VERONA,NJ - A Verona lacrosse player is making the most of her senior year and doing so with impressive statistics and a winning attitude. That player is Ava Anderson and she is this week’s TAP into Verona/Cedar Grove’s Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.
“I am really honored to be chosen for AOTW,” Anderson said. “It’s always really awesome to get recognition when you're performing well.”
Performing well is exactly what Anderson is doing this season, earning herself 49 goals and three assists so far. She is even in the top 15 scorers in the state and was able to celebrate scoring her 100th goal this season, a milestone Anderson said she was really looking forward to achieving.
“I have already surpassed my goals scored from last season and that’s a really great feeling and due to me just being more aggressive to the cage,” Anderson said. “My teammates have also been really great with assisting me to goal, especially Dana Pena who I really try to work together with.”
Coming into the season, Anderson didn’t want to leave anything on the field and strived to surpass her 44 goals from last season. As a leader, the Hillbilly captain also wanted to encourage her teammates to score goals and have their own personal moments to be proud of on the field.
Anderson – who is a midfielder -- achieved not only the goals she set as a player, but also as a leader. The Hillbillies are currently undefeated with nine wins, a record that Anderson credits to her team’s ability to work as a unit.
“The whole team came out for this season really ready to make a statement and thus far everyone has been contributing to our wins,” Anderson said. “None of our games have been a single-handed effort for anyone and our major strength is working together and using each of our individual strengths to promote a whole team victory.”
As far as challenges, the team has already proven that they are able to get passed any obstacle or tough game this season and the team’s two games against Caldwell have shown that. In the Hillbillies’ first game against Caldwell they won with only a two-point difference, with the score being 13-11, but in their second game Verona beat Caldwell 17-4.
“I think this was a testament to how good we actually are,” Anderson said. “When all of our forces come together and it’s Verona's day we can really make an impact. This win was really great as we came out on fire and did not give up our lead at any point.”
Still, the team has its challenges, especially with some big games coming up. Anderson hopes the girls will keep up the intensity they’ve exhibited all season going into the semifinals of the Essex County Tournament and even going into the state tournament. Anderson also wants to make it back into the Essex County Tournament finals like the team did last year, and advance past the second round of states – something the team has not done before.
“If we keep playing like we do, with everyone contributing their part, I think we can definitely make it there,” Anderson said.
Coach Suzanne Giarrusso also believes the team has what it takes to succeed, especially under the leadership of Anderson.
“Ava has been doing a tremendous job for us this season,” Giarrusso said. “She is a true leader on and off the field. She gives 100 percent at every practice and game.”
Anderson has talent, skill and dedication. Perhaps most importantly, though, she has the passion and love for the game that helps her thrive.
“I really love the speed of the game. I also love how intense games can get when it’s tied back and forth,” Anderson said. “Being in a high intensity game is really motivating and although it does not always turn in my favor, the times that it has are always so great because you know how hard yourself and your team has worked to maintain on top.”