The Southern Regional High School boys lacrosse team is the first-ever South Jersey Group IV champion.

And the Rams made it look easy.

The top-seeded Rams led by one after the first quarter but exploded in the final three quarters and cruised to a 19-5 win.

Southern (18-1), No. 4 in The Press Elite 11, will play either the North Jersey champion, either Ridge or Westfield who play today, in the state final on Wednesday at Somerville High School in Somerset County.

"Our expectations coming into the season were so high and finally we achieved our goals," junior attack Brendan Mullen said. "It's a great feeling."

Mullen scored six goals on Saturday and finished with as many goals in four sectional games as the Rams scored on Saturday (19).

"I'm just playing with heart, true heart," Mullen said. "I'm trusting my teammates and we're just playing as a family right now."

Southern outscored Monroe 6-0 in the second quarter and really took momentum when playing a man-down on a two-minute penalty.

The Rams not only killed off the penalty without allowing a single serious scoring chance, but turned it into a positive and scored a goal of their own.

Mullen carried deep behind Monroe's goal with Southern coach John Pampalone and company telling him to take his time to run time off the clock.

After letting his teammates set up, Mullen came out from behind the net with a defender draped all over him.

He dove in front of the net and beat Monroe keeper Sameer Verma for a goal and a 7-2 Southern lead.

Even defender Tim Ivancich got into the action with a goal in the second quarter. Faceoff specialist Billy Dowd scored twice directly off won faceoffs.

Seven different Rams scored goals on Saturday. The team scored at least 11 goals in all four sectional games and outscored opponents 59-17 along the way.

"It's what we are," Pampalone said of the team's versatility. "We score in so many different spots and we have such unselfish kids."

Mullen led the way with six. Dylan Jinks continued his solid play with four goals. Manzo finished with a hat trick. Tyler Lipositz continued to do a nice job of setting up the action and finished with a goal and five assists.

"It's unbelievable on the biggest stage in a South Jersey title game," Pampalone said. "To come out and play like that, scoring from so many different areas - it's unbelievable, it really is."

Monroe was seeded sixth and advanced to Saturday's final with impressive wins against third-seeded Freehold Township and second-seeded Jackson Memorial.

The Falcons actually scored the first goal of the game and were tied 2-2 midway through the first when Joey Collins scored the first of his four goals (Collins assisted the other).

Monroe seemed to be just a step slower than the Rams all over the field in the final three quarters.

"We just got out of sync after the first quarter," Monroe coach Joe Yannone said. "We weren't getting to their shooters fast enough. I thought they were moving the ball around the zone quickly, and we just weren't reacting. We weren't getting on their hands fast. We weren't sliding over and we weren't putting pressure on them."

Pampalone was doused with the team's water cooler after the big win on a chilly day.

He didn't seem to mind.

"This is just a great group of kids," Pampalone said. "We talked about expectations and it's been a tough season because we've never been the hunted.

"We put such huge expectations on ourselves and at some points, it was trying. I told them yesterday, 'Go out loose, have fun and play because you've done everything you needed to.' And boy, today they did."

Contact Michael McGarry:


Monroe 2 0 3 0-5

Southern Regional 3 6 7 3-19

Goals-Collins (4), Parke M; Mullen (6), Jinks (4), Manzo (3), Dowd (2), McManus (2), Lipositz, Ivancich SR.

Goalies-Verma (5) M; Lefanto (6) SR.

Records-Monroe 14-9; Southern 18-1.

Here's a look at Southern's run to the State Group IV final on Wednesday at Somerville High School in Somerset County

May 18 – First round

(1) Southern Regional 15, (16) Toms River North 0

Dylan Jinks leads the Rams with four goals and four assists. Brendan Mullen adds two goals and four assists and Tyler Lipositz two and two. Sophomore goalie Brendan Lefanto stops 10 shots in the shutout.

Tuesday – Quarterfinals

(1) Southern Regional 14, (8) Egg Harbor Township 5 Mullen and Jinks each scored their 100th career goals. Mullen finished with five and Jinks three. Lipositz added two goals and five assists. Lefanto had eight saves.

Thursday – Semifinal

(1) Southern Regional 11, (5) Lenape 7

Mullen scored a career-high six goals and added an assist. Jinks and Lipositz each had a goal and three assists. Lefanto had eight saves.

Saturday – Final

(1) Southern Regional 19, (6) Monroe 5

Mullen tied his career high with six goals and had two assists. Jinks had four goals and two assists and Lipositz a goal and five assists. Lefanto finished with six saves as the Rams won the first South Jersey Group IV title.