Experienced gained by Raiders in solid girls’ lacrosse season

By Warren Rappleyea

North Brunswick

After winning the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) championship for the second time in three years, the North Brunswick Township High School girls’ lacrosse team entered the season with high expectations.

Although the Raiders lost their two top scorers, Samantha Mehalick and Tatum Altman, to graduation, coach Danielle Bussiere was confident her team would again fare well. The confidence was well-founded, as her team turned in a fine 15-5 record.

Nevertheless, North Brunswick presented a high-octane offense led by Wagner University-bound midfielder Victoria Tucci. Despite drawing double-coverage from opponents, the senior led the team in scoring with 89 goals and 92 assists, including a team record 14 helpers in her team’s GMC quarterfinals victory against Edison High School May 9. Tucci scored 10 or more points 11 times and posted a 12-goal game in a win over Robbinsville.

Bussiere moved junior Cassie Oake from defense to the middle and the move paid immediate dividends, as Oake produced 71 goals 32 goals. The junior scored five or more goals in a match six times. Up front, sophomore attacker Hayler Greenberg tallied 47 goals to go with 11 assists and junior Elana Vargas added 23 goals and 10 assists. Two-way senior midfielder Rhica Austin contributed 14 goals.

On the other side of the ball, the youthful North Brunswick defense allowed 168 goals against — 53 fewer than in 2017. Junior Rachel Kim and sophomores Renee Hales, Taysla Jimenez and Keira Welsh played well in front of junior goalkeeper Natalie Chapman, who made 191 saves this spring.

North Brunswick made its way to the GMC semifinals, where it fell to Monroe Township High School, and also went to the quarterfinals of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) North Jersey, Section II, Group IV tournament.

Despite losing the multi-talented Tucci to graduation, the Raiders are well-positioned to remain a force next season, Bussiere said.

“Our girls gained a lot of experience this season,” the coach said. “This was a young team coming into the season, and they showed what they are capable of doing.”

South Brunswick

Neighboring South Brunswick High School’s girls’ lacrosse team is coming off an 8-7 season. The Lady Vikings were eliminated in an exciting GMC Tournament opening-round match against Old Bridge High School, 9-8. Jill Grzelak scored four times in the loss, while goalie Dakota Apicella turned aside 16 shots.

South Brunswick qualified for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament but was eliminated by West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, 11-8, in the opening round. Grzelak, Shannen Sterner and Haley Konopka scored two goals apiece.

Sterner, a junior, led the Lady Vikings’ balanced attack with 45 goals and 13 assists. Brianna Gonzales added 30 goals and 15 assists, and Amanda Palumbo posted 25 goals and seven assists. Lindsay Szucs had 20 goals and a team-leading 27 assists, Grzelak posted 21 goals and six assists and Konopka ended the year with 16 goals and 12 assists. Apicella made 151 saves in goal.