Lisa Ross was always a talented girls’ lacrosse player.
But she needed a coach to push her to maximize that talent.
In the spring of 2018, Kristina Dunphey became an assistant coach in the Hillsborough High School girls’ lacrosse program. She was exactly the mentor that Ross, the program’s standout, needed.
Dunphey implored Ross to attack the net from down the center of the field, instead of always lining up in her old, familiar spot behind the cage. The junior listened, and enjoyed the best season of her life, recording 48 goals and 56 assists, both career highs.
She also led Hillsborough to the Somerset County Tournament quarterfinals and the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 Tournament semifinals. The Raiders fell to Mount Saint Mary Academy, 18-14, in the conference tournament and to a New Jersey power, Westfield High School, 11-9, in the state sectional quarters. But both runs were the furthest in Ross’s three year career up to that point.
Thanks to Dunphey, Ross is a new player going into her senior year. Dunphey called Ross the “quarterback” of what should be a prolific Hillsborough attack.
Hillsborough will open the 2019 season with a home game on March 27 against North Hunterdon Regional High School. Ross is aiming to lead the Raiders to their first Somerset County title since 2011.
“It’s time for us to make our mark,” she said.
Ross committed to play collegiate lacrosse at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as a sophomore in 2017. She also posted her 100th career goal and her 100th career assist as a junior last spring.
So the senior has no personal check marks left to accomplish. Her only focus is leading the Raiders to a great season.
Dunphey, who became Hillsborough’s head coach in the offseason, thinks her standout is ready to do just that. The coach has always watched Ross closely, and now she sees a more complete player than ever.
Ross is not just a scorer. She’s a possession creator as well, winning draw controls and scooping up ground balls in the middle of the field. When a lacrosse player combines scoring with possession creating, she is elite.
“She always had good stick skills,” Dunphey said. “But now she’s much more dynamic.”
Ross will have to be dynamic for Hillsborough to thrive this year. The Raiders are starting inexperienced players around her, including two sophomore midfielders, Olivia Halverson and Erin McCrea, and a junior, Tessa Norfleet, who missed last season with a torn ACL.
They are all talented players for their club teams, but they are not established in varsity lacrosse. Ross has been helping them get established in scrimmages with other teams, which the Raiders have been winning.
“In the past three scrimmages we’ve meshed well,” Dunphey said. “Lisa can play with anyone.”
“In the past I’ve been more of a feeder,” Ross said. “This year it’s time to drive more and get the girls moving.”
It’s a lot of pressure for a high school senior. But all the other pressure is off Ross, since she knows where she’s going to college.
She finds her central role with the Raiders to be more fun than anything else, and she is showing it on the practice field.
At Hillsborough practices, Ross blares hip hop from speakers and dances to the music.
“She really has a positive attitude,” Dunphey said.