Category Archives: Girls Lacrosse

Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year: Ridge’s Barbara Erickson

In a time when lacrosse is blowing up to a point where high schoolers are playing it year-round, Ridge High School head coach Barbara Erickson knew she had a challenge on her hands with the Red Devils this season. Not only was Erickson returning from a one year away from the girls lacrosse program, but she was dealing with a talented group of players that needed a bit of guidance to play as one, with team goals at the forefront.

“My main goal this year, with these kids playing club lactose and putting so much focus on the sport year-round, was to get everyone on the same page and playing together,” Erickson said. “The kids are looking to play in college, so they are showcasing themselves outside of school, so I had to bring them back in and get them on the same page. If you can’t do that, you don’t go very far.”

Ridge, with Erickson leading the way, went very far, winning the North Group IV title, went unbeaten in Somerset County contests and won its third straight county title, all while compiling a 19-4 record.

Erickson is the Courier News Coach of the Year.

“I didn’t know what to expect in my first year back,” Erickson said. “There’s a lot of talent on this squad and I tried to make the non-conference games tough for us so we would be prepared for the end of the season. It gave us confidence that we could play with the elite teams like that.”

The Red Devils, led by a host of juniors including four Courier News first-team performers, defeated Ridgewood for the North Group IV crown and Bridgewater-Raritan for the SCT title. They also knocked off rival North Hunterdon three times in 2014.

“Most of our juniors have been playing together on the varsity level for a few years now and moving forward to net year, they’re hungry to win. Sometimes they fade towards the end of the season, but this season, they were pushing themselves,” Erickson said. “They wanted to get better and they wanted to win.”

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Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year: North Hunterdon’s Julia Wood

North Hunterdon's Julia Wood, the 2014 Courier News Player of the Year. Photo by: Jason Towlen

North Hunterdon’s Julia Wood, the 2014 Courier News Player of the Year. Photo by: Jason Towlen

When Julia Wood first started out in the girls lacrosse program at North Hunterdon High School four years ago, there was no way she thought she’d be a record-breaking midfielder that would go on to earn a Division I scholarship. But after 235 goals and 315 points in her four seasons with the Lions, Wood has earned both of those accomplishments with flying colors.

“Especially since my freshman campaign was not the best; I know it’s not all about goals, but I only had four of them,” Wood said. “But I think I’ve come a long way since then. I definitely didn’t expect all of this since freshman year.”

Wood, who netted 101 goals and 33 assists in leading North Hunterdon to a 19-4 record, a third straight Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament title and a berth in the North Group IV semifinals, is the Courier News Player of the Year.

“I’ve been lucky to coach her for the last four years and she’s one of those kids that she’ll take a hit and she’ll get right back up,” North Hunterdon head coach Stacy Ditze said.

This season, as the victories piled up, Wood eclipsed alumnus Alison Jaeger in two scoring categories in school history. With her 78th goal of the season on May 12, Wood passed Jaeger and her sister Caroline for the most goals in a single-season in school history, and when Wood notched goal No. 216, she went by Alison for most career goals for the Lions.

Wood was held to fewer than three goals only twice this season, and scored seven goals on three different occasions. But her finest moment may have come in the North Group IV quarterfinals, against Bridgewater-Raritan. Wood poured in seven goals and added two assists, lifting the Lions to an overtime victory and a third meeting of the year against rival Ridge.

“Honestly, I’ll of course remember the H/W/S Championships, but this year, our game against Bridgewater in states, when we went into overtime is the one I’ll always remember,” she said. “We came back, then they came back, they tied it up and we won in overtime and that game will always stick out to me.”

After registering just nine points as a freshman — she only appeared in seven games — Wood became a wrecking ball, scoring 70, 60 and this season 101 goals, vaulting her up the all-time record book at North Hunterdon. In what seemed like a simple advancement, Wood said she just got more comfortable with her teammates and on the field, which led to the higher scoring outputs and even more Lions’ victories.

“She came out confident as a freshman, in my eye,” Ditze said. “But for me, the thing she improved on most was her game-sense; she understood when to shoot or pass or hold the ball and she was able to lead us with that sense. She really came up clutch for us a lot and she’s an all-around player that did what it took for us to win.”

Next season Wood will be suiting up for the University of Louisville — a program that set a school-record for wins and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time — along with fellow Courier News first-teamer Jillian Balog. The bond they’ve shared since seventh grade, playing on T3 Lacrosse teams, is something Wood is really looking forward to continuing as collegians, even if she’ll be back at the bottom of the totem pole as a freshman, just as she was four seasons ago.

