(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
PASSING FANCY: Stuart Country Day junior lacrosse star Caroline Passano heads up the field in recent action. Last Wednesday, Passano scored a goal and passed for six assists to trigger Stuarts 16-8 win over Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B championship game.
Caroline Passano has a nose for the goal on the lacrosse field.
The junior star for the Stuart Country Day lacrosse team came into last Wednesdays state Prep B title game against Rutgers Prep with 47 goals.
But it was Passanos passing that helped Stuart achieve its goal of winning a fourth straight Prep B championship.
Displaying superb field vision, Passano triggered the Tartan attack, passing for six assists as Stuart pulled away to a 16-8 win over the visiting Argonauts.
In reflecting on the win, Passano said she hit the field thinking pass first.
I do play center so thats half of my job, said Passano, referring to her assist output in the title game.
Thats a big thing for me, just making sure that it gets from the defense to the midfield and down the field. A lot of people made great cuts today. I saw them and we were able to connect.
Passanos deepest connection on the field is with classmate Elizabeth Bucklee, who fired in five goals against Rutgers Prep.
Weve played together for six years; I always know where she is going to be and she always knows where Im going to be, said Passano, who added a goal in the victory.
Today we were able to show that we can work together. It was just really nice to have her there and for us to know that we can get it into the goal.
With the game knotted at 2-2 some eight minutes into the contest, Passano acknowledged that it took a little time for the Tartans to get rolling.
We started off a little slow; its the prep finals, there were some nerves, said Passano.
Our game really came out at the end of the first half and in the second half. Once everything started going, it started clicking and we did everything right with our transitions from the defense all the way down the field.
As a three-year starter, Passano feels that her game is clicking at a higher level in crunch time.
Im older and more experienced, said Passano, who also stars in field hockey and helped Stuart win the county title and tie for the Prep title last fall.
I play in the summer and I have been able to gain experience from being in a prep final one more time again. I know the intensity of it.
Stuart head coach Sara Wagner likes the way Passano has matured. Its funny because Caroline is a natural goal scorer, said Wagner, whose team ended the season by falling 15-10 to Princeton Day School last Thursday in the Mercer County Tournament semifinals.
She wants to go; we had to work on getting her to pass. But she is unselfish and it shows in her having such great passing.
With Passano as a catalyst, Wagner was confident that Stuart could outlast Rutgers Prep.
We really believed that over time our passing game and the fact that we have some speed would wear them down, asserted Wagner.
We were just forcing things; we were thinking maybe that it would come easier. We wanted to get some goals on the board right away. We knew that if we were patient enough and did the right things on defense that it would work for us eventually.
Wagner liked the work she got from Bucklee, who was unable to play in the 2007 Prep B title game due to an ankle injury.
It was good to have her, added Wagner. She is so effective on attack; she is very thorough and efficient when she gets down toward the goal. She can catch and she has a great eye for the goal. Its nice having her down there where you can throw the ball and she can catch it.
Stuart was thrilled to reach its goal of a Prep B four-peat. We did talk about it in the beginning of the season; we didnt say we are going to do it, said Wagner.
All of the games were building up to this. You are trying to prepare and every team that weve played so far has really improved.
Stuarts seniors had been building to Wednesdays triumph for the last four years.
There is a reason why they won, said Wagner, referring to her corps of senior stalwarts which includes Katie Baker, Elizabeth Kitts, and Kelsey Semrod.
They just work hard; they come out and do their job. When they are faced with some kind of adversity; they just sort of come through it. They have resilience. The players enjoy each other; they enjoy this whole thing.
Passano and her teammates have enjoyed getting the most out of their talent in a spring which saw them end at 13-5.
This year has been phenomenal, maintained Passano. We have seen our potential but showing it is a different thing. This year, we were really able to crank it up as a unit. The transitions have been key in comparison to years before. It hadnt gone as well as it has gone this year; thats been a difference in a lot of games.
And Passano was certainly a difference maker for the Tartans as she fine-tuned her passing game.
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