March 29, 2017

With New Coach Doran Emphasizing Team Unity, PHS Girls’ Lacrosse Looking to Utilize its Depth

MIDDLE GROUND: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Georgia McLean controls the ball in a game last spring. PHS is looking for senior star McLean to be its engine in the midfield again this season. The Little Tigers open their 2017 campaign by hosting WW/P-North on March 29. It will be the program’s first game under new head coach Sara Doran, who is succeeding David Schlesinger. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For Sara Doran, playing on the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team in the 1980s proved to be an unforgettable experience.

“I have a special place in my heart for Princeton High,” said Doran, a 1987 PHS grad who played for the program’s state championship squad in 1985.

“Truly, some of the best memories of my growing up are from my days on the lacrosse field.”

Now Doran is looking to create those memories for current PHS players as she takes the helm of the program, succeeding David Schlesinger, who guided the Little Tigers to a 10-8 record last year and has moved on to coach at Central Bucks East High (Pa.).

“I knew we were really looking for someone who would be invested in helping the program thrive; I wanted to step in and help out in any way I could,” said Doran, who played for the Northwestern women’s lacrosse program after her PHS career and has been coaching in the Princeton Girls’ Lacrosse (PGLAX) program for years.

“I am very into building a team culture. One of the great things about this team is that we have great depth on the team and I want to be able to utilize that. I want them to develop and work as a team but also have fun while they are doing it. My philosophy is to create a supportive environment that helps them grow and develop as both players and people and to be able to compete at a high level but while also having fun.”

In Doran’s view, the squad has responded well to that approach as PHS prepares to open the season by hosting WW/P-N on March 29.

“I think the girls are ready, they look great and are playing as a team,” said Doran.

“They are enthusiastic and supportive of each other. That is the culture I am trying to build. Hopefully we can have success that way.”

A key to the team’s success this spring figures to be its talented midfield. “We have a strong midfield,” said Doran. “Georgia McLean, Mariana Lopez-Ona, Abaigeal Ryan, who is recruited to Temple, Serena Bolitho, and Kathryn DeMilt are our midfielders.”

Doran is depending on senior star McLean and sophomore standout Lopez-Ona to be catalysts.

“Georgia is the workhorse; she is your classic unsung hero,” added Doran.

“She does all the hard work, getting the ground balls, caused turnovers, and the draw controls. She is just working for 50 minutes out there the entire time. She is looking great. Mariana has a beautiful shot and beautiful stick skills. She is a team player. She knows when to drive and when to pass. She will be a very valuable asset to us this year.”

On attack, Doran believes that senior Olivia Geller and junior Margaret Jacobs will emerge as major assets.

“Olivia Geller has been recruited to Georgian Court,” said Doran. “I am looking for her to take a leadership role on attack as well as Margaret Jacobs, whose sister (Elizabeth) played a number of years. They are who I am looking to at attack.”

The defensive unit features some battle-tested veterans. “Gwen Koehler, a senior, will be leading the defensive unit,” said Doran, noting that senior Olivia Skopas and junior Sophia Navarette will also play key roles at the defensive end.”

Senior Zoe Tesone made an impact at goalie last year in her first season playing lacrosse and figures to be even better with a year under her belt.

“I know Zoe was new to the game last year; she is just such a great athlete,” said Doran of Tesone, who also stars for PHS in soccer and basketball.

“She has very little fear in there and I think she is looking fantastic. She is going to be a huge asset to us; I am super excited about Zoe.”

Doran, for her part, believes that helping her players master the nuances of the game could lead to a huge season for the Little Tigers.

“If I can really get them to play together as a unit and really look for each other, I think we can be a threat all over the field,” said Doran, crediting assistant coaches Katie Federico, Meg Reilly, and Suzanne Albanese with playing a key role in that process.

“I have really been focusing on game sense and field IQ and getting them to understand how to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, reacting to that and being able to adjust.”