Balance key in Lady Vikings’ strong start to lacrosse season

By Warren Rappleyea

South Brunswick High School’s girls’ lacrosse team is off to a strong start as it looks to better the 10-9 record it posted last spring.

The Lady Vikings opened the season with three straight victories before falling to Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) rival Monroe Township High School, 10-6, April 7. Midfielder Shannen Sterner scored four goals, while attacker Jill Grzelak and Briana Gonzales also scored, but South Brunswick came up short in the second half.

“I’m very proud of the effort we had against Monroe,” coach Sean Edwards said. “The girls worked hard and never gave up. They’re a good team and we’re looking forward to playing them again in two weeks.”

South Brunswick was tested by Middletown High School North in its season opener. The Lady Vikings took a 6-2 lead into the half and had to hold on for a 6-5 win as the Lions rallied. Dakota Apicella made 16 saves in net to preserve the victory.

Edwards’ team handily won its other two matches against conference rivals South Plainfield High School and Edison High School, 16-3 and 18-3, respectively.

“The key for us is a balanced attack,” Edwards said. “We have several girls who can score and that makes us hard to defend against. That’s been one of the strengths of our program — we usually have girls who can put the ball in the net.”

Sterner leads the team with 15 goals and also has four assists to her credit. The junior scored 37 times last spring. Midfielder Amanda Palumbo, a tri-captain, is second with 11 goals. The coach credited Sterner and Palumbo with helping his team regain possession and keep the ball away from the opposition. The Lady Vikings’ other starting midfielder, Haley Konopka, has two goals thus far but is coming off a 23-goal campaign.

Senior attacker Gonzales, who posted 30 goals and eight assists a year ago, has six tallies to her credit in the early going. Fellow attacker Lindsay Szucs has five goals and six assists. Grzelak and junior Emily Foltiny are also threats up top.

While Edwards expects to get plenty of goals, he also noted that his girls take pride in their defense. Opponents are averaging only five goals against South Brunswick this spring. The steady Apicella, a captain who has turned aside 75 percent of the shots that have come her way, gives the Lady Vikings a reliable goalkeeper.

The defense includes captain Deepshika Muruganathan, Angela Mazzola and Rachel Hecht along with junior Mary Rohring, who averages three ground balls a game and is tied for the team lead in that department with Konopka and Gonzales.

Key reserves include attacker Izzy Lam and defender Becky Zheng, both seniors, and junior Louisa Post-Zwicker, who is a versatile midfielder. Midfielder/defender Medha Gupta is the lone sophomore on the team. Junior Lauren Bunch is the backup goalie.

“Most of our players earned letters last year, so experience is one of our strengths,” Edwards said. “Our goal is to get better and more confident as the season goes on. We want to be at our best for the tournaments.”

South Brunswick was slated to visit North Brunswick Township High School April 11 and will be in East Brunswick High School April 13. The Lady Vikings return home April 18 to host Old Bridge High School.