Marc Narducci: Hermits' frenzied rally comes up a goal short
St. Augustine trailed St. Joseph Metuchen by 6-1 in the fourth quarter - and lost, 7-6.
LIVINGSTON, N.J. - There was no ranting and raving about the potential lost opportunities. At the end, St. Augustine lacrosse coach J.C. Valore accented the positive, which consisted of the final quarter of Wednesday's NJSIAA Non-Public A boys' lacrosse championship at Livingston High.
The first three-plus quarters didn't go as planned, and even with a late charge, the Hermits fell a goal short in their first state final.
St. Joseph Metuchen rode to a 6-1 lead after three quarters and held off the charging Hermits, 7-6.
Valore told his players he couldn't say anything to make them feel better, but he gave it a great effort.
He said he was proud how they played until the final second, which couldn't come quickly enough for St. Joseph.
"The resolve we showed over the final six-plus minutes is pretty comforting," Valore said. "It's frustrating to lose, but for us to get back after 31/2 quarters showed a lot."
While Valore was searching for the exact words to tell his team, St. Joseph coach Marc Moreau could only sum things up with one word: "Whew."
Here was one relieved coach when the clock finally hit zero.
"We didn't think they would go away," said Moreau, whose team is 22-1. "They kept battling and fighting, and I'm glad the fourth quarter was only 12 minutes long."
For the Hermits, each of the first three quarters was 12 minutes too long.
By unofficial accounts, St. Augustine hit the post a half-dozen times in the game. It also didn't help that St. Joseph goalie Harry Burke made some outstanding saves.
St. Augustine outscored St. Joseph, 5-1, in the fourth quarter and closed the gap to 7-6 on Tommy O'Neill's goal with 5.7 seconds left.
The Hermits' Gabe Voumard was then awarded the ball on the face-off after an illegal-procedure call. Voumard flung the ball into a crowd of players as time ran out.
"We played the fourth quarter like we played the season," Voumard said.
Which meant in dominating fashion, for a 19-3 team that is ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer.
There was another simple reason that the Hermits fell just short - St. Joseph Metuchen is an outstanding team. The Falcons are ranked No. 2 in the state by laxpower.com, one spot ahead of St. Augustine.
St. Joe's unyielding defense stymied St. Augustine in the first three quarters. On the other end, St. John's University recruit Kevin Cernuto was the Falcons' catalyst with one goal and three assists.
Too many times a team focuses on what it did wrong. How about all that the opponent did right?
In years past, St. Augustine might not have been able to stand toe-to-toe with a state power such as the Falcons. That wasn't the case this year.
No doubt, St. Augustine would like to have those first three quarters back, just as the Falcons wouldn't mind trading in the final 12 minutes.
That's not the way it works. One team walks off the field with a true sense of satisfaction, and the other seeks solace any possible way.
"We were flat the first half," said St. Augustine sophomore Steven Pontrello, who had two goals. "We made a great comeback that came up just short."
Aborted comebacks are especially disheartening in the final game of the season, but the Hermits never stopped competing or battling.
That's why the character displayed by the Hermits to the end, instead of the result of the final game, should be how this year's team is defined.