Showing Growth Throughout 2021 Campaign, Hun Girls’ Lacrosse Sees Bright Future Ahead
GOAL-ORIENTED: Hun School girls’ lacrosse player Abby O’Brien looks for an opening in a game this season. Sophomore star O’Brien triggered the Hun offense, tallying team-highs in goals (70) and assists (13) as the Raiders posted a 7-10 record this spring, advancing to the state Prep A semifinals along the way. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
As Kathleen Jaeger looks back on her first season guiding the Hun School girls’ lacrosse team, she points to a 12-9 loss to Princeton Day School in mid-May as a defining moment.
“We made up a six-goal gap; it was great to see the girls really step up, believe in each other and trust each other,” said Hun head coach Kathleen Jaeger, who led the Raiders to a 7-10 record.
“That was just incredible, that was the moment we were waiting for all season. I wish the score could have been different but it was the heart of the team that really came out.”
The Raiders showed skill to go with that heart in a 15-7 win over Peddie during the final week of the season as Abby O’Brien tallied six goals in the victory with Ava Olender adding three and Olivia Kim and Maggie Maffia chipping in two apiece.
“It was just nice to see everyone move the ball; on certain days we clicked this year and on certain days, we were missing that little it factor,” said Jaeger.
“We saw the strengths of a lot of different players. We were able to rely on them in those tougher, tighter games. If they shut one person down, somebody else would step up.”
In Jaeger’s view, Hun stepped up as the spring unfolded. “We grew a lot throughout the season,” said Jaeger. “Specifically with lax IQ and knowing the right time to drive or feed or pass being able to read the defense and react.”
Senior captains Anna Hyson and Gabby Cattani set the right tone for their younger teammates. They were both leaders but in different ways,” said Jaeger.
“Anna was a verbal leader, she was constantly talking. She was my right hand. When I was hired, she was the first person to say ‘OK coach, let’s do this, let’s do that.’ She was constantly communicating that way. Gabby was the workhorse. She would come to practice and she might not be the first person in every drill, but she was always one who was working hard and leading by example. It was really cool to have the two of them balance together like that.”
With a core of returners including sophomore O’Brien (70 goals and 13 assists in 2021), sophomore Kim (31 goals, 5 assists), freshman Olender (30 goals, 9 assists), sophomore Priscilla Stelmach (14 goals, 9 assists), sophomore Maffia (15 goals, 7 assists), sophomore Tylr Neely (1 goal), and junior Sydney Issacson (5 goals, 3 assists), the Raiders have the foundation in place to be a high-powered offense.
“Abby was a really consistent player for us this season but she was not the only one,” said Jaeger.
“That freshman and sophomore class, who in my mind were both freshmen classes, was amazing. They possess this group leadership among them. It looks like they carry it on and off the field. It doesn’t matter what age they are, they are going to step up to get the job done, to make the team progress to the next level. That is something that is very exciting as a coach because I know there are a lot of possibilities and those girls are not going to give up.”
Jaeger, a former lacrosse and track star at The College of New Jersey, enjoyed an exciting debut at the helm of the Hun program.
“This year is all about flexibility; I was thrown in there and I had to figure it out,” said Jaeger.
“It was great having girls who were ready to show up at practice or to games, especially when we had games two days in a row. That dedication and perseverance and our flexibility throughout the season made that transition really easy.”