NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — In her senior season at West Essex High School, Athlete of the Week Lilly James has made an impact as both a physical and vocal leader on the West Essex softball team.
“[I’m] just staying confident with myself and trying to push my confidence into everyone else so they can have the same amount and hit as well as me and my other teammates so we can all achieve the goals we’ve been trying to achieve this year,” said James.
This year, James has been incredible on the field for West Essex, batting an astounding .474 with five homeruns, 15 runs batted in (RBI) and 11 runs scored. When asked to describe James’ three-hole hitter, head coach Andrea Mondadori had only one word to say: “fantastic.”
“My senior year is probably the best year,” said James. “[It] was a lot of fun seeing new faces and having a new team out on the field to see what we can do.”
Although many players would focus on improving the nuances to their own game for personal skill growth, James was contrarian. The consummate team player, James noted that as a varsity veteran, her main focus has been keeping the team prepared for the games and the season.
“[My focus] is to help [the underclassmen] be comfortable with the team and do their best every game,” she said.
In keeping with her team-first attitude, James still has goals for the Knights squad this season. After being ousted from the county tournament in the quarterfinals, where James notched two homeruns in one game, James has set her sights on a long run in the upcoming state tournament.
“Our goals are to go further in the state tournament since we are out of counties,” said James. “We’ve been studying the bracket, looking at the players from the other teams, and our goal is to do as well as we can every game and see how far we can go.”
West Essex, with an 8-9-1 record this season has drawn the 11th seed in the North 1, Group 3 State Tournament. Embracing the underdog mentality led by James, the Knights will look to make an impact when they take on sixth-seeded Montville on Monday.
“The first round, I think we can do very well and the [following] rounds I think we have a really good chance of winning,” said James. “We just all have to come together as a team, which we have the past few games and push through it.”
Next year, James will be heading to Stockton University to continue her education as well as her softball career while also attempting to walk on to the basketball team.
“I’m going to work my hardest to earn my spot and play the hardest that I can, which I normally do, but just to show the coaches that I earn my spot every time,” said James.
Click HERE to check out the last West Essex Athlete of the Week, Devyn Aschenbach from the girls lacrosse team.