In a sport as high-scoring as high school boys’ lacrosse, it can be easy to look directly to the offensive numbers and pass by what is happening on the defensive end.
West Deptford High School junior goalie Brendan Gill understands that, but also knows his job is to make the big saves when called upon.
Gill—a first-year varsity goalie—did exactly that Thursday afternoon, playing like a veteran in the Eagles 13-6 win over the Red Bank Buccaneers in the first round of the NJSIAA Group 1 playoffs.
West Deptford saw an 8-3 lead shrink to 8-6 in the later stages of the third quarter, when Gill made a big save to prevent the Buccaneers from closing within a goal. Less than a minute later, attacker Mike Reardon fired home his third goal of the game and the Eagles were back on their way to their second home playoff win in as many years.
“They came out with momentum in the second half and put a couple of goals in,” Gill said. “If I let them score another goal, then they would have more momentum. Once I shut them down, we were right back in it.”
“Whenever you get one of those goals where your goalie makes a big save and you come down the other side and finish, it’s just a huge boost,” West Deptford coach Mike Yarusso said. “It’s one of those goals where at the end of the day, it’s a back-breaker for those kids (from Red Bank), because you are working so hard to get (a goal), and then it ends up going in the back of your goal.
"It’s hard to recover from that.”
Reardon’s goal gave the Eagles a 9-6 lead to start the fourth and Zach Kaestner expanded the lead with a tally 1:24 into the fourth quarter. The goal all but ended any hopes Red Bank had of getting back in the game.
“Every time we score, it's more momentum,” said Kaestner. “That’s the way we have been playing the last few games. We get a goal and we keep going and going, and we are hard to stop.”
Kaestner and Reardon each finished with a hat trick, while Ryan Monaghan had two goals for the 13th-seeded Eagles. West Deptford will hit the road Tuesday for a quarterfinals matchup with No. 4 Rumson, which is undefeated.
Red Bank looked like it would be a serious threat to West Deptford early on, jumping out to a 2-1 lead late in the first period. However, Mike Reardon scored with 58 and 21 seconds remaining and Nick Reardon added a goal 10 seconds into the second quarter.
That’s when Gill began to settle in.
“I was getting a lot more comfortable,” Gill said. “Every time I step in the net, the deeper the game gets, the more comfortable I feel. It’s just the way I think.”
“He’s a first-year player and he is doing really good,” said Kaestner. “We are just glad to have him.”
Gill deflected the credit and said he is just doing his part.
“I just tried to play my game and step up for the seniors,” Gill said. “That’s what I’m here for. It’s their year, and I’m just trying to do as much as I can to keep us in the playoffs.
Red Bank made one final charge in the third period, but could never get over the hump as West Deptford punched its ticket to the second round.
“They were a tough team,” said Yarusso. “They kept coming for four quarters, and fortunately we were able to build a little lead there, which gave us some momentum that we were able to hang on to.”