SOMERVILLE – For the first time since before any of the active members of the team were born, the Westfield High school boys lacrosse team has won a state championship.
Behind the stellar play of its defense and seven goals combined between Pat Aslanian and Luke Prybylski, Westfield defeated Southern Regional, 10-6, Wednesday for the NJSIAA Group IV title at Somerville High School.
The North Group IV champion Blue Devils hadn’t won a state title since taking back-to-back titles in 1986 and 1987, and the school wasn’t able reach a group final since 1988.
“I’m really, really happy for these guys. It’s been a while since we’ve been here, but this is the expectation for Westfield lacrosse moving forward and we plan on being here every year going forward,” Westfield coach Pat Tuohy said. “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys; we had a tough middle of the season, and they just showed their heart and character and never put their head down and they always came back. It was very impressive.”
Against the South Group IV champion, Westfield (12-9) got off to a flying start in the opening quarter, outscoring Southern 4-2, as the teams traded goals in the final 34.4 to close the stanza. Pat and Chris Aslanian had teamed with Prybylski to get the Blue Devils off to a 3-0 start in the first 7:20 of the game, but Chris Smith netted a pair of man-up goals to bring the Rams within one.
Prybylski scored an unassisted goal with 8.2 seconds left in the quarter to give his squad just a bit of breathing room going forward.
“It was huge to get that goal; we were able to separate ourselves and we never looked back. We felt like we were the better team and I think we showed it,” Prybylski said. “We’ve been so close the last couple of years and finally being able to break the barrier is great for this town; Westfield is going to be back on the map for the next few years.”
Prybylski and Pat Aslanian each scored in the second quarter, sandwiching a Brendan Mullen goal, to send Westfield into the half up 6-3, and despite only outscoring Southern 4-3 in the second half, the damage was done.
The Westfield defense, which came into play allowing 8.15 goals per game, shut down a potent Southern (20-3) attack – one that featured three 50-plus goal scorers on the season. Dylan Jinks, who has more than 300 points in his career for the Rams, was held to just one goal and two assists and Shawn McManus – who entered the game with 50 goals and 41 assists – netted just one second-half goal.
“I don’t care who you’ve played; anybody that comes in with a 20-2 record, that doesn’t happen by accident. I don’t care who you are,” Tuohy said. “Lacrosse itself is spreading across this state, and the sport is really flourishing down there like it is up here, so it’s only a matter of time until these games become even.”
Southern made a charge in the fourth quarter, at one point cutting the lead to 8-6, but Pat Decker and Pat Aslanian each netted goals in the minutes following McManus’s goal to clinch the win for Westfield.
With the win, Westfield will be one of the six teams left standing, and will take part in the Tournament of Champions – which will get underway on Saturday with a double-header at Bridgewater-Raritan High School. The Blue Devils, winners of six in a row, won’t be an easy out for any of the other group champions.
“It’s such a surreal feeling; it hasn’t even set in yet,” Pat Aslanian said. “We’re so excited to move along to the Tournament of Champions.”