Marc Moreau had to go “very young” last spring.
The Rumson-Fair Haven High School boys’ lacrosse coach lost most of the talent from his 2017 team that went 21-4 and won the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group 2 sectional tournament championship. Rumson-Fair Haven won the state sectional title with a 5-4 victory over Manasquan High School.
That’s why it was stunning that the Bulldogs repeated as state sectional champions in 2018, beating Somerville High School, 12-6, in the sectional title game.
Rumson-Fair Haven lost to Summit High School, 9-1, in the Group 2 state championship game, but a group title would have been quite a surprise for a lineup of freshmen and sophomores.
This is all very scary for Rumson-Fair Haven’s rivals, because almost every player is back for 2019. Moreau has 14 varsity returners who saw significant time last spring.
Now the Bulldogs are a little better and a little less young. Their goal is not hard to figure out: win that group title, the game they lost last year.
“It’s certainly our goal,” Moreau said.
Moreau’s club is off to only a 1-4 start, but that’s by design. The coach stacks his early schedule with New Jersey powers like Chatham High School and Westfield High School, who have both beaten the Bulldogs in 2019.
It also usually takes the Bulldogs a few weeks to get used to lacrosse games, since so many of them play different sports in the fall and winter.
The culture at the Rumson school is to participate in multiple sports. School administrators believe students should be active. Rumson-Fair Haven coaches think different sports complement each other by building different skills and athletic characteristics.
Moreau believes this culture gives his program superior athletes, and that having great athletes is worth a few early season losses.
“It takes us awhile to get dialed in from a lacrosse standpoint,” Moreau said. “But this is a game of athletes. The best lacrosse player is never a kid that just plays lacrosse.”
Rumson-Fair Haven developed a lax lineup full of athletes last season, and it enters this season with clearly defined and established positions and roles.
Junior midfielder/ice hockey player Rowan Goldin was Rumson’s best all around player a year ago. He recorded 27 goals, 18 assists and 31 ground ball pick ups.
“He was our most consistent offensive player from beginning to end,” Moreau said. “Just a tremendously hard worker and he has a great IQ for the game.”
Sophomore midfielder/football player Patrick Jamin served as Moreau’s best two-way player last spring, racing back and forth between offense and defense. The wiry wide receiver is strong, deceptively quick with his cuts and lightning fast from end to end.
“He also has solid stick skills,” Moreau said.
Junior defender/football player/wrestler Liam Horan is the team’s defensive ace. He can take on and handle any scorer from the opposing team.
“There’s a real toughness that he brings to the position,” Moreau said. “As a wrestler, he’s used to being on an island and going hard the whole time.”
Those are Rumson-Fair Haven’s three best players, but there are plenty of other talented contributors as well, even some seniors. Two of Horan’s defensive mates, Ethan Ardolino and Jamie Goodwyn, are seniors.
So this squad is a strong mix of well rounded, experienced athletes. They also all have the same two goals: upholding the program’s standard and winning that elusive group title.
“To be playing our best in May,” Moreau said.