Girls lacrosse takes on out-of-conference competitors to strengthen program

The girls lacrosse team boasts new leadership, new opponents, and a new coach this season as it looks to improve its 5–7 record. This season’s strategies, such as more competition-driven practices and Head Coach David Schlesinger’s decision not to enforce team divisions, contrast those of last year which involved dependance on veteran players. With these changes, the team hopes to gain momentum as it prepares for more challenging games ahead.

Co-Captain and goalkeeper Mira Shane ’15 feels optimistic about her final season as a tiger. “A lot has changed, but the season is already looking positive and foreshadows wins,” Shane said.

Before the season even began, Schlesinger organized team workouts and lifts to get his players focused early. He also decided that a final varsity roster would not be created until the Mercer County Tournament.

The new coach feels that training together as one group allows the girls to build camaraderie. “This culture of competition is complemented by the respect and [care] they have for each other. That’s how you build a program of sustainable excellence,” Schlesinger said.

Taylor Lis ’16 believes that the diversity and varied skill levels of the girls on the team have been beneficial for the program as a whole. Upperclassmen and previous varsity players have stepped into leadership roles while underclassmen and newer players have been challenged and encouraged by their peers in the daily practice environment.

Since alumni Emilia Lopez-Ona ’14, Dana Smith ’14, and Elizabeth Jacobs ’14 graduated from PHS and went on to play at the collegiate level, new leaders have surfaced. “We have definitely lost some of our key players from last year and knew that it would be a challenge going into this season without their leadership. However, this has allowed for new leaders to emerge, especially our captains Mira, Oona [Ryle ’15], and Gabby [Gibbons ’15],” Lis said.

The unified team allows for greater connection and bonding among the players in the eyes of Shane. “There’s certainly an increase in team bonding … Most sports split into two teams for pyschs [and] team lunch[es], [but] we do it all together so everyone is involved,” she said.

Midfielder Julia Ryan ’15 defends against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South on April 8 at the PHS turf. The team defeated South  20–2.  photo: Ashley Dart

Midfielder Julia Ryan ’15 defends against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South on April 8 at the PHS turf. The team defeated South 20–2.
photo: Ashley Dart

According to Lis, the involvement of more players has created an inclusive and supportive environment that spotlights every player involved rather than a handful of girls selected prior to the start of the season. The unification of the team has lead to a deeper focus on the entire girls lacrosse program rather than the accomplishments of the separated JV and varsity squads.

The Little Tigers have also faced change in terms of their schedule. This year their season includes games against the Bishop Eustace Preparatory School, Clearview Regional High School, the Agnes Irwin School, and various other high schools outside of the Colonial Valley Conference. Lis feels that playing new teams gives PHS necessary challenges and experience.

“Playing these new teams helps us to learn how to react to different situations and make adjustments on the fly,” Lis said. “Specifically this year, games against Shore [Regional High School] and Bishop Eustace helped us to prepare for our victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North.”

Schlesinger believes that playing proficient teams helps the team to pinpoint its strengths and weaknesses. “I think the experience and lessons learned in our defeats against [the] very strong Shore Regional [high school] and Lenape [high school] have been very helpful in accelerating our improvement,” he said.

Players focus on tactical strategies during practice. “We are working on defensive communication and sharpening up some of our plays,” Lis said.

“We need to have energy throughout an entire game … There cannot be a lag or decline [in our play]. A boost will accelerate us past all these other schools,” Shane said.

Although recent changes and new approaches to practice have contributed to a unique season for the Little Tigers, similar objectives from years past are in place alongside the new focuses. “Our goals still remain to win the MCT and advance far in the state tournament, but specifically this year we are also looking to build a bond with our new coach and each other,” Lis said.

Shane said, “[The] season is about solidarity, [and] looking like one unit that is able to function as a team offensively and defensively to reach a uniform goal.”

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