Youthful spark has Bridgewater-Raritan winning

Coming off a season in which it won just five games, the Bridgewater-Raritan High School girls lacrosse team has used a youth infusion to race out to a 7-1 record.

Led by freshman sensation Ally Mastroianni and a five-pack of classmate starters, the Panthers have already won more games in 2014, but head coach Kathie DeBonis knew what she was getting with this first-year class.

“I have been watching this group of young ladies since they were in fifth grade and I’ve seen them at camps and I knew they were a special group coming up,” DeBonis said. “We had high expectations for them and we have the speed and the size, but we’re developing the game sense and we’re still solidifying the confidence.”

Mastroianni has already scored 39 goals and added 28 assists for 67 points in the Panthers’ first eight games. DeBonis said that she was aware of Mastroianni’s skill from when she was younger, attending youth camps.

“We knew she was special back then, but now that she has this supporting cast around here, it was just a matter of time before she put it all together,” DeBonis said. “I think that a total level of talent that the freshmen have has raised the entire level of play of our program. Synergistically, I think all of these freshman have had a great affect on our program.”

The other contributing freshmen include Hannah Hollingsworth (18 goals, 14 assists), Julia Lytle, Kirsten Murphy, Melissa Hawkins, Addison Reilly and goalie Ariel Weismann (85 saves, 4.5 goals against per game).

Having these freshmen making such an impact has taken some of the playing time from the upperclassmen on the squad, but DeBonis, who has coached at Bridgewater-Raritan for 18 seasons, said that she’s always prided the players in the program on knowing what roles they need to play game in and game out.

“The sooner everyone can embrace their roles, the better the whole team will play,” she said. “Some games, we have upperclassmen being leading players, some days they take on more of a complimentary role. The junior class has been very receptive of the freshmen. They’re really looking out for them.”

The Panthers have a showdown with North Hunterdon on Thursday (4:30 p.m.), which should show the progress the young squad can do against a more-experienced Lions for the Skyland Conference’s top spot.

Unbeaten Watchung HIlls

One of the few unbeaten teams left in the state, Watchung Hills is putting the ball in the back of the net at a very high rate to begin its season. But the success of the Warriors (5-0) hasn’t surprised head coach Stephanie Linder one bit.

“I’m not surprised that we’re 5-0,” Linder said. “I know this week is going to be tough, but we have such a strong sophomore class and they’ve been dominant for us so far.”

Watchung Hills has scored 14.2 goals per game this season, with sophomore Lindsay Carroll (15 goals, nine assists) and sister Amanda, a junior (17 goals, seven assists) leading the way. But Linder hit on the play of her defense, which has held four of its five opponents to under 10 goals.

“I thought we’d take a big hit on defense after last season, with all of the graduation, but they’ve been doing such a great job,” Linder said. “Add in that we start three sophomore midfielders and it’s been great. I’m glad we’ve picked up right where we left off last year.

The Warriors will be tested this week, with games against undefeated Immaculata and 7-1 North Hunterdon.

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