A year after winning its first playoff game, St. Augustine's lacrosse team will view for another first - a state championship.
The Hermits (19-2) will meet St. Joseph Metuchen (21-1) in Wednesday's 5 p.m. Non-Public A boys' lacrosse state final at Livingston High School.
In the Laxpower.com state rankings, St. Joseph Metuchen is No. 2 and St. Augustine is No. 3. The game should be as close as the rankings, even though St. Joseph eliminated St. Augustine, 10-6, in last year's state tournament.
St. Augustine is coming off one of its most impressive performances of the season with Saturday's 12-6 victory over Don Bosco Prep. On May 10, St. Joseph beat Don Bosco, 6-5, in overtime.
"Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence, but they also understand that this will be one of the toughest challenges," said St. Augustine coach J.C. Valore, whose team is ranked first in South Jersey by The Inquirer.
Both teams have strong offenses. St. Joseph's leading scorer is St. John's recruit Kevin Cernuto, who has 64 goals. Ed Lubowicki has scored 59.
"St. Joe's is a well-coached team that has a ton of talent," Valore said. "They have proven all year that they are able to compete at a very high level."
So has St. Augustine.
The Hermits' strength is their depth. Five players have more than 25 goals: Gabe Voumard (46 goals, 21 assists), Steve Pontrello (46 goals, 13 assists), Nikko Pontrello (34 goals, 57 assists), Jason Demato (28 goals, 36 assists), and Tim Dougherty (28 goals, 7 assists).
Midfielder Matt Macey, who had three goals and three assists against Bosco, has 19 goals and 10 assists.
St. Joseph Metuchen coach Marc Moreau said he was impressed with how well coached the Hermits were.
"They display a multidimensional offense that is difficult to defend because it is unpredictable," Moreau said. "Defensively, they are very solid whether they are in a zone or man to man."
Against Bosco, St. Augustine goalie Joe Gigantiello played an outstanding game, with 13 saves. He might need to be at his best to stop the dangerous St. Joseph Metuchen attack.
And likewise, the Falcons will need to keep St. Augustine's high scorers in check.
"What makes St. Augustine dangerous is they have a few individual players that can take over a game," Moreau said. "We have our work cut out for us."