Southern Regional Boys Lacrosse Team Uses Tough Defense to Start Off 2-0

Apr 04, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Southern Regional's Nick Fontana makes a run toward the goal during the Rams' 9-3 victory over Howell in their season opener on March 28.

Last season, Nick Fontana was the third option on the Southern Regional boys lacrosse team’s offense. This spring, he’s the top gun after the graduations of Kyle Mulrane and Will Johnson.

“I know I’m going to have the No. 1 pole on offense, but it’s a bit strange right now,” Fontana said after the Rams scored a 9-3 victory over Howell to open the season on March 28. “It didn’t sink in before today, but playing this first game without Kyle and Will, it’s starting to sink in now.”

Getting off to a slow start offensively, the Rams broke through the Rebels’ defense with more consistency in the second half, led by Fontana. The junior attacker broke a 2-2, halftime tie with his first goal of the season with 7:32 left in the third quarter, then added another just over three minutes later to spark a four-goal outburst during a two-minute span, as the Rams took a 7-2 lead into the final quarter.

But while Fontana was the catalyst in the third quarter, Anellio Russo was Southern’s most consistent offensive player in the opener, scoring three goals and dishing out a pair of assists. His first goal broke a 1-1 tie in the second quarter, before he made it a 6-2 lead with 3:02 left in the third, and then made it an 8-2 contest when he fired one into the net with 8:16 to go.

“It was the first game of the season, and I think we were all a little nervous,” Fontana said. “At the half, everybody just calmed down. We had a lot of kids step up today, especially Anellio. Really, I don’t know what we would have done without him.”

Still, it was the Rams’ defense that was the real catalyst in the contest. After limiting the Rebels to first- and second-quarter goals to help keep the game tied at halftime, Southern’s defensive crew allowed just one more goal the rest of the way – a late one with 2:35 left in the game and much of the Rams’ starting crew on the bench, up by seven to that point.

“In the second half, we closed down their cutters, didn’t give up the crease and pressured them all over the field,” said senior defender Luke Gerhardt. “Every day in practice throughout the preseason, we focused on ground balls, and that’s what won us the game today.”

After tallying 13 ground balls in the first half, the Rams picked up 14 in the third quarter and seven more in the fourth. Southern also received three goals from Ryan McWhorter, while Ryan Comfort delivered a goal and two assists.

“We shifted our offense a little in the second half, but I think a lot of the problem in the first half was impatience,” said head coach John Pampalone. “We have some guys playing new spots, and it took some time for them to gain their confidence. But where we won the game was on the ground. We were kind of 50-50 on ground balls in the first half, but in the second half we won them all, and that’s what we needed. Our offense was sparked by how well we played defense and got to ground balls.”

The next day, Southern scored a 6-5, overtime victory over Holmdel to start the new season undefeated. Fontana tallied four goals and gave away an assist, while Russo recorded a goal and two assists, and Cade Johnson added a goal and an assist. Luke Maul made nine saves in goal.

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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