VERONA, NJ - In a year where they will return over half a dozen starters, the Verona High Schoool girls lacrosse team is poised to do some damage.

“We’re not the underdog anymore.  Teams know what to expect from us so we do have a bigger target on our back, but I do think these girls are up for the challenge, they want to work harder and they are ready to go,” said Verona Head Coach Suzanne Giarrusso.

Verona brings back eight returning letterman in 2018 to the squad. Last season the group filled with two seniors, five juniors and a sophomore helped Verona to a 12-7 record and conference title.

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“We’re missing three starters who were huge four-year varsity players, which is hard, but the rest of our players have all had significant varsity experience which is good,” said Giarrusso.

Junior Ashley Kenneally will lead Verona from the cage this season. Last year the junior collected 161 saves on the season helping her to a top 100 rank for the state.

“[Kenneally] had a great season for us last year and I’m excited for her to step in and pick up where she left off,” said Giarrusso.

Defensively the Hillbillies will see a minor change as CC Courter moves up to the midfield. Veteran Lara Tole will take charge from the back end after a solid season in 2017 where she was able to help the squad to a respectable rank of 76 for the year. Juniors Maeve McGinley and Erin Kiernan will join Tole to round out the defensive end.

“They definitely have all had varsity experience, which is good,” said Giarrusso.

In the midfield senior Courter will move up from the defense to add to the transition attack. Courter was a hot hand last year scoring 17 goals and adding two assists while being a rock on the defensive end.

“[Courter] has a fantastic shot and does really well on the offensive, she’s real strong so we want to give her the option of playing the whole entire field,” said Giarrusso.

Veterans Ally Madigan and Maggie Lonsinger will join Courter. Last year the duo combined for 28 points on 19 goals and nine assists.

Verona will look to have a more balanced offensive attack in 2018 with returning scorers Maggie Ashley, Julia Mackey, and Sarah Carlucci in the fold. Ashley will look to produce similar numbers to her sophomore campaign where she netted 48 goals, while Mackey and Carlucci will look to duplicate double-digit scoring numbers from last year. The trio will look to improve on an offense that produced over 10 goals per-game last season.

“It’s going to be a great balanced attack this year that any given day any of our players can score,” said Giarrusso.

The Verona squad is currently working to get ready for their season opening game, which is a little over a week away. The transition to the season has been tough due to the weather and an inability to practice on the turf, but the team is making the most of it.

“[We’re] figuring out the little things, it’s little things that [if we] get two weeks outside we’ll click, but we have just got to hope to get out there,”

While some coaches would panic at the delayed start, Giarrusso remains calm knowing that her squad put in extra time this offseason to prepare.

“Our girls worked hard in the offseason, in the winter they did a lot of stick work two days a week, which was great because they came into the season with the stick work higher than in years past, which always helps,” said Giarrusso.

Verona has set themselves some lofty goals this year including getting back to the county finals and making a run in State’s but first they must get through the games on their schedule. The group has marked their calendars for  March 29 when they take on Columbia to open up the 2018 campaign.

“We have to make sure that we’re ready to go and keep working hard,” said Giarrusso.

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona

and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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