Emilia Lopez-Ona was huffing and puffing a bit as she caught her breath after helping the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team edge WW/P-S last Thursday.
The junior star had reason to be winded as she was all over the field, tallying eight goals and two assists to help PHS prevail 16-12.
The Penn-bound Lopez-Ona started the game on fire, scoring six of PHS’s first seven goals.
“With my shot, I feel it is a lot about composure and staying with the fundamentals,” said Lopez-Ona.
“I feel I started out the game pretty focused and I didn’t get frazzled. I was pretty happy I came out strong because they were marking me pretty tight. I have been watching a lot of film when girls are getting marked out and doing stuff like using the crease, popping out, and being physical. They had great defenders on me and I was happy with the way I was rubbing them off.”
Lopez-Ona was happy to see the Little Tigers rally from a 9-7 deficit early in the second half as they improved to 4-1.
“I think it was just about communication of offense and defense because we were lacking the unity on the field,” said Lopez-Ona, reflecting on the PHS rally during which the Little Tigers went on a 9-2 run to seize control of the contest.
“I feel like it really pieced together when some of the low attackers started popping out and yelling for the ball. Everyone got a lot more involved in the offense.”
In Lopez-Ona’s view, junior midfielder Dana Smith helped trigger the PHS offense with her hustle on draw controls.
“Dana Smith on the draw was just insane; her possessions kept us in the game when they started to pull ahead a little bit,” said Lopez-Ona of the Lafayette-bound Smith who scooped up five ground balls in the contest.
“As we started to run a couple more of our plays on offense, we worked the ball around better than before and attacked the goal. It gave us more confidence on offense.”
Coming off a tough 11-10 loss to WW/P-N, the victory over the Pirates was a confidence builder for the Little Tigers.
“The difference between the North game and this game was at the end of the North (WW/P-N) game we were still having trouble controlling the ball,” said Lopez-Ona.
“Today we were working for good shots and we were working for good possessions. I feel like after this game we will be pretty confident with how we can play the end of the game on offense with our stall with the whole team getting involved there.”
PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way her team grew from the defeat to WW/P-N.
“In the end, we are really taking away North as a learning experience,” said O’Gorman.
“We left saying, that was a great lacrosse game. I think both teams came out full force. The girls know that was one of our hardest games. It really prepared us, it was a preparation game. I am really proud of the way of the girls played today.”
O’Gorman was proud of the way Lopez-Ona played against WW/P-S. “We actually had her more on attack today so when she puts her full energy and focus on attack, that is the type of result you are going to get from that type of player,” said O’Gorman.
“She is just a great leader, on and off the field. You know she is always going to be pumping everyone up in the huddle; she is always psyched up for her team.”
Sophomore Gabrielle Gibbons helped pump up PHS in its second half run as she tallied a hat trick.
“She really knows when to show herself and makes consistent cuts to the center,” said O’Gorman of Gibbons.
“You know when her target is up, she wants the ball and she is going to have a nice finish for you at the end. She is learning from these upperclassmen to have a lot of information and a lot of experience.”
The Little Tigers utilized their experience and savvy in pulling away from the Pirates.
“We came back at halftime and said let’s go back to the basics,” said O’Gorman, whose team plays at Hopewell Valley on April 18, hosts Notre Dame on April 20, and then plays at Robbinsville on April 23.
“Let’s play our defense. Let’s be steady and composed. Let’s do what we know how to do on attack; pull it out and start driving hard.”
Lopez-Ona, for her part, believes that the composure that PHS displayed down the stretch against WW/P-S will help the team in its drive for titles.
“It is a huge confidence boost because of the fact that we were able to hold on to the lead in the end,” said Lopez-Ona. “It was really telling for us that we have the stick skills all around.”