Ramapo defeats Ridgewood to win Bergen County tournament championship by Jim McConville special to The Record
MAHWAH – For Ramapo, the Bergen County boys lacrosse tournament final was a chance to exorcise a number of demos, both all-time and recent. The Raiders knew it would take a huge effort against two-tine defending champion Ridgewood.
The game couldn’t have played out better for Ramapo. The Raiders got an early lead, increased it in the second quarter and played a solid defensive game that kept the Maroons from catching up.
The 6-5 victory gives Ramapo its first county championship since the inaugural tournament in 2007, when current head coach Tom Albano was a player for a Ridgewood team that chose not to enter the tournament.
Girls lacrosse: Lakeland makes history with 3rd straight Passaic County title
Earlier in the tourney: Late saves by Ben Pounds send Ridgewood to BCT final
Albano never went to a county final until last year, refusing to come to the game until his team got him there. The Raiders were ahead at halftime by two only to see Ridgewood beat them, 8-5.
They went up again, and this time the defense and goaltender Johnny Caponi made sure there would be no repeat of last year.
“We had a long talk before the game,” Albano said. “We talked a lot about how everyone talks about Ridgewood’s defense and we took that personally. We truly believe we have the best goaltender in the state and we have one of the top defenses. We wanted to prove that,”
Early on, it looked as if the offense was going to be the feature unit, as Matt Karsian got the first goal of the game. Long stick middie Luke Simpson drew Ridgewood even on the next possession, but the Maroons would not score for more than 20 minutes after that.
Will Hartgers got two first-period goals, the latter with 10.9 seconds left in the period and Karina collected a pair of second-period goals that had Ramapo up 5-1 with 3:24 left in the first half.
Meanwhile, Ridgewood was being frustrated by the Ramapo defense and Caponi, who finished with 10 saves. The Maroons could not create any open space and had only two shots in the first quarter.
“We changed the defense today,” Caponi said. “When we played them earlier this year (a 13-8 loss), we started in a man and ended up going to a zone. Today, we played a zone but it was a different zone. (Anthony) Mirkovic really closed down the left side.”
Mirkovic was injured, as was Blake Eischen, when they played Ridgewood the last time and Albano said: “We’re still not completely healthy, but having those guys in there makes a big difference. Eischen is the glue to the offense and we’re much more fluid with him. Mirkovic takes the lefty shooters out of games.”
Ridgewood got a late second-period goal from Vince Riggio to close within 5-2 at halftime, but Eischen was set up at the right post by Ryan Sisti with 6:45 left in the third to make it 6-2. That goal came after a nearly five-minute possession by Ramapo to begin the half.
Paul Calvetti scored in the third period to make it 6-3, but the Ramapo defense continued to harass the Maroon attackers. Will Mollihan scored with 4:34 remaining to get Ridgewood within two, and the Maroons closed within a goal with 59.7 seconds left on a Jack Barclay tally.
James Hogan won the faceoff (he was 11-of-15 in the game) and Ridgewood got a shot from Dan Gioia that was wide left with 19 seconds left. The Maroons then turned it over with 12 seconds left, sealing Albano’s first-ever victory over Ridgewood and his former coach (Mike Pounds took over in his sophomore year). He was previously 0-8 against his former school.
“We came into this year (off of a Group 3 finals appearance in 2017) and we struggled with last year’s success,” Albano said. “Now I feel like we are peaking at the right time, tournament time. Getting this one puts Ramapo lacrosse in that class of elite teams; now we have to back that up.”