NON-PUBLIC A PREVIEW
2011 CHAMPION: Delbarton defeated St. Augustine, 10-4, to claim its ninth state title in the past 10 years. The eight-year string of champions had been interrupted in 2010.
2012 FAVORITE: Delbarton. There is that ancient-old sports adage that offense wins games while defense wins championships.
Well, here are two certainties for the 2012 season related to that axiom: St. Augustine is going to win a lot of games this spring with its high-powered offense. And Delbarton is going to be digging in defensively with its customary grit and preparedness and also hoping like heck that the old saying sticks when these two teams meet again for the state title in June.
We think it will hold up to form and Delbarton will repeat.
Getting ahead of ourselves a bit? Perhaps, but that's kind of in the spirit of a preview, isn't it?
St. Augustine has practically its entire offense intact from last season's 17-5 squad, including a spectacular first midfield line--Steve Pontrello (52 goals), Tommy O'Neill (32) and Bill McMenamin (20 goals and top faceoff man)--that is arguably the best group in New Jersey. They run the field with confidence, consume ground balls ravenously and they score with the regularity of attackmen. They create an absolute dilemma for the shortsick defenders, and each knows how to locate the open man when he draws the pole.
But, let's look back at that 2011 championship game against Delbarton. The Green Wave held St. Augustine to just two first-half goals with its suffocating man-to-man. And while Jack Breit, Spenser Huston and Jack Smith are gone, the Green Wave defense still has Will Reynolds, Kohl Geibel, James Wujciak, pole Michael Bicknese and shortsticks Cole Ricciardi and James White, who either started or played significant minutes in the state tournament. Plus, goalie John Schisler was only a sophomore last year.
Delbarton also lost several key people on offense, unlike well-stocked St. Augustine. But Jack Clarke and Matt Killian are back to take the faceoffs and players such as John Shaffer, Kenny Kiernan, Jamie White, Sean Donnelly, Connor Bilby and Sean Onderdonk all seem equipped to make steady contributions to the scoring pursuit.
Plus, if The Green Wave play the kind of defense that typifies this stellar program, they're going to create opportunities off mistakes and saves and they're not going to need more than six or seven goals to win most of their games.
Delbarton flaunted a highly talented sophomore class last season that included Reynolds, Killian, Schisler, Bricknese and White. They were all solid varsity contributors a year ago, and now are back a little stronger and quicker and much more aware of the role each is expected to undertake. They could all be ready to truly blossom this season.
St. Augustine: Along with that outstanding veteran offense, the Hermits also return defensive starters Bryan Phillips and Nate Gorman and goalie Joe Gigantiello. After dominating in the Cape Atlantic League in past years, St. Augustine now will play a much more ambitious independent schedule. That is going to prepare the Hermits much more thoroughly for the state tournament.
Don Bosco Prep: Max Allen showed tremendous poise last season with 34 goals and 24 assists as a sophomore, though he was surrounded by senior talent. Allen is going to draw the top defender this spring, which means Brady Wulster and Jack Ray will have to take advantage of all opportunities that come their way. Conor Scavone and Teddy Sisco return to lead a deep midfield group and John Petzold is back on defense.
St. Joseph (Met.): Senior attackman Ed Lubowicki (45 goals, 50 assists) returns to spark the offense and Harry Burke is back in goal for the Falcons. Almost everywhere else on the field, however, there is a great deal of inexperience--though not without promise. Doug Bauer, who had 10 goals last season, will help keep pressure off Lubowicki on attack. Sherwin Kainer is a solid midfielder.
Bergen Catholic: The Crusaders return eight starters from a 7-10 team, including standout midfielders Jamie Piluso and Brendon McGuire. Senior Nick Discola rounds out a quality first middie line while Tucker James and Chris Blewitt return to the attack. Sophomore Matthew Pedrick is back in goal after an enlightening frosh season. Expect big improvement defensively for Bergen.
Seton Hall Prep: The Pirates suffered some key defensive hits to graduation, though could balance that out with the return of attackmen Tim Mulrenan, Danny Murray and Andrew Marrone and midfielders Brent Croonquist, a talented faceoff man, Joe Gillis, Paul Werner and Bennet Foley. The consistency this offensive group sought last season should be reached more frequently. A.J. Pravata and Jimmy Jannicelli anchor the defense.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS