By Wayne Witkowski
Allentown High School’s girls’ lacrosse team has capitalized on eight returning starters to get off to a fast start this season.
The Redbirds won their first five games behind explosive scoring junior middie Marin Hartshorn, who has 19 goals and 11 assists, and senior attacker Danielle Sullivan, with 13 goals and five assists. Abby Howell has been a steady goalkeeper with her experience as a freshman starter on last year’s team that was 13-6. Allentown outscored its first five opponents, 64-20.
“The girls have been playing well together so far. The chemistry improves every day, and they are positive and supportive of each other out there. I think our team’s biggest strength is that we have a lot of talent in all positions of the field,” new coach Jen Garavente said. “Our goalies are phenomenal, our defense works as a cohesive unit, our midfielders are incredible on the draw circle and our attackers are creative. We flow very nicely together, and it has been great watching it come together for the past month.”
The Redbirds continued to move up the state rankings with three convincing victories last week. They beat Montgomery High School, 12-6, in their home opener April 13, as Hartshorn and Sullivan each scored three goals. Senior middie Alyssa Sloane scored two goals and had one assist, and sophomore middie Kaitlyn Bergen also scored twice. Sloan and Bergen each have eight goals and three assists on the season.
Allentown trailed, 2-0, early and rebounded for a 9-3 lead at halftime.
“Montgomery brought us some great competition for our first home game. The girls stayed composed. I am very proud of them for not giving up after the quick start by Montgomery and for being so mentally tough,” Garavente said. “With a challenging week ahead of us with Hopewell Valley (April 17), Princeton (April 19 at home) and Robbinsville (April 21 on the road), it was really important for us to have a successful week so the girls go in with a positive mindset. They are ready to step up, and I am confident in their abilities for what we have ahead.”
Hartshorn, Sloane, Bergen and Howell are returning starters along with junior defenders Sierra Wojcik, Gianna Skowronski and Hadley Borkowski and senior attacker Sydney Regina. Other starters include junior defender Mary Bellotti, junior middie Sydney Pado and junior attacker Julianna Golden. Sophomore backup goalkeeper Jillian Rekulak brings experience from last season.
“The season will be a journey, and it is just the beginning, so there is always room for improvement,” Garavente said. “Overall, I think we need to continue to build our chemistry and solidify our composure for high-pressure games.”
That includes efforts from key contributors junior Erin Wikoff, a defender who played last season, and freshmen Sofia Micklovic as a defender and Brianna Samuels as an attacker.
Other reserves who saw action last week include junior Riley Fogarty; sophomores Madison Regina, Kennedy Munster and Christina Zeleznik; and freshmen Kylie Reed, Isabella Walker and Morgan Vaccaro.
“All of our players contribute. It is great to have depth and confidence in all of the girls, not just the starting lineup,” Garavente said.
It showed in the other victories last week, including a 14-4 victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North. Hartshorn led 10 players in scoring with four goals and two assists.
“In that game, we kept the momentum going with another solid win,” Garavente said. “Our midfielders, Marin Hartshorn, Alyssa Sloane, and Kaitlyn Bergen, dominated on the draw, which helped us maintain control a majority of the game.”
Hartshorn had five goals and an assist in a 15-3 victory over Hightstown High School April 10. Howell and Rekulak split time in goal, making two saves each.
Ryan Huth lashed a walk-off single that drove in Austin Ferrier, who drew a walk with one out, as Allentown nosed out Notre Dame High School, 8-7, April 13 to stretch its unbeaten start to six games.
Huth smacked a run-scoring single earlier in the game, and Ferrier drove in three runs to back the six-hit pitching of Jordan Winston, who struck out six and walked four while allowing five runs on six hits.
Aydon Chavis chipped in three hits and an RBI. He leads the team in batting with a .526 average.
“I’m very pleased with the start of the season. We compete at a very high level, even when we’re not playing our best,” coach Brian Nice said. “The most exciting thing is we can get a whole lot better. Our pitching has been good but has room for improvement, and our bats are now just starting to warm up.”
Earlier in the week, Allentown won back-to-back Colonial Valley Conference Valley Division games over West Windsor-Plainsboro North. Matt Coiante smashed two hits for three RBIs as Allentown beat West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 10-5.
Chavis, Ferrier and Frank DelGuercio each knocked in a run. Huth allowed two runs on five hits over 4.1 innings pitched. Huth struck out 12 and walked three. Allentown led, 4-1, after the first inning and broke open a 5-2 lead with a three-run fourth inning.
In the other victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro North, a 7-1 triumph April 10, Winston broke open a 3-1 lead with a two-run triple in the sixth inning. Wild pitches earlier let in two runs, and Ferrier batted in another with a single in the third inning when Allentown took a 3-1 lead. Giuseppe Arcuri belted a solo homer later in the game. Colton Johnson allowed one run on one hit in four innings pitched, striking out eight and walking six.
Huth is hitting .467. Huth and Ferrier lead the team in RBIs with seven each.
Allentown played at Ewing High School April 17 and travels to South Brunswick High School April 20 before hosting Princeton High School April 21. All are 4 p.m. starts.
After posting a 4-0 victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro North April 10 for its third straight victory, Allentown dropped three straight games to slip to 3-4.
The week ended with a 5-0 loss to Notre Dame April 13 when the Redbirds were held to three hits.
They lost a rematch with West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 9-6, April 12. Heather Devine and Madison Storey each batted in a pair of runs. Storey and Sarina Campanella each had two hits.
Hopewell Valley Central High School started Allentown on its slump April 11 by beating the Redbirds, 5-2. With all of the scoring in the first inning, Grace Dawson batted in Allentown’s two runs. Pitcher Sam Einstein allowed seven hits.
In Allentown’s victory over West Windsor-Plainsboro North early in the week, Alyssa Notarianni belted a solo homer and Einstein lined a run-scoring double in the first inning, and that was all needed for Devine, who pitched a three-hitter with five strikeouts and one walk. Lauren Coiante lofted a sacrifice fly in the second inning and Campanella, who leads the team with a .450 batting average, ripped a run-scoring single in the fourth.
Allentown played at Ewing April 17 before a three-game homestand against Lawrence High School April 18, North Hunterdon High School April 19 and Princeton April 21.
Allentown (1-6) lost, 18-3, to Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School April 13. Connor Provost scored and assisted goals by Jared Jordan and Mike Surace.
Surace had two goals and an assist in a 12-9 loss to Robbinsville High School April 11. James Neebling registered a goal and two assists.