Bridgewater-Raritan grabs Somerset title
Bridgewater-Raritan had a chance to showcase its prodigious individual talent Thursday night, yet somehow found a way to do so while residing well within the boundaries of selfless team play.
Hard to do, perhaps, but very, very easy to watch as undefeated Bridgewater, No. 1 in The MSG Varsity Power Rankings, dominated from start to finish to roll by No. 4 Ridge, 16-3, for its second straight Somerset County Tournament title at Basilone Field in Bridgewater.
"The chemistry today was ridiculous. The ball was moving like crazy," Scott Bieda said. The senior attackman popped in a season-high five goals and two assists and lifted his season goal total to 45. "The thing is, no one cares if they score. We just want to win."
The victory was the 30th straight for the 15-0 Panthers and the most lopsided championship game in 10 years of the SCT. Ridge (15-3) entered with an 11-game winning streak and a highly respected offense that averaged 10.8 goals during the streak.
Where could we start the personal congratulations tour for this fabulous outing? A good place would be the steady faceoff work of Vince Colatriano, who kept making possession time an elusive endeavor for Ridge and was awarded MVP honors for his performance.
The Panthers won 14 of 21 draws, but Colatriano's percentage was even better.
"Vince did an awesome job on the faceoffs. He's the reason we got off to that great start," senior attackman Ryan Hollingsworth said. He netted two of his four goals to help steer the Panthers to a 5-0 first-quarter lead and he also set up Bieda four times for goals with his stellar passing.
We'd want to make sure--no question about it--to stop and slap Evan Mock on the back for the lockdown defensive play he and his rugged crew provided as they stifled a truly talented offense. The Panthers led, 8-0, by the end of the first half and had yielded only 15 shots through the first three quarters.
"The whole defense did an excellent job," senior middie Ray Mastroianni said. He banged in a season-high four goals, two in the third quarter to help the lead climb to 15-3, thus imposing a mandatory running clock (12-goal lead) for the fourth quarter.
"Those Ridge guys are good players and well-coached," Mastroianni said. "We knew we had to come out hard on them in the third quarter or they were going to come back. We knew we had to step on the pedal and keep it going."
Clearly, more isolated praise would be appropriate for Bieda, Hollingsworth, Mastroianni and even John Longordo (two goals, two assists), who all seemed to be waging an evening-long battle with one another for most stunning highlight moments.
Hmmm, let's see, there were Hollingsworth's no-look, needle-threading feed to Bieda from the top of the box in the second quarter and his behind-the-back goal off a pass from Bieda 1:29 later. Bieda scored with a difficult backhanded flip after a steal and feed by Hollingsworth early in the third quarter and connected on an underhand sweep later in the period. Mastroianni, once known more for his dodging, scorched the back of the nets four times with cannon blasts.
But, these guys were never really trying to steal the attention from teammates with their brilliant shotmaking. On the contrary, they were shedding light on one another's skills by moving the ball rapidly and sharing it unconditionally until someone was wide open.
"We just moved the ball around really well. We took good shots and connected on those shots," Hollingsworth said. "I guess I was feeling my shot today; was kind of in a groove."
He was in a similar one Saturday with six goals in the Panthers' 12-4 semifinal-round win over previously undefeated Somerville, and was also hot last year in the championship. Hollingsworth sank four goals (Mastroianni had three) in Bridgewater's 14-6 win over Immaculata in 2011.
Hollingsworth had set himself up for his six-goal explosion Saturday by handing out seven assists three days earlier in a 17-6 victory over Rutgers Prep in the quarterfinals. And as pretty as his goals were Thursday, Hollingsworth's finest play may have been his long pass to Bieda for a dunk off the left pipe.
"The chemistry we have is ridiculous," Bieda said, "but I know people in the stands don't realize how big a play that was. To basically make a full-field, no-look pass with three defenders around you…that's one of those things that gets overlooked and shouldn't."
There didn't seem to be any detail overlooked by Bridgewater in this game, though Colatriano was sure that enough would be found by the coaching staff to occupy them for practice Friday as the top-seeded Panthers prepare for the NJSIAA Group 4 tournament Tuesday. The Panthers went on to claim their first Tournament of Champions crown.
"I'm sure we'll go back on film and see a couple little things that we missed, but we're definitely happy with this win," Colatriano said.
Bridgewater has made it clear that its season would be less than satisfying without another T of C title, yet it is hardly consumed by the thought. It simply treats every game like a T of C final.
"We try to come out and play like this every day," Mastroianni said. "In practice we always play intense. Whenever we're going against our first defense, it's always a battle. We like doing that more than just going through the motions. It's only making us better and it prevails on the field."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS