Hannah Shea provides leadership for the RHS girls’ lacrosse team. (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

“A lot of her stuff comes by example,” the Robbinsville High girls lacrosse coach said. “But I feel a lot of times midfielders lead by example because they’re usually out of breath.”

Shea was in full agreement.

“Yeah,” she said with a laugh. “Especially getting down on D. I can’t talk by then.”

She gets there nonetheless, and then she gets back up on attack, and does everything a midfielder is supposed to do for a young Ravens team that has been trying to find its way this season.

“She’s very consistent on both ends of the field and she can run,” Colicchia said. “Those are two things that are very important—someone you can rely on at both ends and someone who doesn’t get tired.”

Well, maybe too tired to talk, but she can do all the other things and it should come as no surprise as Shea has spent her career all over the place.

Shea began lacrosse in fifth grade after watching her brother and her friends play.

“I just gave it a shot and I liked it,” she said. “It was really different. I’d never tried anything like it before. It took me a good year to pick it up. The first year was rough. After that I got pretty used to it and started practicing more.”

She began playing field hockey in seventh grade after seeing numerous lacrosse teammates do the sport, and she has scored eight goals in two varsity seasons as a forward with the Ravens varsity.

In middle school, began playing travel lacrosse and “I was kind of all over the place, but mostly on attack.” When she became a regular for the Ravens last year, Colicchia moved her to defense despite the fact she had never played there before. The switch was a result of Shea’s mental toughness as much as her ability.

“I knew if I critiqued her game she wouldn’t crumble, and on defense you need somebody who, no matter how many times you correct them, it’s not going to affect the way they play,” said the coach, who was a defender for The College of New Jersey. “She’s a kid, you can correct her and she’ll just grow. Especially on defense. We always joke that last year, whenever I broke down game film it was always ‘Hannah Shea needs to do this, Hannah Shea needs to do that.’

“She just takes it and runs with it. She doesn’t take it as ‘Coach thinks I’m a bad player.’ I always tell them if I’m correcting you it’s because I know you can do more. I think she understands that because I don’t think she hates me.”

If she did, it remained a secret as Shea took Colicchia’s suggestions to heart and worked hard to make herself a solid defender.

“It was definitely a change,” she said. “But the people I played with had been doing it for a while and they helped me out.”

She was also aided by the fact that, since she played attack, she understood the thinking of an offensive player and used that to guard them.

“That definitely helped me because I kind of understood how the attack moved and everything,” she said. “It helped on defense with one v one’s and understanding how they wanted to go.”

After seeing how the other half lived, Shea was named a captain this year and moved into the midfield. Once again, Colicchia never heard one complaint. And just as having been on attack helped her defensively, playing defense is helping Shea offensively this year.

“After you play on defense when you finally flip to offense you know how to beat a defender,” Colicchia said. “I think she’s used that to her advantage this year. You can tell the way she drives to the goal, she knows she’s gonna beat somebody.”

Shea agreed with her coach, saying, “I think playing at attack and on defense made the transition a lot easier because I played both sides of the field already. The only hard thing was the running, and getting in shape for it.”

Through the Ravens first nine games, Shea led the team in goals (13), assists (3), points (16), draw controls (17), forced turnovers (12) and ground balls (10). When it comes to goal scoring, Shea deflects the credit.

“My teammates help a lot,” she said. “They know when I’m going to drive so they screen for me. They know how I play and so they know how to help me out and get to goal.”

And while her scoring is necessary, her ability to gain possession has been even more important.

“She’s been very good on the draw,” Colicchia said. “I really think of her as a momentum changer. That’s a big part of why I have her as a mid. In one game, we ended up losing, but in the last nine minutes she got every single draw and we got four goals and made a nice comeback. She really can change a game so easily and it almost looks effortless.”

Shea makes it look easy in the classroom as well. While taking a number of honors and advanced placement courses, she has a weighted grade point average of 4.5. She’s on student council, has applied for National Honor Society and is a member of the World Language Honor Society, which focuses on students who takes foreign languages. Hannah takes Spanish and it was suggested maybe she could yell at a ref in a foreign language and get away with if they don’t know what she’s saying.

“Yeah, that’d be nice,” she said with a laugh.

One couldn’t blame Shea if some frustration boiled over on the field this year, as Robbinsville won just once in its first nine games. But she is still having fun.

“Especially at practices, because everyone brings a happy attitude,” she said. “At the games it’s definitely harder. We play teams that we can beat but when we get down on ourselves it definitely changes. We have to keep up with the energy. Once we have it we’re really good.”

Which is why Colicchia feels she has the right girl as a captain.

“It’s important, especially when you’re not having a winning season, kids can start to get down on themselves,” the coach said. “She’s somebody that is always smiling and always brings her best energy to practice and games. It can’t always come from the coaches. To have a kid like her who leads by example is important.”

And Shea feels the younger girls are eager to follow that example.

“I think having a young team makes them more ready to learn,” she said. “It’s pretty nice as a captain because everyone is so willing and ready to listen and learn. So it’s hard, but in the next few years, as they learn now, they’ll be ready and have a lot of potential to be great in the next few years.”