The skilled leadership of varsity veterans like senior twins Zach and Anthony Raposo has allowed Voorhees to take early control of the tempo in numerous games this season.
Those physical and intangible qualities have also have been put to good use in those handful of games in which control was relinquished.
Voorhees squandered a three-goal lead after three quarters, but was rescued by the Raposo brothers and fellow senior Ben Mastro within a 56-second span to edge North Hunterdon in overtime, 10-9, in the semifinals of the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament Monday afternoon at the Pit in Glen Gardner.
Mastro connected off a smart, tight feed from Zach Raposo to tie the contest t 9-9 with 23 seconds left in regulation and Anthony Raposo scored on a dodge from behind the cage 33 seconds into OT to send the Vikings (12-3) to their sixth straight win and first appearance in the H/W/S final. Zach led all scorers with three goals and three assists and stretched his multi-goal streak to eight games.
Voorhees battles defending champion Hunterdon Central, No. 6 in The MSG Varsity Power Rankings, at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Central's field in Flemington. The Red Devils advanced with a 17-3 win over Vernon on Monday.
"We've been like this all year, even in scrimmages and in the first couple games of the year," head coach Tim Cullen said after directing the Vikings to their third overtime win this season. "We might go down by two, but still play like it's 0-0, no matter how late in the game. The kids never quit, they're always fighting, every single ground ball is going to be challenged."
Third-seeded Voorhees never did trail by two goals, but surely had lost momentum when seventh-seeded North Hunterdon (6-13) spun off four straight goals within a 6:08 stretch of the fourth quarter for a 9-8 lead with 4:33 to go. Jake Connors knotted the game at 8-8 off a pass by Hank Joyce with 5:55 left and Connor Lally converted a feed by Joyce 1:22 later.
"They had long possessions, which slowed down our offense," Zach Raposo said. "I think we just had to calm down; we were really kind of nervous. Once we calmed down, that's how we tied it up and scored the overtime goal."
Mastro didn't sound calm when he charged into the huddle during a timeout with 2:26 to go and shared his distaste for the fourth-quarter collapse loud and clear. Minutes later, defenseman Tyler Randolph collected a big ground ball in Voorhees' defending box and worked the ball to Zach Raposo. He moved behind the net and spotted a cutting Mastro, who unloaded a 12-yard bouncer to tie things at 9-9.
"Ben's gritty. He gets after it every single day in practice," Cullen said. "He's an emotional leader, a vocal leader. He came into the huddle after we went down by one and let everyone know they needed to step it up. He's going into the service. He's one of those people you really want defending our country."
Sophomore Will Gonsiewski won the faceoff the start overtime and found Alex Bianco, who slammed a shot off the crossbar 21 seconds in. Anthony Raposo retained possession behind the cage, saw daylight and rolled topside with 3:27 remaining.
"I took it to X to settle it down, saw the opportunity arise and just had to take it," Raposo said. "A redemption from missing one on the crease off the pipe earlier in the game."
Zach had the hottest hand at the Pit, but when he saw his brother in position at X, he knew the game should end without the ball ever touching another offensive stick.
"When he had it, I was kind of guessing he'd score it," Zach said. "I have confidence in him that he can beat anyone on the field, and I knew it would go in."
Anthony Raposo finished with two goals and one assist, giving him 21 goals and 11 assists over the last five games. He had two goals and an assist and Zach and Bianco each netted two goals, as well, in the Vikings' 10-5 victory over North Hunterdon in a regular season game April 30.
"They threw the ball away a few times in that last game," Zach Raposo said. "They were better at possessing today."
T.J. Marron tossed in four goals, Jake Connor had two and Joyce handed out four assists for North Hunterdon, while defenseman Stephen Soltesz and pole Eddie Delia led the ground ball effort for the Lions. Mastro and defenseman Ryan Short paced that department for Voorhees.
Zach Raposo scored two of the Vikings' first three goals to spur a 4-2 opening quarter and added a goal and two assists in the second as the lead grew to 7-4. He scored both in transition and on sweeps, and when North Hunterdon adjusted, Raposo did, too, by finding the cutters.
"He just set the tone. Just kept scoring and no one could stop him," Anthony Raposo said. "And when any of us were open on the crease, he got the assist. He's getting me some easy goals."
Collin Bravaco, Nick Ruggerio, Jack Olsen and Bianco all scored once for Voorhees. Collen Hogrebe and Shaine Schwarzmann scored once apiece for North Hunterdon.
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS