Despite having just one team still undefeated in late April, Somerset and Union Counties are stocked full of contenders, with six teams — Immaculata, Pingry, Ridge, Somerville, Bridgewater-Raritan and Westfield — in the statewide Top 20, according to LaxPower.com.
And with the competition so fierce on a day-to-day basis, no team is safe from a loss — just ask defending state champion Ridge.
Last week, the Red Devils took a 14-6 home thumping from Pingry. In fact, Ridge has lost three games this season, but all three are to local foes — Immaculata, Pingry and Somerville — that have their sights set on deep postseason runs.
Pingry earned yet another convincing victory on Wednesday, going on the road and handling Bridgewater-Raritan by an 11-6 score. The Big Blue, who sit in second place in the Delaware Division behind Immaculata, has yielded just six goals per game this season.
But Somerville, the lone squad still undefeated and one of just seven teams statewide without a loss, earned a statement win over Ridge on April 7, and a triple-overtime victory over New Providence nine days later.
The Pioneers, No. 1 in the Courier News’ Top 5, aren’t focused on simply running the table in the Raritan Division, according to head coach Gilman Eaton.
“We don’t even speak about those kinds of things. We just go out there and play lacrosse one game at a time and we don’t think about being undefeated,” Eaton said. “Lacrosse is an iffy game; you’ve seen the teams in the Delaware Division beat each other up and those scores are all over the place. In order for us to go deep into the postseason, we just need to play four quarters at our best. That’s what we’ve learned and we’ll certainly draw from that win over Ridge when we need to.”
For Immaculata, a trio of brothers have led the way to an 8-2 start. Chandler, Connor and Griffin Vanderbeek have scored 67 percent (72 of 106) of the Spartans’ goals so far this season, with Griffin’s 23 leading the way.
Chandler has netted 21 and Connor has added 18 for Immaculata, which has dropped just a 5-3 decision to Watchung Hills in an otherwise perfect campaign against New Jersey opponents (they have a loss to Georgetown Prep of Washington D.C. as well).
The Somerset County Tournament gets underway in the first week of May, which will allow some crossover games between Delaware and Raritan Division foes to test how well they stack up against one another.
Westfield, last season’s runner-up in the Union County Tournament, figures to be in good shape come tournament time, with convincing victories over Scotch Plains-Fanwood (15-6) and Hillsborough (10-3) in late March. Although the Blue Devils have found winning to be tough lately – they have losses in two straight, including one to perennial state-power and last year’s UCT champ Summit – matchups with Delaware Division squads will litter the remainder of their regular season schedule.
If it can get solid scoring from Luke Prybyiski (25 goals, 10 assists) and Pat Decker (23 goals, 8 assists), Westfield should be a force next month.