“I think going into next year, into a D-I program, I just need to remember that I am a freshman and even if I don’t play at all, I have to keep my confidence up and I think my turn will come with hard work,” Wood said. “Playing with Jillian is going to be great; I love playing with her. We went to camps together, so I’m really excited to play with her in college.”

2014 Courier News All-Area Girls Lacrosse Team

The 2014 Courier News Girls Lacrosse 1st Team All-Area performers. Photo by: Jason Towlen

The 2014 Courier News Girls Lacrosse 1st Team All-Area performers. Photo by: Jason Towlen

2014 ALL-AREA GIRLS LACROSSE

Attack — Jillian Balog, New Providence, Sr.

Balog, the leading scorer in the history of New Providence girls lacrosse, scored 54 goals this year and finished with 183 for her career. She’ll play at Louisville next season.

Attack — Elizabeth Behrins, Ridge, Jr.

Behrins, one of two players for Ridge to total 95 points this season, netted 56 goals and a team-high 39 assists and registered 11 hat tricks this year.

Attack — Devon Brown, Ridge, Jr.

Brown posted 58 goals and added 37 assists, for a team-best 95 points. She netted 21 of her goals in postseason contests, including nine in the Somerset County Tournament.

Attack — Erika Cavallo, Hillsborough, Sr.

Cavallo netted 75 goals to go with 28 assists and finished her career with 208 goals and 260 points. She’ll play collegiately at Towson University next year.

Midfield — Allison Lane, North Hunterdon, Sr.

Lane, the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament MVP won 128 draws with her height advantage and totaled 90 goals and 119 points for the Lions and will play at Marquette.

Midfield — Ally Mastroianni, Bridgewater-Raritan, Fr.

Mastroianni burst onto the scene with 97 goals and 158 points, good for second-most in the state. The freshman phenom also controlled 133 draws for the youthful Panthers.

Midfield — Dakota Pastore, Somerville, Jr.

Pastore, who was the state’s second-leading scorer, has already set Somerville records. With 128 goals and 30 assists this year, she is up to 299 goals and 411 points for her career.

Midfield — Annie Pearson, Ridge, Jr.

Pearson, noted as Ridge’s unsung hero by coach Barbara Erickson, scored 29 goals, scooped up 86 groundballs, controlled 66 draws and forced 42 turnovers.

Midfield — Julia Wood, North Hunterdon, Sr.

Wood, the Courier News Player of the Year, broke multiple school records with a 101-goal, 32-assist campaign that pushed her points total to a North Hunterdon-best 312 in four seasons.

Defense — Lauren D’Amico, Westfield, Jr.

D’Amico helped lead Westfield to the brink of the Union County title, racking up 57 draw controls and matching up with opponent’s top-scorers.

Defense — Callie Dewitt, Ridge, Jr.

Dewitt a clutch lockdown defender for the Red Devils, anchored Ridge to the SCT title and a berth in the Group IV Final. She finished with 38 groundballs and 33 caused turnovers.

Defense — Emily Howarth, Bridgewater-Raritan, Jr.

Howarth won 48 draws and scored 12 goals to go with her usual steady defense, locking horns with No. 1 scorers and helping lead a very young Panthers squad.

Goalie — Madison Martino, North Hunterdon, Sr.

Martino averaged nearly eight saves per game and backstopped the Lions to the HWST title and the semifinals of the North IV tournament.

Goalie — Mallory Weisse, Westfield, Jr.

Weisse, a true anchor for the Blue Devils, made 578 saves as Westfield has turned its program around from 5-13 two years ago into a sleeping giant in Union County.

Ridge knocks off Bridgewater-Raritan for Girls SCT title

Like it did in the regular season, the Ridge High School girls lacrosse team limited the production of the talented Bridgewater-Raritan freshmen, this time en route to a third straight county title.

Behind the stellar play of senior Hannah Quigley and juniors Izzy Behrins and Devon Brown, top-seeded Ridge (15-3) defeated second-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan in a game of runs 13-10 Tuesday night on its home field for the Somerset County Tournament crown.

Quigley scored a game-high four goals and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, but she said she didn’t focus on playing for individual stats, instead focusing on how she could help her team.

“I wanted us to win this game, but I was playing for my team, not for myself,” she said. “I played well tonight, but it was great to get this win and the MVP. We had a lot of confidence coming into this game and that helped us play well. This feels great.”

Ridge used a 6-0 run spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half to turn a one-goal deficit into the advantage it wouldn’t relinquish en route to the title. Once the second half began, the Red Devils had better than 80 percent of the possession, basically taking Bridgewater-Raritan (16-5) out of its game.

