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ROBBINSVILLE — The Robbinsville boys lacrosse program appears to be on the cusp of accomplishing something special in Mercer County.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, this young and talented core group will have to wait at least one more year for the breakthrough.
Eighth-seeded Robbinsville squandered a three-goal lead in the fourth quarter and fell to ninth-seeded Seneca, 10-9, Friday afternoon at the Steven J. Mayer Athletic Complex in the first round of the South Jersey Group II Tournament.
“It came down to the small details, the little things about the game of lacrosse that we’ve been kind of hard on them all year,” coach John Demkovitz said. “I thought the last couple weeks we were playing the best possible lacrosse we could play, and just today we didn’t have it. We didn’t do the little things right, and Seneca wanted it more. And when it comes to playoff lacrosse, it’s any given day — anybody can walk away with the victory. Hats off to them. They didn’t give up.”
It was a bitter end for Robbinsville (14-6), which set the school record for wins and total goals scored (247, most in the CVC). But the positive is that the entire team is set to return next season aside from one senior.
“It’s basically the same team last year, and from last year to this year, we made a huge jump,” Demkovitz said. “As long as they learn from this and grow from this, I don’t see why we can’t be a top team in the state next year.”
Juniors Owen Embley (three goals) and Lukas Hutt (two goals) led a crisp attack for the Ravens, who assisted on all nine of their goals. Freshman Devin Dzwolak, freshman Alex Giordano, junior Luke Hanuscin and junior Alex Odenheimer each netted one goal.
Seneca (8-9), though, was able to rally from an 8-5 deficit going into the fourth quarter thanks to a flurry of three goals in the first six minutes. Dzwolak briefly put Robbinsville back ahead 9-8 with 6:00 remaining, but Seneca pulled ahead 10-9 with 1:46 left and came up with a big save on Robbinsville’s final possession with 10 seconds on the clock.
“I wouldn’t blame the defense for anything,” Demkovitz said. “We got caught in chaotic situations. We really pride ourselves on controlling the game. We like to play it 6-on-6 on both ends of the field. Time of possession we had to absolutely own, and just when it comes down to the little things in those chaotic situations, they matter more. I think they probably beat us in the groundball battle, and when you don’t win the games within the game, it’s really, really hard to come out on top.”
Dzwolak finished the season with a team-high 47 goals, and Hutt led the Ravens with 63 assists. Overall, nine players contributed at least 10 points and six scored at least 20 goals — and all of them will be back in the mix next spring.
“We’ve told these guys, especially this junior class who are now seniors, that we’re gonna throw the kitchen sink at them next year and they’re gonna get challenged every single day and by every single opponent,” Demkovitz said. “Day in and day out, we’re gonna make sure that we play the best because we truly believe we can be the best next year.”
The hope is that more experience will lead to more consistency. Robbinsville hurt its state tournament seeding with four losses in five games earlier this month.
The Ravens regrouped from their loss to Princeton in the Mercer County Tournament quarterfinals with wins over Pennington, Holy Spirit and North Hunterdon before Friday, but now the program wants more success in the state tournament.
“We’re close, we’re knocking on the door. I think that’s the hardest part when it comes down to all of it is, when are we just going to knock the door down?” said Demkovitz, who has 50 wins and two state tournament wins in five seasons. “We’re knocking, we’re knocking, we’re knocking, we’re scratching, clawing, and we’re just looking for that breakthrough. They have an awesome opportunity for them next year if they want to take it because we all feel like we’re prepared. We’ve just got to go out and we’ve just got to take it and execute at the end of the day.”
Seneca (8-9) 2 2 1 5 — 10
Robbinsville (14-6) 2 4 2 1 — 9
Goals — Horner 3, Hasson 3, Locantore 2, Fearon, Valenzano (S), Embley 3, Hutt 2, Dzwolak, Giordano, Hanuscin, Odenheimer (R).
Assists — Locantore 3, T. Mikulski, Hasson, Horner (S), Dzwolak 3, Hutt 3, Odenheimer 2, Strand (R).
Shots — 19 (S), Robbinsville 19 (R).
Saves — C. Mikulski 10 (S), Coyle 9 (R).
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