HILLSBOROUGH: Goalies like Tom Mahoney have been strength of Raider lacrosse

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By Justin Feil, Packet Media Group
Tom Mahoney has cemented his spot in a line of terrific goalies for the Hillsborough High School boys’ lacrosse program.
The senior has been steady in the back for a Raiders team over the last two seasons. Hillsborough has gotten accustomed to great goalie play.
“I’ve had an amazing run,” said Hillsborough head coach Mark Wilson. “We had (Garret) VanDoren, (Alex) Malecki, and Anthony Stavrakis, who’s now at Salisbury. We’ve had a great run of goalies.”
When Stavrakis graduated to Salisbury, it was Mahoney’s job to take over and key the defensive side.
“Going in last year, knowing Anthony Stavrakis was ahead of me, I knew I had a big role to fill,” Mahoney said. “I felt like I fulfilled it. I think I’ve done better this year. I feel like communication wise and my knowledge of the game and being able to control everything has improved a lot.”
Mahoney made seven saves as Hillsborough got back to its winning ways with a 12-4 win over Old Bridge on Monday.
“He’s a two-year starter,” Wilson said. “He’s done a great job for us. He was team MVP for us. He’s a good guy and he’s really solid. He should give us a good chance against Watchung.”
The ninth-seeded Raiders were looking forward to their rematch against eighth-seeded Watchung Hills in the first round of the North Jersey, Group 4 state tournament that was scheduled for Wednesday. Watchung beat Hillsborough, 13-1, early in the regular season. In that meeting, however, half of Hillsborough’s team was ill.
“I was the only healthy one on the team,” Mahoney said. “The whole team was sick and out of it. It frustrated the heck out of me. I knew it wasn’t our full potential. Going into Wednesday I know we’ll have a much better game against them this time.”
The Raiders have confidence in a new look that they unveiled against Old Bridge. It helped them improve the speed at which they can play, and gave them a more potent offense.
“(Monday) was great,” Wilson said. “We moved some things around on the offense. We took (Thomas) Boland and (Dillon) Zimmerman, who have been on attack, and put them in the midfield, and really uptempoed the offense.
“We think it’s the way to go. We’ve been having success with Brendan Nork winning the faceoffs. We want to capitalize on that and go for it. Tim Yost, a sophomore attackman, is still there. It’s really about building around the seniors in midfield – Travis Casey, Ryan Melillo, Tom Boland and Dillon Zimmerman. Those are who we really want to build around.”
The Raiders have been waiting all season to see what their offense was capable of with the look. They were set back by injuries early on and are finally getting a peak at the full potential.
“I thought it gave us more opportunities for our better shooters to shoot,” Mahoney said. “I thought we got more opportunities. It showed with how many goals we scored.”
At the other end, the Raiders aren’t as experience on defense, but they can lean on Mahoney and Connor Genes to lead their defense.
“Defensively, from the beginning to now, the biggest difference is communication wise and everyone is understanding our new defense with four poles on the outside,” Mahoney said. “It’s getting there and it’s effective for us now. We had to work out a couple of kinks.”
With a win Wednesday, Hillsborough would advance to take on top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan, a team that they lost to, 12-1, in a game that was closer than the score looks.
“We had a really good defensive plan for Bridgewater,” Wilson said. “We just couldn’t do anything else right. We couldn’t clear, we couldn’t hold onto the ball. We had some good defensive stands. We just couldn’t capitalize.”
The Raiders are hoping that their persistence pays off and gives them another chance. They have been battling through illness and injuries this season that have affected their consistency in a 7-10 year. Hillsborough looks to have momentum when they need it most in their season.
“It’s been up and down,” Mahoney said. “It was kind of frustrating with the injuries. Now that everyone is back and we’ve been working together, the chemistry is coming together and it’s enjoyable now.”Mahoney thinks the Bridgewater game was Hillsborough’s best defensive effort. It’s something that raised their confidence heading into states.
“This year, I would say it’s a completely new defense,” Mahoney said. “We have sophomores starting.
We’ve thrown in a freshman every game. We have a couple returning juniors and senior. Whoever we throw in adapts to the defense and we communication often.”
Wilson loves that he has another good goalie to rely on in the big games.
“He’s super steady,” Wilson said of Mahoney. “He makes those uncanny saves. Now that we’ll have more offensive guys in the midfield, he throws a good ball so hopefully we can get some transition out of that as well.”
Mahoney was a former attack player. In seventh grade, he got a taste for the goalie spot when his 2 Knights Lacrosse club team needed a replacement in a pinch. In eighth grade, he made the switch full time, and by freshman year he was playing JV for Hillsborough High. Next year, he will continue his career for Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.
“I always wanted to play in college,” Mahoney said. “The fact it actually happened is exciting. I’m also playing with a teammate from my club team.”
As the Raiders watch another good goalie move on, they are hopeful that they can find a suitable replacement. Mahoney has some advice from his own journey from a seventh-grade fill-in to being a college recruit.
“Keep working hard and never be satisfied,” he said. “There’s always spots to improve. There’s little things you can improve from communication to conditioning. There’s endless things you can work on.” 