NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — In what has become a rollercoaster season, the West Essex girls lacrosse team has received a calming influx of stability in major part due to the play and leadership of team captain and Athlete of the Week Devyn Aschenbach.
“I was also a captain of the field hockey team in the fall, so I learned from my field hockey experiences, but in the same breath it’s a different team, different girls, and a different way of being captain,” said Aschenbach. “I think the most important thing from a captain’s point of view is to stay positive and make sure they don’t give up.”
This season, Aschenbach had her work cut out for her with a number of departing seniors leaving a talented squad that reached the section finals last year.
“I think coming off of last year [we lost] a lot of great seniors, and I think in the beginning of the season this season was a question mark and we didn’t really know what it was going to be,” said Aschenbach. “I think the reason why we’re coming together and we’re having fun with it is because we didn’t know what we were going to expect and we’re giving it everything we have, taking it one step at a time.”
With Aschenbach’s leadership, the now 6-8 West Essex squad has started to turn a corner. Last week, the Lady Knights went 2-1 with victories over rival Caldwell and Newark Academy. Aschenbach was instrumental, scoring four goals and adding two assists in the victories.
“I think last week was a great week for us,” she said. “We were so excited. Everyone was having a great time and it’s so important to have a week like that before you go into states because it gets everyone’s confidence up—it gets everyone really excited about what’s coming.”
For Aschenbach, the solid play has been status quo, as this was her 10th game with at least two goals. She is one of the leaders on the squad, with 25 goals and seven assists with three games left to play. She attributes her solid performance to honing a key element of her game to benefit the attack as a whole.
“In the beginning of the season I was on attack, but I didn’t really have a place for myself—I was kind of just roaming around and recently I’ve been working with my coaches and I made it a goal for myself [to] use the crease a lot scoring there,” said Aschenbach. “I think that’s made me a better player because I’ve really focused on mastering that skill.”
Given the solid play of the team as of late, West Essex can be poised to make a long run in the state tournament once again. While the program always seems to have a target on its back due to past success, the Knights are embracing their under-the-radar mentality this season to surprise teams.
“[When] our team is really on our game, I think we can accomplish anything and I think other teams are scared of us for that reason,” said Aschenbach. “We’re just a team full of athletes on our best day that no one can stop us.”
Aschenbach has already made her lasting mark on the West Essex athletic program in many ways and hopes to continue her legend during the state playoffs. Next year, Aschenbach has committed to take her athletic talents to Villanova University, where she is eager to test out the Division 1 collegiate competition in field hockey.
“I’m super excited and a bit nervous,” she said. “Obviously my coaches here both for lacrosse and field hockey have nothing but prepared me for it. Everyone I talk to who goes to college and plays a Division 1 sport says West Essex prepares you so well and I’m super thankful to be part of a program that can prepare me for that.”