By Tim Morris
Winning and postseason tournaments have become the norm for the Howell High School girls lacrosse team. To continue that trend (11-6 in 2015), head coach Christina Pienkowski will depend on a number of newcomers this spring.
“We are a very new team this year,” she said. “Our goal is to improve each and every day, while gaining confidence in their play along the way.”
Howell’s strength is clearly in the back, led by four-year starting defender Alexis Hart. Gianna Ciacciarelli (a three-year starter), Jessica Durann, Megan MacWilliams and Kelsey Reed, who are also seniors, give Howell’s defense depth and experience.
The Rebels are set in goal, where the tandem of seniors Jessica Lazarus and Kayliegh Wilson has been a proven winner. Lazarus made 223 saves in 2015 and had a save percentage of .580, while Wilson stopped 98 shots and had a .670 save percentage. Both keepers are three-year starters.
The Rebels will need their experience on defense and in goal because the team is thin on experience and numbers on attack and at midfield. Hart, who last year had three goals and seven assists, is the leading returning scorer.
Up top, seniors Katherine Capestro and Marisa Crifasi are back with fellow senior MacKenzie Dix the lone midfielder returning.
The newcomers are seniors Alexandra Megels (attack) and Sierra Enea (defense); juniors Emily Schwerdt (attack), Emilky Fescko (midfield) and Alyssa Hornung (midfield); sophomores Jenna Cholowinski (midfield), Sara Huegenin (midfield) and Dana Shafranek (midfield); and freshman Olivia Manghisi (attack).
Howell will need to have some of its newcomers step up and help out in the scoring department. In the first two weeks, the team has had trouble scoring, leading to a 1-4 start (1-2 in the division). In their most recent loss, 12-11 to Toms River High School North, the Rebels hit double figures for the first time this year, which is a good sign.
The defense is strong enough to keep Howell in every match. With sufficient scoring, the Rebels can certainly rebound and take a run at making the postseason tournaments.
In the team’s first four matches, Manghisi has provided a lift with a team-high 11 goals, followed by Dix, who has with 10. But no one else has more than three.
Howell has key away A North matches at Manalapan High School April 14 and Freehold Township High School April 16. On April 19, the Rebels step out of the division to take on Donovan Catholic High School in Toms River.
These matches are where Howell will need to start turning things around to stay in the postseason hunt.