Defense: the act or action of defending (Miriam-Webster Dictionary)

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ — That simple definition is one that should be applied immediately as the Gov. Livingston girls’ lacrosse team finds itself on the eve of the 2021 Spring campaign.

“We feel fortunate that we have a solid group back on defense,” said Lady Highlanders’ coach Chloe Griffin. “It makes things a bit easier when you're strong on defense, and we have two starting senior defenders coming back to solidify our end. We’ve got a good number of players returning with experience.”

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It will be nearly two years since the Lady Highlanders took to the lacrosse pitch after the Covid19 pandemic; and the squad is more than ready to take the field and play. Two years ago Gov. Livingston posted an 8-10 final record.

Anchoring the Gov. Livingston’s stout defense are experienced seniors Emily Haines and Kelsey DiStaso along with talented junior Lauren Paprocki. In the midfield the Lady Highlanders also return a sturdy duo in senior Julia Raimondi and junior Gianna Ciccimarra, who had 12 goals and four assists as a freshman two seasons ago.

Promising newcomers in sophomore Arden McDonald and junior Julia Byrne will help bolster the midfield with Raimondi and Ciccimarra.

“Our strength definitely comes from the leadership of our returning defenders and seniors,” Griffin said. “We are a very young team and due to covid, have not had a long time to work together, but I am confident these athletes can get past the hurdles and have a great season.”

The Lady Highlanders have not had the chance to play any scrimmages to prepare for the season due to Covid protocols, so the opening will surely be a new experience.

“We’re happy the season is going forward,” said Griffin. “We were placed on a two-week quarantine, so we couldn’t scrimmage. Our first test will come in our first game. You don’t get many practices or a few scrimmages to kind of work out some kinks. We’re working on the fly to start the season. We’re just jumping right in.”

On the offensive side the Lady Highlanders have a potent scoring threat in Mia Maguire. The slick-shooting senior attack netted 26 goals to go with 20 assists and 13 forced turnovers as a sophomore in 2019. Opposing defenses will pay particular attention to Maguire.

“Mia was a key player for us in 2019,” Griffin noted, “and we are really leaning on her on offense and Gianna in the midfield. Mia is our big name on offense, so I expect teams will focus on shutting her down. We are ready for that and expecting some other players to get open and take advantage of that.”

Griffin has been impressed thus far with the freshmen pair of Megan Kim and Isabella Nappi on the attack. 

In goal the Lady Highlanders will rely on the tandem of junior Holliday Woodard and freshman Maria DiPasquale.

Gov. Livingston opens its season on Wednesday when it travels to play Paramus.

“There’s no easing into the season,” Griffin admitted. “The season will open on the fly, so we have to focus on making quick changes and adjustments. With few practices and no scrimmages the start is a bit of an unknown, but we will take it stride by stride.”

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Valairco Heating & Cooling is the proud sponsor of the Highlander Athlete of the Week. Kevin McHugh, Valairco Owner and President and Berkeley Heights resident, is an alumni of Gov. Livingston High School.

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