For Emilia Lopez-Ona, getting the 300th career goal in her Princeton High girls’ lacrosse career didn’t come easy.
After scoring her fifth goal against visiting Allentown last Thursday with 22:20 left in the second half to reach the 299 mark, Lopez-Ona started misfiring.
“After I scored five goals, I think I missed four shots,” said senior star and Penn-bound Lopez-Ona.
“They were open shots. My shooting string loosened up so I had zero whip in my stick. I fired one over the goal. I took one to the pipe.”
With 5:45 left in the contest, Lopez-Ona found the back of the net to hit the 300 milestone. The game was stopped and the PHS players mobbed Lopez-Ona, waving posters and posing for photos.
The moment was special for Lopez-Ona on several levels. “I am glad I scored it here at home; my dad was able to see it, he missed my 100th because he was coming back from a business trip,” said Lopez-Ona, who ended the day with six goals as PHS pulled away to a 14-10 victory over the Redbirds.
“It means a lot that my teammates would do that; they were truly happy for me. Watching them do that for me it feels really nice.”
Noting that she never expected to hit the 300-goal mark when starting her PHS career in the spring of 2011, Lopez-Ona said that her progress reflects a love of the game.
“Part of the beauty of the sport is in terms of the growth and the ability of someone to improve,” said Lopez-Ona.
“The sport allows for people to make rapid transitions throughout their career. I know that I have watched a lot of the younger players on our team raise the level of their games.”
PHS raised the level of its game as it overcame a tough and talented Allentown squad.
“We were able to pull together, the theme of this game was controlling tempo,” said Lopez-Ona.
“They did a great job in the first half of running the motion offense. Our defense was able to hold them for a really long time. To be able to build that lead and change in the second half to control that tempo I think shows a lot of the growth in our team.”
With PHS having prevailed in a number of close games recently, Lopez-Ona believes the team is growing into something special.
“When we do need to make changes as a team, we can control the tempo and the possessions in the middle of the game to gather ourselves,” said Lopez-Ona, who tallied five goals and two assists as PHS edged Lawrenceville 14-12 last Monday to improve to 11-2. “That shows a lot of maturity.”
PHS head coach Kelsey O’Gorman liked the way PHS took control of the Allentown game.
“It is always nice to beat Allentown, especially on your home turf because they are just a great team,” said O’Gorman.
“It is great to have a competitive matchup and we have had a lot of those this year. They play tough the whole game. They picked up their intensity and we picked up ours. A lot of great lacrosse was played today. We had a lot of great contributions from many of our players.”
It was a great moment for the program to celebrate Lopez-Ona’s achievement.
“It was an exciting day for Emilia; I think the biggest thing about her is that she contributes all over the field,” said O’Gorman.
“She is the definition of a midfielder, look at her on the draw, look at her on the circle and on the line. With her knee hurting her and everything, she fights through. She had a lot of fouls on her today and you never see her go where’s the call, she is composed out there. She has had to be dealing with that pressure since she was a sophomore.”
While Lopez-Ona possesses athletic gifts in terms of speed and coordination, it is her diligence that has made her so prolific.
“It didn’t come easy; she works really hard,” added O’Gorman. “Those 300 goals came from coming out here when no one is on the turf with a bag of balls and shooting nonstop. She has worked hard for this milestone. I am really proud of her; it is phenomenal to coach a player like her.”
O’Gorman likes the way PHS is working collectively as it heads into postseason play.
“We are playing smart and taking care of the ball in crucial situations,” said O’Gorman, whose team starts action in the Mercer County Tournament where it is seeded third and is slated to host No. 14 Ewing in a first round contest on May 3.
“I think when we played Notre Dame we had errors nonstop and they kept piling up. Now we are making up for each other’s errors. We have adjusted to the draw a little better. We are ready, it is great to gather that momentum. It is a new season.”
Lopez-Ona, for her part, is confident that PHS can ride that momentum to some deep tournament runs.
“I think if this team stays on the right track in terms of what we are doing with the 50/50 ground balls,
our draw controls, keeping our turnovers low, and controlling the tempo of the game, we can make that change to coming out on top in these bigger games,” said Lopez-Ona.