VOORHEES – Lenape High School boys lacrosse coach Bill Sutphin had his thoughts on the future last season when he named Rob Pensabene as the team’s starting goalie.
Pensabene won the position in a competition with a senior because Sutphin wanted him to be varsity tested coming into his junior season.
“They were about the same, but we went with the younger guy,” said Sutphin, recalling his thought process at the time. “We wanted to groom him for this year because we had a good group this year. I wanted him to be ready at the varsity level.”
So far, Pensabene has made Sutphin look like a genius.
Not only did Pensabene play well enough last year to help the Indians reach the state Group 4 championship game, but he has carried his success over to this season.
He stopped 10 shots on Thursday as the Indians ran their record to 3-0 with a 9-0 win over Eastern in an Olympic Conference game.
Pensabene thinks, that just as planned, the experience he gained last season has helped him to get off to a fast start in his junior year.
But he speaks with guarded optimism when talking about his view of the season.
“I don’t what to say that, since I’ve been here before, I know what I’m expecting,” Pensabene said. “Each year it changes, and teams get better.
“You lose guys and you gain guys, but I came in more confident than last year because I knew we had a strong team.”
The Lenape team puts a lot of stock into playing good defense. In lacrosse, it’s the offensive players who get the most attention, and shutouts are extremely rare.
But, like in so many other sports, defense is key.
“With our team it’s back and forth,” said defender Brett Gallagher. “The offense is always trying to give us a cushion with goals, and we're always try to stay behind them and do what we do best – trying to stop goals in front of the net.”
The defenders believe if they play up to their expected level, the goalie will stand tall as the team’s last line of defense.
“Robbie was phenomenal,” said Dante Venuto. “It helps to know if you do get beat, Robbie has your back. He’s solid overall. He makes the saves, he clears, he talks a lot, which really helps hold the defensive together.”
Sutphin also mentioned communication as one of Pensabene’s strengths.
“He does a real good job of talking to the guys,” he said. “He’s vocal. Even though he’s only a junior he becomes a leader out there without being labeled a captain.”
Pensabene echos the sentiment.
“I think the best thing I do is talk,” he said. “The shots I get are very limited. When we talk, this (shutout) is exactly what happens.
“I trust all of the guys in front of me, so it gives men confidence because I know they’re going to help me out. This shutout would not have happened without them.”
While Pensabene did make some fine stops, especially late in the game to preserve the shutout, he didn’t need to be perfect.
He got plenty of offensive support, especially early in the game when the Indians scored on their first four shots to open a commanding lead.
Matt Lajoie got the scoring started less than two minutes into the game. followed quickly by goals from Mason Bregman, Dom Albanese, and Bryce Reese.
Bregman and Reese would go on to score two goals for the game, as did Matt Ingersoll -- both coming in the second quarter when Lenape opened a 7-0 halftime lead.
Will Mercardo added a fourth-quarter goal for the Indians to round out the scoring.
Eastern 0 0 0 0-0
Mason Bregman 2, Matt Ingersoll 2, Bryce Reese 2, Matt Lajoie, WIll Mecaro, Dom Albonesee.