Team of the Year: St. Augustine Prep

They got better and better.

The Hermits of St. Augustine Prep were better in 2009 than in 2008. They were better in 2010 than in 2009.

The Hermits played some of their best lacrosse in May, beating Moorestown in a clash of South Jersey titans, taking apart state powers Columbia and Peddie, and topping Non-Public rivals Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco Prep to advance to the state finals for the first time in the history of the program.

"Everything was geared toward being ready to play our best lacrosse at the end of the year," said St. Augustine Prep coach J.C. Valore, whose squad was a clear choice as the Team of the Year.

St. Augustine Prep's improvement has been steady. In 2008, the Hermits were a solid South Jersey squad that lost in the first round of the state tournament. In 2009, the Hermits were even better, winning the first tournament game in the history of the program.

This season was a breakthrough, even though the Hermits believe they left some unfinished business on the field in a 7-6 loss to St. Joseph's of Metuchen in the Non-Public A state championship game.

Valore loaded up the schedule. The Hermits' only losses before the state final were to Haverford School (Pa.) and Lawrenceville Prep, two established lacrosse powers.

St. Augustine defeated St. Joseph's Prep of Philadelphia (10-9) and Malvern (Pa.) Prep (10-5) as well as South Jersey rivals Shawnee (13-4) and Moorestown (11-6).

Senior midfielder Gabe Voumard, the Player of the Year, led the way with 47 goals and 21 assists. But this was a balanced team with a high-powered offense that also included sophomore Steve Pontrello (48 goals) and junior Nikko Pontrello (36 goals, 59 assists) as well as seniors Matt Macey (19 goals), Tim Dougherty (28 goals) and Jason Demato (28 goals, 36 assists).

Senior Ben Vessels led the defense that fronted sophomore goalie Joe Gigantiello (.640 save percentage).

   - Phil Anastasia