BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan girls lacrosse team came close to perfection a year ago.
The Panthers won the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions with a 22-1 record, and the only team they lost to, Oak Knoll, they came back and defeated in the T of C final.
Ten letter winners return from that squad, which also won the state Group 4 championship en route to the overall title. Captains Tai Jankowski, a junior midfielder, senior midfielder/attack CJ Amster and senior defender Rachel White will help guide the team with their considerable skill and experience. Jankowski scored two goals in the Group 4 championship victory over Eastern Regional last season.
Other projected starters for the Panthers include sophomore attack/MF Madison Bray, junior attack Lizzy Escudero, freshman attack Reilly Januzzi, junior attack/defender Heather Stires, sophomore MF Kalie Moore, junior defense/MF Meghan Ball, junior defenders Sadie Herman and Dara Tracy, and senior goalie Kelsey Kaplowitz.
Head coach Alyssa Frazier is showing a bold willingness to entrust key positions to younger players to blend in with Bridgewater-Raritan's more experienced hands.
"We lost a strong senior class, but we have a lot of returning talent," Frazier said. "So I am very optimistic about the season. They are hard workers with great attitudes."
This year's team has a heck of an act to follow, but Frazier is confident that they can forge an indelible identity of their own.
"Our goals for the season include winning the (Skyland) conference, (Somerset) county, section and making it back to the state finals," Frazier said.
Bridgewater-Raritan opens its season at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Basilone Field against Hunterdon Central. After that, the Panthers will host Rumson-Fair Haven Saturday at 10 a.m.