May 30, 2018

DeMilt Comes Through With Game-winner As PHS Girls’ Lax Takes Sectional Crown

DEVIL OF A TIME: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Kathryn DeMilt, middle, draws a crowd of Rancocas Valley defenders as the teams met in the Group 4 Central Jersey sectional
final last Thursday. Junior attacker DeMilt scored the winning goal as top-seeded PHS prevailed 9-8 over the second-seeded Red Devils, overcoming an 8-3 second half deficit. The Little Tigers, now 13-10, were slated to face South Jersey Group 4 champion Clearview (14-6) in the state Group 4 semis on May 29 with the victor advancing to the title game on June 2.(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The hopes of a sectional title for the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team rested on the stick of Kathryn DeMilt.

With top-seeded PHS locked in an 8-8 tie with second-seeded Rancocas Valley in the Group 4 Central Jersey sectional final last Thursday, PHS junior star midfielder DeMilt was awarded a free position opportunity in front of the Red Devil goal with 1:50 left in regulation.

As DeMilt bent into position to shoot, she kept her focus on the basics.

“I was nervous, but I have been practicing this since I was little,” said DeMilt. “I knew I had to finish, I had to cut off the defender and shoot.”

Making a quick move at the whistle, DeMilt bounced the ball past the Rancocas Valley goalie into the back of the cage to give PHS a 9-8 lead.

The Little Tigers held off the Red Devils to win by that 9-8 margin.

PHS, now 13-10, was slated to face South Jersey Group 4 Clearview (14-6) in the Group 4 state semis on May 29 with the victor advancing to the state title game on June 2.

With PHS trailing 6-3 at halftime, it knew it had to refocus in order to overcome the Red Devils.

“Something we always live by is to bounce back,” said DeMilt. “We all took a deep breath. We used this anger and adrenaline that we had to to fight back because we really wanted it.”

Even though the deficit grew to 8-3 with 18:45 to go in the game, the Little Tigers weren’t about to give up the fight.

“There were some doubts, but we are all athletes and we are all here to put everything on the field,” said DeMilt. “We have had a great season and we wanted it to end well.”

Sparked by some great play from sophomore Shaylah Marciano and junior Mariana Lopez-Ona, PHS knotted the game at 8-8 with 4:29 left in the second half.

“They are leaders on the team. Everybody looks up to them whether they are older or younger,” said DeMilt of Marciano, who had two goals in the rally, with Lopez-Ona chipping three. “It is a really positive attitude and leaders to look up to as a team.”

That positive approach combined with character were key factors in the dramatic comeback.

“It shows that we have a lot of heart and we are all great teammates,” said DeMilt. “We are all here to win and play for the love of lacrosse.”

DeMilt has displayed heart in emerging as a top scoring threat for the Little Tigers this spring.

“In the beginning I struggled with being in my head a lot,” said DeMilt. “When I got older, I just got more comfortable on the field and more comfortable with the girls I played with. I have grown as a player.”

PHS head coach Sara Doran was happy to see the ball on DeMilt’s stick with the game on the line.

“Kathryn is such a great player; she has an amazing shot,” said Doran.

“I actually pulled her aside before the game and I said ‘this is your game, you can do this,’ because in the last couple of games she has been feeling a little frustrated. I have all the faith in the world in her, not knowing that she would be in that position to score the winning goal. She pulled through amazingly. She is an undervalued player sometimes on the team.”

With the Little Tigers frustrated to be trailing at halftime, Doran looked to calm her players down.

“We were only down by three at that point and it was really a mental game with the girls,” said Doran.

“I said, ‘this is ours, this is our chance, it is one at a time, we have plenty of time to do this.’ Sometimes when they are down, they feel panicky like they have to rush. We didn’t have to rush these goals, and that is what they did.”

PHS also made tactical adjustments at both ends of the field.

“Defensively, we needed to put more pressure on the feeders; we needed to take them out of their offense a little bit,” said Doran.

“We were giving them too much time to set their offense up. We had to spread out on offense and create the openings. The more spread out you are on offense, it makes it harder for the defense to double- and triple-team. They did that beautifully in the second half. They stayed spread out, they were patient, they waited for the openings.”

Doran credited Lopez-Ona with opening things up for the Little Tigers down the stretch of the contest.

“In the first half, I could tell she was a little flustered. Some of her shots weren’t coming through,” said Doran of the Michigan-bound Lopez-Ona who ended up with with four goals and an assist in the win.

“For her to be able to turn that around in the second half and play her game is a testament to the kind of player she is.”

First-year junior goalie Grace Reardon came through as well, making five saves on the day, including a point-blank stop in the waning moments of the contest.

“We have just seen her improvement every game, and for her to have the game winning save at the end is very sweet,” said Doran, noting that Reardon has consulted with former PHS star goalie and current Michigan player Mira Shane.

“Grace is a very tough mental player, she doesn’t let situations get to her, and that is proven by what she did at the end. A lot of goalies would be freaked out by that. She is very tough mentally and she pulled through for us there.”

For Doran, who played for the PHS girls’ lax team that won a state championship in 1985, guiding the Little Tigers to a title meant a lot.

“It is overwhelming; I am so, so proud of the girls because we have been working really hard and we have faced a lot of obstacles this season,” said Doran.

“We started out with that 1-5 record and I am just so proud that they never let it get them down. We kept pushing and if you look at us over the season, we have really come to a place where we have confidence. We are playing as a team, we are trusting each other.”

DeMilt, for her part, is proud of how PHS has peaked at the right time.

“I think after our first couple games, we sat back and we used the next couple of games to work on it,” said DeMilt. “We went back to the drawing board and we figured everything out. By the time of the tournaments, we were set and we were in sync.”