LIVINGSTON, N.J. - There wasn't much to say after such a deflating loss.
But Jake Berkelbach, St. Augustine lacrosse team senior captain, said one thing over and over again in his parting words to his team: Just make sure you're back in this game next year.
The second-seeded Hermits (17-5) dropped the Non-Public A state championship game, 10-4, Thursday night to No. 1 Delbarton (16-5). But for the eight St. Augustine seniors, as it has been for every St. Augustine senior class, this season was about building and leaving a legacy.
"If you saw in the stands, my brothers - who played on this team - were out there [and]countless kids who used to play for this team were here supporting us today," Berkelbach said.
"We've gotten better every year since this program started [eight years ago]. And everyone was a part of that. So yes, this was a tough loss, but this program is still headed in the right direction, and we know we're going to win a state championship."
Ultimately, the Hermits couldn't overcome a six-goal, first-half deficit.
For the game's first five minutes, Delbarton held the ball, passing it around the net, patiently sizing up its opponent without taking a shot. When the Hermits finally took possession, with less than seven minutes left in the quarter, they struck, building a two-goal lead with more than four minutes left in the period.
Mike Sutton curved from the back of the cage and netted a shot behind his back to give his team a 1-0 lead with 5 minutes, 59 seconds left in the period. Steve Pontrello's laser beam less than two minutes later put the Hermits ahead by 2-0.
But with the exception of some strong saves by goalie Joe Gigantiello, Pontrello's goal was St. Augustine's last bright spot of the half.
Abandoning the patient approach with which it opened the game, Delbarton scored three goals in less than a minute midway through the first quarter.
All three were scored by long-stick midfielder Jack Breit. All were from six to 17 yards, and all happened too quickly for Gigantiello to react.
Breit and Clay Haarmann each finished with three goals for Delbarton.
"We just allowed them too many transition goals," Hermits coach J.C. Valore said. "We just didn't get back quick enough. We didn't win the ground ball war, and we didn't win the loose balls in the middle of the field."
Delbarton continued to control play before another scoring outburst led to an 8-2 halftime lead. Four of Delbarton's five second-quarter goals were scored in the final 1:47.
"I think we came out ready to play," Hermits senior Nikko Pontrello said. "But they kind of lulled us to sleep, and we lost a little bit of focus."
The Hermits continued fighting in the second half. They held possession for most of the third quarter, outscoring Delbarton by 2-0 on goals by Sutton and Nikko Pontrello.
Only the strong play of Green Wave goalie John Schisler ensured the Hermits didn't do more damage in the third.
"I was proud of the way we ended the third quarter," Valore said. "And I expected us to make a strong push in the fourth quarter."
But Delbarton had little trouble reestablishing momentum in the final period, scoring two unanswered goals.
St. Augustine 2 0 2 0 – 4
Delbarton 3 5 0 2 – 10
Goals: SA-Mike Sutton 2, Steve Pontrello, Nikko Pontrello; D-Jack Breit 3, Clay Haarmann 3, John Shaffer, Patrick Foley, Mike Donohue, Jack Molloy.
Saves: SA-Joe Gigantiello 10; D-John Schisler 8.