March 28, 2012

After Going From Tragedy to Triumph Last Year, PHS Girls’ Lax Bringing Deep Bond Into 2012

MID-RANGE GAME: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse star Mia Haughton heads up the field last season. The Amherst College-bound senior midfielder figures to be an offensive catalyst for PHS this spring as it looks to build on a stirring 2011 season that saw the Little Tigers win the Mercer County Tournament on the way to an 11-5 final record. PHS is slated to start the 2012 season by hosting Montgomery High on March 27 and then playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Last year, the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team authored a profile in courage.

In late April, the PHS players were devastated when senior midfielder Emma Brunskill passed away.

Playing through their grief and forging a deep bond in the process, the Little Tigers produced a stirring run, winning the Mercer County Tournament for the first time and advancing to the second round of the state tournament.

Last year’s tragedy and triumph has influenced the squad as it gets ready to start the 2012 campaign.

“I think the girls realize how important it is to bond on and off the field,” said PHS head coach Christie Cooper, who is in her fourth year at the helm of the program and guided the Little Tigers to an 11-5 record last spring.

“They realize that off-the-field relationships can impact their play on the field. After last year, they realize that there are a lot more important things than lacrosse and that the sport is a fun thing to do so they should just enjoy it.”

Cooper believes that the PHS midfield trio of Amherst College-bound senior Mia Haughton, together with sophomore standouts Emilia Lopez-Ona and Elizabeth Jacobs will be fun to watch this spring.

“Haughton and Lopez-Ona; they have the ability to pass to each other,” said Cooper, whose team was slated to start the season by hosting Montgomery High on March 27 and then playing at Hopewell Valley on March 31.

“They read each other without a sound; they can just look at each other. Lopez-Ona can catch anything and Haughton makes great feeds. Jacobs is stepping up; she plays without thinking. She just plays the game and uses her brute force.”

Another senior, William Smith-bound Chiara Favalaro, will be the driving force of the attack unit that will also feature junior Vivien Bazarko and sophomore Olivia Kelley.

“Kelley and Bazarko are new so Favalaro will be the leader; she is helping them make the transition,” said Cooper.

The Little Tiger defense is being led by a third battle-tested senior, Katie Reilly, who will be joining Haughton at Amherst.

“Reilly is a tremendous leader; she always gives constructive talk,” said Cooper. “She leads by example.”

Reilly has a good group to lead as the PHS backline will also include sophomore Dana Smith, junior Clara Celestin, sophomore Kristi Demilt, and junior Madison Luther.

“Dana is a wonderful athlete and we are happy to have Celestin back there,” said Cooper.

“Luther is in just her second year playing the game but has really picked things up.”

Freshman Mira Shane has been picking things up quickly at goalie as she takes over for graduated star Devin Chambers.

“Mira has been a great surprise,” asserted Cooper. “Goalie was a big question mark; it is one position where we really needed a replacement. She talks on the field and she gets along with everyone. She doesn’t act like a freshman. She’s getting outside training. I was nervous before but I am not now.”

As Cooper looks ahead to the season, she knows there are going to be some nerve-wracking moments.

“We have lots of potential but our side of the CVC is very strong,” said Cooper.

“The teams are evenly matched; there are no easy games. You have to play the best to get better. It could be tough for seeding in the tournaments but we are better for it and it will help in the postseason.”

But after last year, PHS has a better perspective on what it takes to get through tough times.

“It is a new season and a new team but the bond from the girls last year has carried on with this group,” said Cooper.