The Princeton High School girls’ lacrosse team only lost three seniors at the end of the 2012 season, but all three girls were consistently among the squad’s top contributors.
Katie Reilly, Mia Haughton, and Chiara Favaloro were all staples in the lineup throughout their careers. At low attack, midfield, and low defense, head coach Kelsey O’Gorman said the trio had a presence at all ends of the field for the Little Tigers.
Despite the impact the three girls had on the team, midfielder Emilia Lopez-Ona is confident that the current squad will step up.
“They were amazing on and off the field,” she said. “I think what we’re trying to do is not fill their shoes, but to let some new leaders develop on their own. It’s not to fill the exact roles that they had because that’s going to be impossible. We’re definitely looking for a lot of new players to step in.”
O’Gorman said veterans like Lopez-Ona, Olivia Kelly, Elizabeth Jacobs, and Mira Shane will lead Princeton this year. Shane, a sophomore goalkeeper, started in the position as a freshman.
“They’ve all stepped up to the plate,” she said.
O’Gorman said younger players in high-tension positions often crumble under the pressure. That is not the case with Shane, who was also a member of the varsity basketball team as a freshman.
“Oftentimes, you’re skeptical because she’s there alone in that goal,” she said. “How are they going to feel, confidence wise? She’s so mature as a player and as a student. She’s an all-around strong girl in everything she does. Even last year, she was such a presence, and she had a confidence with her that you could just see from inside the goal.”
In addition to Shane, other underclassmen are also expected to come out strong. Sophomores Oona Ryle and Gabby Gibbons and freshmen Ali Calloway and Taylor Lis, O’Gorman said, have already started to mesh with the other girls.
“They are really great players and very capable,” Kelly said of the freshmen. “They both have given great contributions so far.”
The Little Tigers made a state tournament run and ended their season in the sectional semifinals, which Kelly said “was a big accomplishment for us.” Lopez-Ona said advancing in the tournament served as a learning experience for the girls.
“Games like that involve so much pressure individually and for the team,” she said. “The experience in each of those games helps us the next year with handling state tournament and county tournament games.”
O’Gorman hopes to get back there.
“These girls are ready to reach even higher than last year,” O’Gorman said. “We’re all excited to be alongside one another. Yes, we’re missing the three girls from last year, but we’re willing to come out strong.”
O’Gorman, who was an assistant coach for the squad last year, is in her first season as head coach. Because of her familiarity with the team, the transition has been smooth so far.
“I feel like we are on the same page,” she said. “I wanted to be able to just take a step forward to a new level in my first year.”
She said she knows how each girl performed last year, so there are no shortcuts.
“I can already tell if they’ve improved, what they did during the offseason,” she said. “They can’t really slack off around me. It’s made it a lot easier to get that step out of the way.”
Kelly sees the same thing as a player.
“She understands how things work,” she said. “She has a good idea of the things we want to keep intact. At the same time, we get a different and new program that’s specific to our current team, and not past teams.”
O’Gorman said the team can reach higher than repeating last year’s results.
“We have a lot of talent in a high-caliber group of girls. It’s just putting them together to get to that next level.”