“We talked at halftime about coming out and playing our game, and we did,” Quigley said. “We won the draw controls and we finished and were able to come out on top.”

The win is the sixth straight overall for Ridge since a loss to state power Oak Knoll on April 26, and the Red Devils have been victorious in eight of their last 10 contests dating back to early April.

Behrins added three goals and two assists and Brown registered one goal and three assists for the Red Devils, who received points from eight different players.

“We have a very balanced attack, so we don’t just give it to one girl and have her go to the goal,” Erickson said. “We’ve always thrived because we have a balanced attack. We have a lot of girls that could realistically score multiple goals in a game, so it’s hard to shut one of us down.”

Ridge had beaten Bridgewater-Raritan twice in the regular season – by scores of 8-7 and 20-11 – and did so largely by limiting the damage from freshman phenom Ally Mastroianni. The uber-talented freshman did record nine goals and three assists in those two prior contests, but six of those goals came in the latter contest that was a 12-5 Ridge advantage at halftime. Mastroianni, who came into the game with 135 points (88 goals, 47 assists), which were the fourth-highest total in the state, but finished with just one goal and two assists Tuesday night.

“My concern coming into the year was defense, because we graduated so much from last year, but I felt like our defense has been strong all year and we’ve done a great job of double-teaming and we stick-check well and we get the ball back a lot,” Erickson said. “We were able to prevent her from penetrating as much as she usually does.”

Bridgewater-Raritan was shut down in the second half, as it didn’t score until the 11:24 mark when Mastroianni finally converted. Both freshman Hannah Hollingsworth and junior Mackenzie Knouse finished with a hat trick for the Panthers, and freshman Kirsten Murphy chipped in two goals. Bridgewater-Raritan led 7-6 at the 6:23 mark of the first half, but Ridge’s 6-0 run put the game out of reach in the second half.

Having an experienced group of players, led by Quigley, Ridge leaned on prior games to fight back on Tuesday night.

“These kids have been playing together a long time, not just for these three years here, but since elementary school and they’re used to playing with each other,” Erickson said. “They’re used to being in competitive situations and they’re used to being under the pressure and it helps them in games like this.”

Westfield falls to Summit in tourney final

CLARK — As head coach Samantha Warner put it best, team beats talent every time and on Monday night against one of the top teams in the state, the Westfield High School girls lacrosse team fell short of a county title.

Despite trailing just 7-4 at the half, third-seeded Westfield (10-7) was shutout over the final 25 minutes by top-seeded Summit (15-1) and fell by a final of 12-4 in the Union County Tournament Final at A.L. Johnson High School.

Warner, in her second season as the Westfield head coach, took the Blue Devils to their first UCT Final, but they couldn’t hang with the high-flying Hilltoppers in the second half.

“I just think that we did the best we could on the defensive end; we saw a lot of really nice things, but it came down to being able to execute in the midfield and the attacking end,” Warner said. “We were really trying to move the ball as fast as they slid and we did in the first half, but it slowed down a bit in the second half. It wasn’t the game plan that I had hoped for. That’s on me, but it’s something we’ll work on for the future.”

Sam Paoletti scored a pair of first-half goals and Gwyn Devin and Anna Tanji each netted a goal for the Blue Devils. Paoletti’s second goal, on a free position shot, came with just 17 seconds left in the half and temporarily gave Westfield hope, but Summit’s attack was too much in the second half.

Junior goalie Mallory Weisse came up with eight saves for Westfield, including a pair on the doorstep early on to thwart Summit’s chances.

Even with the loss, Warner said she’s seen tremendous growth in the program since taking over, and she only expects the good things to continue coming.

“Every year they buy in a little more and get a little better and they play more as a team. In the past, it was a lot of individual athletes trying to make plays and it wasn’t a team game. Team beats talent every time and tonight we played a great team that’s also very talented today,” she said. “It’s a huge step for our program and I think we’ll get back here again and it’ll be a more competitive game against them.”

Boys Lacrosse

Summit 9, Westfield 3: Chris and Pat Aslanian and Chris Callahan each netted goals as second-seeded Westfield fell to the top-seeded Hilltoppers in the boys UCT Final at A.L. Johnson High School. The Blue Devils couldn’t get into any bit of an offensive rhythm, registering just nine shots in the game and constantly being hounded when they possessed the ball. Pat Aslanian got Westfield (6-8) on the board with 1:27 left in the first half, just 12 seconds after Summit had gone up 4-0. But Summit tallied just before the half ended and scored four of the last six goals to pull away. Chris Callahan’s goal came with 3:24 left in the third quarter and Chris Aslanian netted his goal early in the fourth quarter after taking a pass from Pat Decker. Summit (15-1), ranked No. 4 in LaxPower.com’s most recent poll, came into the game allowing just 3.75 goals per game, and held the Westfield attack to below that.

