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SEA GIRT -- Manasquan is playing without one of the best defensemen in New Jersey and fielding several first-year starters, but the Warriors proved they are still the same force to be reckoned with after an impressive victory over a fellow state-ranked opponent on Saturday.

Overwhelming work at the face-off X by senior Max Pauwels set the tone for a dominating first quarter when Manasquan opened a five-goal lead and surged to a 9-6 Shore Conference Class B South victory over Wall on Saturday morning at the Sea Girt Army Camp.

The Warriors, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Preseason Top 10, jumped out to a 5-0 lead after a first quarter in which the No. 4 Crimson Knights managed only one possession that lasted less than 30 seconds. Manasquan opened a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter, and even though Wall mounted a charge in the fourth quarter, it was a thorough victory for the three-time defending sectional champions over their bitter rival.

Tom Smith |
Tom Smith |

Pauwels won 13 of 17 draws to give Manasquan a major possession advantage and the Warriors' offense did the rest with a balanced attack that found room with deft passing and slick dodges against a formidable Wall defense. Senior midfielder Robert Pendergist, junior attackmen Matt Porazzo and James Farinacci, and junior midfielder Blake Gorski all tallied two goals and one assist while senior midfielder Niland DiLuchio scored once. Senior goalie Carter Groezinger played the first half in goal and needed to make only one save. Sophomore Nick Bounassi entered the net for the second half and finished with five saves.

"Everyone is getting involved, which is big," Farinacci said. "It makes it so hard for a defense when there are six guys who can score."

Wall was led by junior attackman John McCurry and his three goals. Senior midfielder Matt Dollive scored twice and sophomore midfielder William Madden scored once. Senior goalie Aidan Kessler made six saves.

It was no secret that Manasquan was going to have a significant edge at the face-off X with Pauwels, a Quinnipiac recruit who was a Second Team All-Shore selection last season. Instead of going with a regular FOGO, Wall tried to counter with standout LSM Dominick Giglio in an effort to tie up Pauwels and allow the wings to swoop in and collect the ground ball. It worked a few times through the game, but more often then not Pauwels was able to win the face-off clean.

His work plus a relentless ride by Manasquan that forced two turnovers contributed to a 6-0 run to start the game. Pendergist fought his way inside for an unassisted goal to start the scoring at 7:56 and Porazzo then made it 2-0 at the 4:48 mark. Gorski got his hands free and ripped one past Kessler at 3:37 to make it 3-0 and Porazzo then made it 4-0 when he grabbed a rebound off a long shot and tucked it in with 1:46 left in the quarter. With 12 seconds left in the first quarter, DiLuchio scored off a setup from Farinacci to complete an emphatic opening 12 minutes.

"That was key. That first quarter allowed us to relax in a sense and continue to run what we wanted to run," said Manasquan head coach Sean Cunningham. "Max had a great game and Parker Harms and Danny Hyland did, as well, coming off the wing. It all starts there, plus we got really good production in goal."

"We came out strong, Max was winning his face-offs, we had good goalie play, and we were able to build a big lead," said senior defenseman Ryan Bilello.

"The approach was to go at them fast early," Farinacci said. "Unfortunately in the last six minutes (of the game) we kind of slowed down and the adrenaline went away, but we'll learn from it and the next time we'll play a complete game."

Tom Smith |
Tom Smith |

DiLuchio's goal came with a flag down and when Pauwels won the ensuing face-off it allowed Manasquan to hold onto the ball and open the second quarter with possession. With 10 seconds left in the extra-man opportunity, Farinacci cut hard to the net and Pendergist found him with a great pass that Farinacci caught and shot in one motion to give the Warriors a 6-0 lead.

Wall finally got on the board with 6:57 left in the first half when Dollive scored an unassisted goal, but Manasquan answered with 2:47 on the clock when Porazzo sent a pass across the box to Farinacci, who blasted it home to give Manasquan a 7-1 lead which it took into the halftime break.

Wall had more possession in the third quarter and put up nine shots, four of which were saved by Bounassi. Gorski's second of the game made it 8-1 before McCurry made it 8-2 when he got the rebound of his own shot and charged back to the crease before finishing his second of the game. Manasquan got another EMO with 5:09 left in the third and converted when Pendergist scored off an assist from Gorski.

Tom Smith |
Tom Smith |

Despite Wall having a possession advantage in the second and third quarters, Manasquan's defense held strong with Bilello leading the way, Harms showcasing his great potential with his work at LSM, sophomore Kyle Cappadanno continuing his strong play, and senior Jack Burns also contributing, as well. It was a splendid effort without LeBlanc, a returning First Team All-Shore player who is still making his way back from a football injury.

"I think I've played every single game with Dylan since eighth grade so it's a little weird not having him out there," said Bilello, a Colgate recruit who was a Second Team All-Shore selection last season. "But it's a next-man-up mentality and you have to be ready to come out and play."

They did an excellent job," Cunningham said. "Jack Burns, we put a pole in his hand before the first scrimmage and he's done a great job. Ryan Burns is coming back, Shjay Keating just got back to full strength really this week. We've got depth there and we're just waiting on Dylan."

"It has forced guys to grow up and Kyle Cappadanno is a perfect example of that; Parker Harms, as well. Kyle Cappadanno is playing as well as any pole I've seen this year and Parker Harms, you saw today what the ceiling is for that young man. He's as good as any pole we've seen come through this program and that's saying something."

It was 9-2 going into the fourth quarter when Wall made a four-goal run. McCurry scored an EMO goal at 8:09 of the fourth when Manasquan was two men down and Madden scored at 6:12 to trim the Knights' deficit to 9-4. Manasquan had an EMO with 2:05 left to play but stepped out of the box with under two minutes left, giving possession to Wall. The Knights sprinted the other way and McCurry scored a man-down goal to make it 9-5. Dollive then scored with 59.5 seconds left to put the score at 9-6, but Pauwels won the following face-off and Manasquan was able to run out the clock.

The Warriors have major goals ahead of them, including Shore Conference, state sectional, and Group 2 championship aspirations. First on the list is always taking care of business within their division, and the win over Wall accomplishes the heavy lifting.

Box Score

No. 2 Manasquan 9, No. 4 Wall 6

Wall (2-1, 0-1)               0 1 2 4 -- 6

Manasquan (2-0, 1-0)  5 2 2 0 -- 9

GOALS -- W: John McCurry 3, Matt Dollive 2, William Madden; M: Robert Pendergist 2, Matt Porazzo 2, James Farinacci 2, Blake Gorski 2, Niland DiLuchio.

ASSISTS -- M: Robert Pendergist, Matt Porazzo, James Farinacci, Blake Gorski.

SAVES -- W: Aidan Kessler 6; M: Carter Groezinger 1, Nick Bounassi 5.

SHOTS: 23-23



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