May 31, 2023

Junior Midfielder Devlin Stars in Losing Cause As PHS Girls’ Lax Falls in State Tourney Opener   

IN PURSUIT: Princeton High girls’ lacrosse player Riley Devlin goes after the ball in a game this spring. Last Thursday, junior midfielder Devlin tallied four goals in a losing cause as 10th-seeded PHS fell 12-7 at seventh-seeded Middletown South in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North Jersey Group 3 tournament. The defeat left the Tigers with a final record of 7-12. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Riley Devlin was determined to set a good example this spring for her younger teammates on the Princeton High girls’ lacrosse team.

With PHS losing a stellar group of seniors from its 2022 squad to graduation, junior midfielder Devlin knew that she had to shoulder more responsibility.

“As a sophomore, I laid back under the seniors last year, so it was a big adjustment,” said Devlin. “We have a really young team, not a lot of seniors. I was really trying to teach them and coach them. The freshmen are really talented — they definitely made progress.”

Starring this past winter for the PHS girls’ basketball team helped prepare Devlin for her mentorship role.

“I was a point guard with a lot of assists on a young team in basketball too so that was being a leader,” said Devlin. “I really needed to build that up; that helped me in lacrosse and working with the freshmen.”

Last Thursday as 10th-seeded PHS played at seventh-seeded Middletown South in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North Jersey Group 3 tournament, Devlin took the lead as she scored a pair of goals to help the Tigers jump out to a 4-2 lead.

“We got in a groove,” said Devlin. “Quinn [Gallagher] was doing amazing on the draws. The attack was all spreading out and swinging the ball.”

PHS hit a lull as Middletown South reeled off eight unanswered goals to build a 10-4 lead midway through the second half. The Tigers battled back to narrow the gap to 10-7 as Devlin added two more goals but could get no closer as the Eagles prevailed 12-7.

“We kind of lost it on defense, which is something that we need to work on,” said Devlin. “We looked at the score and we knew this is now how we play. We weren’t playing at our level. We kept our heads up, we didn’t care about the score. We tried our hardest. This is the first state game, it was all or nothing and we wanted to give it our all. We have a really young team and we worked really hard, we are getting better.”

Devlin, who ended up with four goals in the defeat which left the Tigers with a final record of 7-12, saw her scoring output as a group effort.

“I was feeling good. I think my teammates did amazing,” said Devlin. “I got assists from all over the place — everybody on attack played amazing. They contributed to all four of my goals.”

Tallying a team-high 68 goals this spring, Devlin enjoyed a very good season.

“I have goals before the season. I think everyone needs to have something that they strive for,” said Devlin, who also led the Tigers in posts with 85. “I think that I played pretty hard. There are always things that could be better. I am keeping my head up and looking forward to next season.”

PHS head coach Katie Federico credited Devlin with making her teammates better.

“Riley had a fantastic year, she became a leader on this team,” said Federico. “To hear her voice at halftime when she is giving suggestions or even at practice, taking that role on with the underclassmen has been really nice. The beauty is that we still have another year with this junior class, which I am really excited about.”

Federico is also excited about the progress made this season by her bevy of young players which features a strong freshman group.

“They have grown as a unit, really communicating,” said Federico who got a goal and an assist from junior Phoebe Steiger in the loss with freshmen Quinn Gallagher and Nicki Lee each scoring a goal. “The attack, feeling the passes with each other, and the defense with the talking.”

While the loss to Middletown South stung, Federico believes that playing in a state game was a good growth experience for the squad.

“I said ‘you are 0-0 coming into states, your record is gone, you don’t know what it is going to happen,’” said Federico. “They did what they could out there. It was a great start. We had some unfortunate turnovers and that killed us. We were able to rally and it is a growing year.”

In Federico’s view, the Tigers have the potential to do some great things going forward.

“I think it will set them up nicely for next year, everybody was always getting in which was great,” said Federico. “To go from club or JV or middle school on to varsity, it is a very different feel. They are a fun group, they are a good group of girls. We will learn and move on to next year.”

Devlin, for her part, believes that the returners need to use the lessons learned from the up-and-down spring to show more resolve going forward.

“I think we could have played better. It is an adjustment,” said Devlin. “We lost a lot of players but that happens to every team. We just need to work harder.”