May 1, 2019

With Marciano Triggering the Attack, 11-1 PHS Girls’ Lax Rolling Into MCT

PLAYMAKER: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Shaylah Marciano cradles the ball in recent action. Last Monday, junior standout Marciano tallied three goals and three assists to help PHS edge Clearview 13-11. The Tigers, now 11-1, will start play in the Mercer County Tournament where they are seeded second and slated to host a quarterfinal contest on May 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Shaylah Marciano came out firing as the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team hosted perennial powerhouse Hunterdon Central last Thursday.

The junior midfielder tallied two goals and two assists in the first 7:21 of the contest as PHS jumped out to a 4-1 lead.

“We knew they were a really good team coming in, we have lost to this team before,” said Marciano.

“We really wanted to start out strong so we could continue the momentum throughout the game.”   

After the Red Devils went on a 5-2 run to knot the game at 6-6, the Tigers reeled off six unanswered goals to build a 12-6 lead at halftime.

“We had our ups and downs, but everyone put their head down and focused on what they needed to do individually,” said Marciano.

PHS didn’t let up in the second half, going on a 10-3 run of its own and never looked back on the way to a 25-14 win.

“Everyone stepped up so well, it was really the draw controls of Mariana [Lopez-Ona],” said Marciano.

“She does a fantastic job of getting the  draw and pushing that fast break. We wanted to keep pushing that; we kept it rolling from there.”

Marciano tallied seven goals and three assists in the victory as she assumed the role of finisher instead of her usual focus on feeding.

“That was the way the offense worked, they had a little bit of a different defense,” said Marciano.

“They doubled sometimes; it was mix and match and my teammates found me today.”

Marciano and senior star Lopez-Ona have developed a knack for finding each other over the years, a partnership which will continue as they have both committed to attend the University of Michigan and compete for its women’s lacrosse program.

“We have been playing together for a very long time and we are going to keep playing together for a long time,” said Marciano of Lopez-Ona who had five goals and three assists against Hunterdon Central.

“That connection has always been super strong. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses extremely well. She just gives me a look and it is ‘oh OK.’”

Balance has emerged as a strength of the PHS attack. “We are super blessed to have an extremely talented offense this year,” said Marciano, who tallied three goals and three assists to help PHS edge Clearview 13-11 last Monday as it improved to 11-1.

“Every single player can feed, assist, or drive. Anyone on the team, no matter where the ball is, can make something happen. That is really the key to our success. If they take one of us out, we have another six girls who can do it. It is an extremely selfless team; we really look for each other.”

The PHS defensive unit has also been looking sharp. “Our defense has gotten so much better every single game,” added Marciano.

“Lila Doran is playing so well with interceptions and ground balls. We have been a doing phenomenal job on defense and a key to our offense is getting those stops on defense and transitioning it.”

PHS head coach Meg Reilly sensed that her team was primed to play well against Hunterdon Central.

“Hunterdon is always consistently strong and fast and they are incredible off the draw,” said Reilly.

“They have a fantastic reputation but we have just been playing more together each game. We get a little bit better and stronger at trusting each other. A huge theme of today was trust.”

Withstanding the first half flurry from the Red Devils, PHS kept things together until the final whistle.

“There were some momentum shifts but we always ended up on top because we stayed fired up,” said Reilly, who got five goals from freshman Kate Becker in the win with junior Eva Petrone adding four goals and an assist and senior Kathryn DeMilt contributing three goals and an assist.

“That was PHS transition. We have always been strong with transitions and if another team’s defense takes away our transition, we get a little out of whack. We kept it totally consistent today with transition.”

Marciano has been a consistent threat for the Tigers. “I adore the fact that she is an all around athlete, she can do everything well in multiple sports,” said Reilly of Marciano, who is also a soccer goalie and basketball point guard for PHS.

“She found her shot today because she is so unselfish. It wasn’t even because of drives, it is because she was always in the right place at the right time. She is trying to set her teammates up and they equally set her up well.”

The one-two punch of Marciano and Lopez-Ona drives the PHS attack.

“Mariana was the playmaker today and Shaylah was the finisher, they can both take turns,” said Reilly. “They know each other so well, it is almost like they can telepathically communicate. They find each other; you don’t even see the fact that the other is open but they see it.”

Reilly was happy to see her defensive unit come up big with some key early stops. “The defense was the unit that was firing us up the most,” said Reilly. “It was led by Lila and Lauren [Rougas] with their blocks and interceptions.”

The excellence at both ends from PHS drew an emotional response from the first-year head coach in the wake of the victory.

“They choked me up because they played so well today. I am happy that we play tough competition and rise to the occasion,” said Reilly.

“A game like this and a game like Notre Dame (a 12-6 win on April 8), those two were our biggest statement victories. I am most proud of those two because of the way they brought each other up and raised the level of play with each minute of the game. They kept challenging each other to do better and better.

With PHS starting play in the Mercer County Tournament this week where it is seeded second and will host a quarterfinal contest on May 4, Reilly is confident her players will keep rising to the occasion.

“I am so excited,” said Reilly. “We need to focus on the transition game and the communication on defense, especially with the second slides. On attack, it is being unselfish. When our attack is unselfish, we play the best.”

Marciano, for her part, shares Reilly’s excitement as she looks ahead to the postseason.

“We definitely want to make a statement in the postseason with MCTs and states,” said Marciano. “It is playing our game and hopefully seeing teams like Lawrenceville, Allentown, or Notre Dame and having great games.”