VERONA, NJ-It would take veteran leadership to lead the way to a 6-5 comeback victory for the Verona Girls Lacrosse Team on Senior Night as the Lady Hillbillies rebounded from a two game losing streak in a big way.
“It was good, it was senior night so it was good to honor those who have given so much to the program…we knew this was going to be a hard fought battle because [Kent Place is] a good team,” said Verona Head Coach Suzanne Giarrusso.
Verona found themselves down 2-1 at the end of the half needing to change the momentum. Despite outshooting their Kent Place counterparts by nearly double the total Verona struggled to find the net.
“We started off very slow, I think we got in our heads [with] senior night,” said Dana Pena.
Given the more calculated style of play that Kent Place utilizes Verona had to adapt. The fast pace that the Lady Hillbillies are used to needed to be altered to counter to a slower moving opponent.
“Their first possession was five minutes and we’re not used to that. We’re used to people going hard and fast to goal so we had to adjust to that,” said Giarrusso.
Ultimately Verona’s coach gave her team a pep talk refusing to allow them to fall for a third straight loss at the half.
“She told us we had to go harder at the ground balls, we have to go harder to the cage, stop the fast breaks…I think we were in our own heads at the beginning, but we figured it out on the field,” said Pena.
Pena, a senior herself who has helped mold the team this season to a 9-2 record took her coaches words to heart. After another Kent Place goal to start the second half Pena notched back-to-back goals to tie the game up at three with 17:22 remaining in regulation.
“I was not shy going to cage today because after we were down at half that we really needed to step up and I took it upon myself,” said Pena.
Her senior counterpart Ava Anderson who tallied the next two goals to put Verona up 5-3 with 7:04 remaining joined Pena in the scoring run. Anderson continued her excellent season with her sixth and seventh goals in the last three games.
Ultimately, Kent Place creeped to within one with three minutes left and Verona needed to dig deep once again. Pena capped off her huge senior night by feeding Maggie Lonsinger on a beautiful pass for the games decisive goal with 2:45 remaining.
“They were sending the double and I just looked inside and she was there and had a beautiful shot so it worked out,” said Pena.
For Verona, the win is a much needed victory after two straight losses to Glen Ridge. The Lady Hillbillies will look to create a new winning streak as the State Tournament is a mere two weeks away.
“We know that in two weeks States starts and we’re just working hard everyday and knowing that this is crunch time,” said Giarrusso.