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For St. Augustine lacrosse, greater expectations

A year ago, winning the first playoff game in school history was a big deal to St. Augustine's lacrosse team. Now, the Hermits have raised the expectation level much higher.

A year ago, winning the first playoff game in school history was a big deal to St. Augustine's lacrosse team. Now, the Hermits have raised the expectation level much higher.

Maybe that explains why the Hermits weren't overtly celebrating after Saturday's 12-6 victory over Don Bosco Prep in the state Non-Public A semifinals.

This year, St. Augustine has won two playoff games and will be making its first state-title appearance in the varsity program's seven-year history. The second-seeded Hermits (19-2), who are ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, will meet top-seeded St. Joseph Metuchen.

The state final will be Wednesday at Livingston High, with the time to be determined.

A year ago, there was simply relief that a playoff win was finally secured. Relief has been replaced by belief.

Winning playoff games has become old-hat. Securing a state title is the goal.

"It's great to win this game and get the chance to play in the state championship, but right now this is not the time to celebrate," said St. Augustine sixth-year coach J.C. Valore, whose team was eliminated in last year's state tournament by St. Joseph Metuchen.

For so long when a boys' lacrosse team from South Jersey has faced one from the more established Central or North Jersey, the Southern squad has frequently been a huge underdog.

That doesn't appear to be the case this time.

St. Joseph Metuchen (21-1) beat Don Bosco, 6-5, in overtime May 10, and while comparative scores can be dangerous to use, they indicate that St. Augustine should be more than competitive.

"It should be a great state final with a lot of scoring," Don Bosco coach Mike Springer said. "Both have powerful offenses."

Springer said St. Augustine's depth is among its most impressive traits. The Don Bosco coach said he entered the game attempting to take out three of the Hermits' big guns: brothers Nikko and Steven Pontrello and Gabe Voumard. The three combined for just three goals, although Nikko Pontrello added four assists.

What Springer did was dare others to beat him, and St. Augustine senior midfielder Matt Macey was more than willing to oblige.

Macey scored the game's first goal, and had three goals and three assists.

"You look at it as a challenge when they try to shut down certain guys," Macey said. "I think this is one of the best games I have ever played."

Another person who met the challenge was sophomore goalie Joe Gigantiello, who made 13 saves, many of them difficult.

"When either the goalie or defense makes big saves, the team is able to feed off that," Gigantiello said. "It helps everybody, and helps us go on runs."

What a run it was.

After a 1-1 first quarter, St. Augustine scored the game's next eight goals.

Even when Don Bosco scored four times in the final six minutes of the third quarter to cut the lead to 9-5, St. Augustine promptly put things away by scoring the first three of the fourth quarter.

It was a business-like effort with the same type of reaction afterwards.

The days of being happy at one or two playoff wins are long gone.

Don Bosco   1 0 4 1 – 6

St. Augustine   1 4 4 3 – 12

Goals: DB-Frank Gaul, Matt King, Andrew Parrilla 2, Nils Hansen 2; SA-Matt Macey 3, Tim Dougherty 2, Jason Demato 2, Steven Pontrello 2, Tommy O'Neill 2, Gabe Voumard.

Saves: DB-Dan Whittam 8; SA-Joe Gigantiello 13.