MONTGOMERY — The youth movement that has taken over the Bridgewater-Raritan High School girls lacrosse team was on full display Thursday afternoon against Montgomery.
Not only did the young Panthers come away with a 17-2 victory to move to 11-2 on the season, but freshmen scored 14 of the 17 goals, with phenom Ally Mastroianni leading the charge with five goals and four assists.
Teammate Hannah Hollingsworth added four goals and Kirsten Murphy chipped in three goals as Bridgewater-Raritan continued to learn on the fly and improve as a unit. Mastroianni, who entered play with a state-best 90 points (55 goals, 35 assists) scored three times from the free position arc and assisted on three straight goals and four of five in the second half, when the Panthers had eased off the jets. She said that playing with teammates she’s had since elementary school has helped the learning curve this season.
“It has really helped; everyone on the team is such a good help for us and they’re always encouraging and helping each other,” Mastroianni said. “Everyone is getting so much better, from the first practice to now, and I’ve noticed that we talk more and we’re all stepping up our game. We work super-hard in practice and in games as well and we’re just getting better every game and I see big things for us.”
The freshman class, with as many as six first-year players in the starting lineup from game-to-game, has been noteworthy all season long, but the young players stepped on the gas to turn a 3-1 game into an 11-1 one in just 11 minutes of game play, putting Montgomery (3-8) away.
“I think we’re becoming smarter and we’re becoming better under pressure. We’ve learned what the roles are on the field and we’re able to play off of one another; the girls know each other’s strengths and weaknesses now and that’s something that comes from having so many new players on the team,” Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Kathie DeBonis said.
Lindsay Alvarez and Emily Miller, both juniors, scored the other three Panthers’ goals, as eight different players recorded at least one point. Freshman goalie Ariel Weismann made five saves in the cage, showing off her skills against a Montgomery offense that came into play averaging 9.5 goals per contest.
Weismann, another one of those players that’s been on the same team as Mastroianni for years now, gave way to senior Gina Kim in the final moments, with the outcome no longer in doubt. But whether she finishes games or not, Mastroianni knows how far this group has come and she realizes that they’ll only continue to get better.
“I’ve been playing with these girls since we were all little and I knew we had so much potential and I knew that the older girls were good players as well and we would come together like we have,” she said.
Freshman Tori Bobal netted both Montgomery goals, bookending a 14-0 Bridgewater-Raritan run. Classmate Allyson Weakliem came up with six saves in the cage, thwarting the Panthers’ offense and preventing any further damage.
While its evident that the young Panthers have vast skill sets, DeBonis knows that she doesn’t need to be hard on them when a pass goes awry or an opportunity is missed in transition.
“I think the girls are harder on themselves than I am on them,” DeBonis said. “They want to do well and they want to please and it’s more intrinsic on them at this point.”