The exhibition lasted only three quarters due to the heat, so it did not provide a picture of the national team's full arsenal or completely reveal New Jersey's rallying capacity.
But the way Team USA goalies Zachary Oliveri and Kyle Turri performed, the game likely could have lasted six or seven quarters with the same pattern being repeated over and over: The New Jersey All-Star team generate a healthy number of quality shots, but the two Long Island-bred keepers continually come up with even better saves.
Ronkonkoma native Oliveri halted eight shots in the first half, West Islip's Turri made three saves in the third quarter and Rockville Centre's Matt Kavanagh netted three goals to lead the U.S. Men's National Under-19 Team to a 9-4 win over New Jersey Sunday afternoon under a scorching sun at Mountain Lakes High.
It was the third and final exhibition for Team USA before heading to Turku, Finland, in just under two weeks to compete in the 2012 FIL U19 World Lacrosse Championships July 12-21.
"The goalies were good, especially Oliveri," said John Scioscia, a former star at Summit and a rising junior attackman at Notre Dame. "He made some great saves. He's definitely a big body in the net and he's not afraid to jump in front of the ball. We probably had 10, 15 good shots first half."
New Jersey outshot the U19 squad, 18-15, in the opening half, but Kavanagh's creative flair around the crease and Oliveri's stubbornness allowed the Team USA to build a 7-2 lead. And during that time, New Jersey received exceptional goalie play from Brian Feeney (Summit High and UPenn) with five saves in the half. Recent Mendham grad Tyler Avallone made three saves in the third quarter for NJ.
The Garden State All-Stars cut the deficit to 8-4 late in the third quarter with back-to-back goals from James Kennedy (Summit, Holy Cross) and Kevin Cernuto (St. Joseph, Met., St. John's), but they failed to capitalize on an extra-man opportunity with 6:50 to go. Team USA forged a 9-4 lead on a goal by Daniel Eipp (Graton, Mass., Harvard) with 1:58 to go.
Concern for the players' well-being in the blistering heat was raised by Team USA trainer Mandy Merritt, so the game was halted at the conclusion of that period.
"We should have had that fourth quarter," Scioscia said. "I think we were starting to work together a little better. It was a completely different dynamic in the second half.
"But at the same time, we don’t want anything to happen to those guys," he said. " We just wanted to give them a good look and help these guys bring back the world championship."
The U19 squad is coached by longtime Mountain Lakes head coach Tim Flynn and features three New Jersey products, middies Tyler Barbarich (Bridgewater-Raritan, Delaware) and Steve Pontrello (St. Augustine, North Carolina this fall) and defenseman Ralph D'Agostino (Immaculata, Syracuse). Pontrello came up with two assists, Barbarich handled much of the faceoff work and D'Agostino was part of a solid defensive crew.
"We feel pretty good about how we're playing, but ,I think we should have been performing a little better in the first half," Barbarich said. " Every single team we've played so far (also Long Island and eastern Pennsylvania)has had real good competition. I think we’re more than well prepared."
The New Jersey All-Stars played with great determination and purpose, but could not match their opponent's sense of cohesion early on--perfectly understandable without a true practice session. That did not stop its talented offensive players from unloading quality shots in the first half, but possession time was actually longer and better organized in the third quarter.
Team USA bult a 6-0 lead behind two goals by Kavanagh and two assists from Pontrello before New Jersey struck with an unassisted goal by Colin McLinden (Madison, Fairfield) with 11:29 left in the first half. Connor Buczek (Cincinnati, Cornell) opened a six-goal lead with 9:50 to go and Scioscia cut the deficit to 7-2 off a pass by Greg Cuccinello (Mountain Lakes, Towson) 3:36 later.
Midfielders Danny Feeney (Summit, UPenn) and Brendan Newman (Lawrenceville) helped New Jersey win 10 of 15 faceoffs, and teammates John LoCascio (West Essex, Villanova), Jack Breit (Delbarton, Harvard), B.J. Grill (Bridgewater-Raritan, Marquette), Matt McMahon (Glen Ridge, UPenn), Walker Kirby (Lawrenceville), Scott McWilliams (Mountain Lakes, Virginia) and Pat Flynn (Mountain Lakes) contributed to the defensive effort.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS