Shawnee snatches South Jersey Group III championship back from Moorestown

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Shawnee and Moorestown battling down to the wire for the South Jersey Group III boys’ lacrosse championship is quickly becoming an annual tradition.

For the third year in a row, the two teams faced off in the title game. For the third year in a row, the game was decided by one goal. For the second time in three years, the game went to overtime.

This year, it was Shawnee coming out on top. After dropping the 2014 South Jersey Group III title game to Moorestown, 10–9, the Renegades got their revenge, defeating the Quakers, 8–7, in double overtime on May 23 for their first sectional championship under second-year head coach Erik Stilley. David Smith scored the game-winning goal for Shawnee to bring home the title.

Stilley said the three-year battle with Moorestown has brought the best out of both schools. He felt both teams were evenly matched.

“This year was a little more neck and neck,” Stilley said. “It’s whoever brings the better game.”

Shawnee’s 2015 success can be credited to the emergence of a number of key players. Sophomore goalie Ryan Miller stood tall in his first season in net. An attacker as a freshman, Miller shifted to goalie this year and won the starting job for the varsity team. Stilley felt Miller learned the position and improved greatly as the season went on.

“He really progressed throughout the year,” Stilley said.

Defensively, Stilley was impressed with the play of senior Jack Warren, who he felt was one of the team’s most improved players during the season.

“He really had a great season for us,” Stilley said. “He played his role into a really high ability.”

Senior captain Jack Tyrell led the offense, especially during the Renegades’ run in the playoffs. Tyrell had four goals in Shawnee’s South Jersey Group III semifinal win over Princeton and scored twice in the game against Moorestown.

“During the playoff run, he really stepped up for us,” Stilley said.

Shawnee’s accomplishments go beyond individual performance. The team was strong throughout the regular season, finishing undefeated in Olympic Conference play. This included two wins each against Lenape and Cherokee, the two finalists in South Jersey Group IV.

Shawnee also had a number of non-league games against top boys’ lacrosse schools such as St. Augustine and Salesianum in Delaware. Stilley said the strong schedule was created to help prepare the team for the postseason.

“It was a big importance for us,” Stilley said about the schedule. “Our conference was really tough this year.”

Shawnee advanced to the Group III state championship game for the third time in school history, where it lost to North Jersey powerhouse Ridgewood, 15–5, on May 27. Stilley said the loss was disappointing, as his team got off to a slow start and was down seven goals at halftime.

“I didn’t think we played our best game,” he said. “We scored the first goal and thought we’d get some energy going.”

Despite coming up short of a state title, the sectional championship was a big deal for the seniors and Stilley. Stilley joined the coaching staff in 2012 and said seeing the first group of players he’s coached for all four years graduate with a sectional title is special.

“It was a big deal for those guys,” Stilley said. “That was my freshman group when I came in, so getting to create success is really special.”