Winning attitude at KRHS girls lacrosse

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  • The Kittatinny Regional High Schoo girls lacrosse team

  • Captains Kalan Smith (l) and Beth Mackey

By Josh Lashley

— The Kittatinny Regional High School girls lacrosse program were winners this spring — and not just because of a winning record against a tough schedule.

The Cougars indeed concluded the season with an overall mark of 9-7. But, they are also to be deemed a success because of how they continually made positive, meaningful progression from the very first day of practice through their last games in the playoffs.

They also finished with a winning record of 6-2 (second place) in the NJIGLL Colonial North Division. Vernon was 7-0 in the Colonial North Division.

Kittatinny advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NJSIAA North 1 Group 1 Sectional Tournament before losing to Saddle River Day. In the opening round of the Sectionals, the Cougars topped Lenape Valley, 15-8.

“Kalan Smith and Beth Mackey are our two senior captains,’’ Kittatinny head coach Michele Lugerner said. “They have demonstrated tremendous leadership abilities helping me on and off the field. They have stayed countless times after practice to work with me in planning. Both girls are encouraging to their teammates and always want what is best for the whole program. They lead by example with their athletics and academics.’’

Coach Lugerner noted those student-athletes in particularly who improved this year.

“Mikayla Cooke (freshman) has excellent placement shots and is great at reading the goalie,’’ Lugerner said. “Her footwork, speed and cradling skills allows her to have a smooth transition in the midfield and attack. She has become one of our team’s draw specialist and we utilize her placement to gain possession of the ball on the faceoff. Sarah Douglas (freshman) is an amazing defender. Her speed and footwork drive the game for us in the defensive end. She is a key defender who is often sent to double the ball and ‘crash’ when players are attacking the cage. She never gives up and always encouraging her teammates around her. Sarah also loves the opportunity to play on the circle for the face-offs. She is quick at boxing out and she often comes up with the ball to play in the offensive end.

“Katie Albinski (junior) is our defensive leader. She works selflessly with the girls calling the type of defense and every play that comes into the defensive end. She has excelled at playing post and is unstoppable with her footwork and one-to-one defense. She has an advanced lacrosse IQ and is always willing to do what is best for her teammates in practice and the game. Abby Schwartz is only a sophomore and has played almost every minute of every game since last season. She is in the ‘zone’ while playing defense and is very aggressive with her one-to-one defense. She is a terrific communicator to her other teammates when she is off-ball. Abby also has a great read of the game, which often leads to numerous interceptions or turnovers.''

There were certainly noticeable ways in which the team in general improved over the course of this recently ended season.

“We have greatly improved our transition from defense, to midfield, to offense,’’ Lugerner said. “The quicker we move the ball up the field, the less of a chance our opponents have to re-defend. Our placement shots have been key to much of our success in the offensive end. We have significantly improved our off-ball communication.

“Due to the weather and being restricted to indoor practice, we spent countless hours inside. We spend a lot of time working on fundamental stick work and stick tricks, which has given as better range with our sticks.’’

The Cougars will welcome back several players with varsity level experience for the 2019 season. There are already some goals that Lugerner has in mind for the Cougars next year.

“Draw control is key to the game of lacrosse,’’ Lugerner said. “With our draw specialists placing the ball, it is critical that our circle players to come up with the ball every time. We need to work on ground balls under pressure and one handed grabs to beat our opponents. We will have a playbook and focus on many offensive sets and plays. We are looking for the best opportunities to score from a settled offense. We need to master our checking-the how, the why and when.’’

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