Hatfield nets 100th career goal in leading Pingry past Rutgers Prep in SCT

BERNARDS TWP. — Ever since she was a freshman, Avery Hatfield has had it in her mind that she wanted to reach the 100-career goal mark.

On Tuesday, Hatfield scored four times, the last the 100th of her career, in leading The Pingry School girls lacrosse team to a 17-2 victory over Rutgers Prep in the first round of the Somerset County Tournament.

The sixth-seeded Big Blue will take on third-seeded Hillsborough in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

Hatfield netted three goals in the first half as Pingry (5-11) built a 12-1 lead, but coming out of the half, she said she was well aware of how close she was to reaching the milestone.

“I knew I was that close and my team wouldn’t let me forget,” Hatfield said. “It was a nice feeling and it’s been something I have had in my head since I was a freshman and to be able to accomplish as a senior is great. Winning games makes days happier anyway, so to get my 100th goal in a game that we win and play really well in was very exciting.”

Four others scored at least two goals in helping Pingry earn a third matchup of the season against Hillsborough. Lexi Chang, Eliza Kielty, Megan O’Reilly and Meg Vreeland each scored twice and Annelise Kinney and Sydney Lieberman chipped in a goal and two assists apiece, to support Hatfield’s big day.

“It’s a nice celebration of her career at Pingry and all she’s contributed to our program. She’s been a leader and I was really happy to see her reach that milestone,” Pingry coach Carter Abbott said. “We’re very young and inexperienced, so it’s taken us a while for some of the younger players to find their roles and place on the team. Because we are so young, we’re still a team that’s getting better. At this point of the season, you don’t see that all that often. Most of the time, when you hit the postseason, you are who you are. You might get a great game out of effort, but you are what you are.”

The two games between Pingry and Hillsborough have each gone to overtime, with the Raiders winning each time by one goal – 8-7 and 9-8. But coming off of a game in which the Big Blue netted 17 goals and looked dominant on offense, the hopes are high to reverse that trend and advance to Saturday’s semifinals.

“We have to stay mentally tough in practice on Wednesday and then in the game on Thursday to beat them,” Hatfield said. “It’s been overtime the two times we’ve played them, so I think that if we work hard, and play smart, we’ll able to get the win.”

Abbott noted that her squad needs to shoot the ball better on Thursday to earn the win, especially after not shooting well enough, in her mind, in the two prior games against the Raiders.

“We haven’t shot well in either of the games against them this year and their goalie played great against us. We just need to handle their pressure too. We need to do a better job of handling that pressure in order to win,” Abbott said.

Matina Kakalis scored both goals for 11th-seeded Rutgers Prep, which dropped to 2-7.

Cavallo has grown into leadership role for Hillsborough

Hillsborough's Erika Cavallo (right) scoops up the ball as Bridgewater-Raritan's Ally Mastroianni chases down the play on Tuesday. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Hillsborough’s Erika Cavallo (right) scoops up the ball as Bridgewater-Raritan’s Ally Mastroianni chases down the play on Tuesday. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

HILLSBOROUGH — Over the past four seasons, Erika Cavallo has become one of the best players in Hillsborough High School girls lacrosse history, simply by putting in the time and energy to get better. After just blending in as a freshman and scoring four goals in four games, Cavallo has turned into a force for the Raiders, working her way up from third-leading scorer on the team to the club’s go-to scorer and leader on the field as a senior.

She said that coming into the program four years ago and playing with so many quality players, including 2013 Courier News Player of the Year Kristina Dunphey, has helped her become a star.

“When I came in as a freshman, there were a lot of really good players that were leaders, and I knew going into these last couple of years that I would have to become a leader myself and I knew that having that role would help me progress as a player on the field,” Cavallo said. “I think I developed a lot over the years and I have a great coach, who’s very competitive, and she just encouraged me to get better.”

Head coach Beth Murrin, who’s seen Cavallo evolve during her career, said that as a freshman, she had a lot of raw athleticism and competitiveness, but she’s turned that into so much more in her final campaign.

“She loves the pace of it and she loves being in that competitive environment,” Murrin said. “She loves being able to make a difference on the field and I think she made the decision between her freshman and sophomore year to put a lot of time and energy into this sport. She’s done that every off-season and she brings her game back better every season.”

