Immaculata shuts out Somerville in SCT semifinal

SOMERVILLE — The latest chapter of the local rivalry between the Somerville and Immaculata High School boys lacrosse programs was decidedly one-sided in Saturday’s Somerset County Tournament semifinal. Right from the start, top-seeded Immaculata stuck it to the Pioneers, eventually running away with a 13-0 shutout victory and earning a spot in the county final next Thursday.

Senior Joe Riccadonna manned the net for Immaculata (12-2) and made seven saves in what he said was the first shutout of his career. But even after pitching a shutout in a semifinal round of the county tournament, Riccadonna was quick to give praise to others.

“I’m very impressed with my defense in front of me and my teammates in general,” Riccadonna said. “We knew what we needed to do, in shutting down their No. 6 (Logan LeBlond) and we did that. The defense played very well today and I came out fired up. I knew as soon as I put the helmet on and warmed up that it was going to go our way.”

LeBlond, Somerville’s leading scorer, had very few quality looks at the net, as the Immaculata defense constantly double-teamed him and prevented the Pioneers from getting going.

While the defense was busy shutting down LeBlond – who entered play with 79 points – and his attackmates, the Spartans offense was clicking on all cylinders. Chandler Vanderbeek netted four goals, twin brother Connor added a pair and Mark Swintek led all scorers with two goals and five assists.

“Mark is our best passer and he does that every game. I can’t go into words about the kinds of passes he makes. He’s unbelievable,” Chandler Vanderbeek said. “We knew, coming out, that we’d have to play patient and control the pace of the game. That’s exactly what we did and we executed the game plan.”

Jacob VanLeenen chipped in a goal and three assists and Wyatt Agaisse netted a pair of goals for the Spartans. The third Vanderbeek – Griffin, a year younger than Chandler and Connor – added a goal and an assist.

It wasn’t until late in the second quarter when the game got fully away from Somerville (11-4). Through the first quarter and a half, Immaculata only led 3-0, but the Spartans got goals from four different players in the final 6:23 of the half to pull away.

“We knew coming in, that Somerville was going to be in a zone and we knew we’d have to bring our game, because we saw them play Bridgewater and when they got on top early, they had all of the momentum and ran away,” Chandler Vanderbeek said. “We knew that we needed to get off to a quick start, and if it was us or them, it would play a big role in the game. It helped us the rest of the game to get better throughout the game.”

With the schools less than a mile apart, there was added incentive to come out with the win, at least in Riccadonna’s eyes.

“It was fun playing against Somerville in the semifinals and by beating them, they’re just right down the street, and we’re big rivals with them, so getting this win was exciting and this is our time to shine,” he said.

The Spartans will play the winner of Pingry and Ridge in Thursday’s final at Ridge High School. The opening faceoff of the final is scheduled for 7 p.m.

But with so long between games – four days is irregular at this time of the year – Immaculata knows it has to keep working.

“We just need to stay focused over these next four days, because we still have work to do; we’re not perfect,” Chandler Vanderbeek said.

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