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Four South Jersey lacrosse teams to play for state titles this week

The Moorestown boys' lacrosse team had just played its best game of the year, by far, in an 8-2 win at Ridgewood in the state Group 3 semifinals.

The Moorestown boys' lacrosse team had just played its best game of the year, by far, in an 8-2 win at Ridgewood in the state Group 3 semifinals.

But Quakers coach Baron Wallenhurst didn't take time to celebrate after the 90-minute ride back to Moorestown on Saturday.

Instead, the coach stepped off the team bus and into his own car, and he made another drive back north - this one to Ridge, where he scouted the other Group 3 semifinal between Morristown and Ridge.

"I think we logged about 400 miles that day," said Wallenhurst, whose fifth-seeded Quakers will play No. 2 Ridge at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Watchung Hills.

Wallenhurst and the other three area teams competing this week for state championships, including the St. Augustine boys and the Washington Township and Moorestown girls, owe much of their success to that type of round-the-clock dedication.

On Memorial Day, when many people were barbecuing, the Moorestown boys were out in the 90-degree heat practicing, trying to gain an edge on the team that had beaten them, 10-6, on April 5.

"That's what it takes to win a state championship," Wallenhurst said. "It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of focus. And it has to be your top priority.

"After we beat Ridgewood in the semifinals, I asked the team, 'What are your plans for this weekend?' and they said, 'We don't have any plans. We have practice.' "

Moorestown is the only South Jersey boys' lacrosse team to win a state title. The Quakers won the Tournament of Champions in 2001, and the Group 2 crown in 2008.

But Tuesday, the Quakers are one of two area boys' teams that stand as serious contenders to add to that total.

Second-seeded St. Augustine, appearing in its second straight Non-Public A title game, will face No. 1 Delbarton at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Livingston High.

The Hermits fell, 7-6, to St. Joseph Metuchen in this game last season.

But St. Augustine has seen marked progress at the end of almost every one of its eight varsity seasons, including advancing to the Non-Public A quarterfinals in 2008, semifinals in 2009, and championship game in 2010.

"We've gotten one step closer every year since I've been here," Hermits junior Steve Pontrello said. "This is what we've worked so hard for, and winning a state title would be amazing, especially for the seniors."

Contrary to boys' lacrosse, South Jersey is traditionally the state's hotbed for girls' lacrosse. Highlighting a slew of state group titles around the area is an unprecedented run by Moorestown, which won 10 consecutive Tournament of Champions crowns from 2000-09.

On Thursday, the Moorestown girls will play Mendham at 3 p.m. at Robbinsville for the Group 3 championship.

The Quakers fell to Mendham in a scrimmage before the season. But Moorestown, which has looked progressively stronger this season, isn't putting much stock in that loss.

"We need to come out with the same fight that we had" against Shawnee in the semifinals," Moorestown coach Deanna Knobloch said. "But we know it's going to be a tough battle."

Also Thursday, Washington Township will play Ridgewood for the Group 4 title at 4:30 p.m. at Ridge.

Washington Township enters the game as a major underdog against the defending Tournament of Champions winner.

But the Minutemaids have played consistent lacrosse this entire season. And a convincing run through the South Jersey tournament has Washington Township poised to play spoiler.

State Lacrosse Championships

Finals involving South Jersey teams.


Group 3 boys: No. 5 seed Moorestown vs. No. 2 Ridge, 7 p.m. at Watchung Hills.

Non Public-A boys: No. 2 St. Augustine vs. No. 1 Delbarton, 7 p.m. at Livingston.


Group 3 girls: Moorestown vs. Mendham, 3 p.m. at Robbinsville.

Group 4 girls: Washington Township vs. Ridgewood, 4:30 p.m. at Ridge.