in transition to shake a defender and find a wide-open Dollive at the crease, who faked and beat Shore goalie Walker Hunter to make it 4-3 with 1:16 left in the half. Shore was flagged for a slashing penalty before the goal to give Wall an EMO and senior Kyle Wenzel came up big by winning the ensuing face-off. The possession led to McCurry blasting a shot home off an assist from Peters with 48 seconds on the clock.
Wall had momentum going into the half but the floodgates did not open. Instead, Shore stayed stingy and the possessions became more valuable as the game progressed. Peters set up Brice for a 5-4 lead with 5:13 left in the third quarter but Mazzacco answered at the 1:24 mark when he ducked under a defender and scored from straight on.
Peters moved down to X during the fourth quarter and scored a fantastic goal at 8:42 to give Wall a 6-5 lead. A player cannot dive toward the goal or into the crease and although it appeared that is what Peters did, he was able to keep his feet on the ground and extend across the goalmouth to wrap the shot around Hunter.
“I know if I make it obvious that I’m diving they’re going to call me for it,” Peters said. “It’s a feel play. I came around and I had to feel (the defender) on my back before I took off and extended.”
The lead was short-lived, however, as Shore tied the game less than two minutes later. Another penalty on Wall put the Blue Devils on a man-advantage and they cashed in when Madalone’s lefty shot beat Kessler with 7:11 to play.
Wall’s defense had yet to play a game where it needed to buckle down possession after possession until Tuesday and considering how often they were down a man they performed quite well under pressure. With the game tied 6-6, Wall went down two men at 6:37 but was able to kill off both penalties with tight positional play and a key save by Kessler.
“Down the stretch, it was the perfect opportunity to show what we can do and really come together as a team,” said junior defenseman Charlie Sasso. “Going into the big games we’re going to have, obviously on Thursday, I think that’s great for us.”
Wenzel also gave Wall a big lift with his work at the face-off X over the final three quarters. He and Shore senior Sean O’Brien are two of the conference’s best face-off specialists and in the first quarter it was a 4-0 sweep for O’Brien. Wenzel regrouped to win 4 of 5 in the second quarter and the battle ended up being even at the end of the game.
“This isn’t the first time Kyle has done that for us,” Wenzel said. “He’s started off slow in other games but he usually figures it out whether it’s in the second quarter or third quarter. Those possessions are key, especially moving forward against a team like Rumson. He’s another captain of ours. He might get frustrated but he never gets down on himself. He’s always working hard and finding a way to win.”
The Crimson Knights have faced some of New Jersey’s best this season, defeating Lenape and falling to Manasquan and Westfield. They’ll have to get through another elite opponent on Thursday when they head to Borden Stadium to face a Rumson team that is ranked No. 5 in the state and is 15-0 with four state top-20 wins. Wall knows it will have to play much better and more disciplined to have a chance against the Bulldogs.
“It’s Wall vs. Rumson and there’s always something special about that,” Peters said. ‘It’s going to be a high-energy game. We know if we can match their energy we’ll have opportunities to make plays, and if we can make them we can make it a good game.”
GOALS – S: Jamie Mazzacco 2, Sam Madalone 2, Carson Cooke, Andrew Decker: W: Logan Peters 3, John McCurry 2, Ryan Brice 2, Matt Dollive.
ASSISTS – S: Carson Cooke 2, Sam Madalone, Carson Spallone; W: Logan Peters 5.
SAVES – S: Walker Hunter 10; W: Aiden Kessler 8
SHOTS: Wall, 30-25.
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