As a sophomore, Cavallo ranked third for the Raiders with 56 goals and 16 assists and last season, behind Dunphey, she totaled 73 goals and eight assists. With a couple of regular season games left and the postseason ahead of her, Cavallo has compiled 58 goals and 18 assists, putting her on pace to set a new career high in points. She now has 191 goals and 42 assists for her four-year career.

But scoring isn’t the only way Cavallo affects the way Hillsborough plays. Following a 13-9 loss to Bridgewater-Raritan Tuesday – a game in which Cavallo scored five goals and added an assist – she spoke to how she’s grown into a leader on the field.

“Today, for example, is a tough loss, but as a leader on the field, everyone looks toward you, like ‘how is she going to react?’ So if I react to something in a negative way, they’re going to get down too,” Cavallo said. “I just try to encourage everyone to stay positive and keep it up and I always tell them to forget about the past, you can’t change that play, but you can change what happens next.”

What’s next for Cavallo, following the postseason run with Hillsborough, is a college career at Towson University. She said that she’s thought about moving onto the next level, but that her performance this year is directly tied into the college ranks.

“Now that I’m a senior, I’ve seen some teammates that are in their last year and they’re thinking about just going to college, but me, I think about I’m going to play next year and everything I do now is going to affect what I do next year at Towson,” she said.

Bridgewater-Raritan routs Montgomery; Mastroianni nets five goals for Panthers

Bridgewater-Raritan's Ally Mastroianni scores against Montgomery on Thursday in Montgomery. Photo by: Jeff Granit

Bridgewater-Raritan’s Ally Mastroianni scores against Montgomery on Thursday in Montgomery. Photo by: Jeff Granit

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.”

Late rally lifts Bernards over Voorhees

Voorhees' Stephanie Linzer is guarded by Bernards' Lauren Crane during the first half on Thursday in Bernards. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Voorhees’ Stephanie Linzer is guarded by Bernards’ Lauren Crane during the first half on Thursday in Bernards. Photo by: Jason Towlen

BERNARDS TWP. — With her team trailing for the first time since the opening moments of the game, Bernards High School girls lacrosse coach Jessica McGinn called timeout to settle her players down.

In the 10:59 that followed, the Mountaineers responded with a 4-0 run to erase a two-goal deficit and earn a 13-12 victory over Voorhees on Thursday.

Emma TenBarge and Tegan Warren each scored four goals, and Warren connected for two of hers during the four-goal run that started at the 13:16 mark of the second half and culminated nearly 11 minutes later.

“I would like to think it was something I said, but I don’t even remember what I told them,” said McGinn of the timeout. “It was just an amount of time that we needed to collect ourselves and be reminded how we should be playing at all times. We lose sight of it a little bit.”

After building a 12-10 lead, Voorhees — which was pesky all day long and refused to go away quietly — attempted one last comeback. The Vikings got it down to 13-12 and scooped up a loose ball and earned a free position shot with 32 seconds left on the stick of their most effective player on the day, Katie Koller.

But Koller’s shot found the webbing of goalie Payton Barta’s stick and not the back of the net and the Mountaineers were able to run out the remaining seconds for the victory.

“Payton always plays well and today was a little up-and-down for her,” McGinn said. “She missed some that we’ve been working on, but she came up big and made the saves that she needed to.”

Barta finished with seven saves, but none bigger than stoning Koller — who scored three goals and added three assists for Voorhees (5-3), which trailed 7-6 at halftime and led just twice in the game.

“We came out a little flat and we played well, but it was just some small things that we didn’t do well and Bernards is a very good team, so they capitalized on our mistakes,” Voorhees head coach Courtney Thibeault said.

Freshman Paige Petty scored two goals and added an assist and Grace Gillis and Andra Scaliti each chipped in goals for Bernards (7-2), to give it five different goal scorers on the day.

“It’s not just Emma and Tegan for us; they do a great job finishing, but the difference this year is that we have so many players creating plays, offensively and defensively, and that’s the difference,” McGinn said. “It’s great that we have players that can finish, but we have so many that contribute.”

Olivia DiRienz, Stephanie Linzer and Hannah Ryan each scored twice for Voorhees, which got nine saves from goalie Genevieve Schweikert.

But in the end, the draw controls were the difference, as Bernards controlled 14-26 and used the possession to tax the Voorhees defense.

“The draw was huge for us. It was the defense coming off the line that made the impact for us. We didn’t have the midfielders win every time, we have some very versatile, pro-active defenders that helped us today,” McGinn said.

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.