Middle marches into S.J. semifinal

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ALEX TERENIK CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The Middle Township High School boys lacrosse team is now in uncharted territory.

An impressive 14-6 victory after an early deficit over Manasquan Tuesday afternoon has sent the Panthers into the third round of the state tournament for the first time in program history. Middle, the third seed in the South Jersey Group I Tournament, is set to host 10th-seeded A.L. Johnson in a sectional semifinal on Thursday.

“This making school history is one thing,” said senior Alex Terenik, who scored three goals and chipped in an assist in the win over Manasquan. “But to be out there grinding with the guys every day and having it pay off is great. There’s no better feeling that this. This is what it’s all about.”

Middle (16-3) fell behind early but scored three times in the final three minutes of the first quarter to draw within a goal against Manasquan. The Panthers then scored again in the first minute of the second quarter to tie, before dominating the game from that point.

Middle outscored sixth-seeded Manasquan 11-2 after the first quarter.

“When we finally started scoring and got it back to 4-3 we knew we were in the game,” Middle coach Tom Griffin said.

Middle’s Jack Denis led all scorers with four goals and an assist. Adam Vaul matched Terenik’s output with three goals and an assist, Zach Buchanan scored twice and Thom DeMarco and Cody Stanford each added a goal. DeMarco also contributed two assists.

Tom Williams also made nine saves in goal, many of which came early when his teammates were trying to find their way.

“We tightened up defensively and offensively we started taking our time and we were passing the ball around and took good shots,” Griffin said. “But our goalie stood on his head. He made 10-bell saves on two shots early when we were down. He made nine saves and none of them were easy. He kept us in it early.”

Terenik, who will play at Division III Stevens Tech net year, led the way on the field. In addition to his scoring, the senior midfielder who now has a program-best 175 career goals made countless hustle plays throughout.

“Alex put on a clinic on how to play high school lacrosse,” Griffin said. “He was all over the place – diving for stuff, getting involved in every play. At one point I turned around to the younger kids on the bench and told them they better be watching this because this is how you win, with this type of effort.”

Middle opened the tournament with an easy 17-3 victory over Woodstown on Saturday. Terenik and Denis each scored four goals and DeMarco added three.

The two playoff victories come one year after Middle, as a fifth seed, was beaten at home in the first round by 12th-seeded Delaware Valley.

“To get the monkey off our back and finally win two playoff games, especially after what happened last year, which was very heartbreaking for the kids, it’s very rewarding,” Griffin said. “I think (Tuesday) the lesson we learned last year was in the back of our mind. These kids knew they had to keep playing after they got behind.”

Although seeded 10th, A.L. Johnson will be a formidable opponent, especially after dispatching two higher-seeded teams, including by 15-10 over West Deptford on Tuesday, in the earlier rounds.

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