There were many times in which Kyla Kelly, the head coach of the Pope John High School girl’s lacrosse program, was extremely proud of the way in which the student athletes on the roster conducted themselves both on and off the field.
“One reason I love coaching is to see the growth in one season, to see the connections the athletes make and the lessons they learn,’’ Kelly said. “Each game was a test to their growth as a player and as a teammate.”
Leadership on the team helped guide the Lions to a winning season faced with exceedingly tough competition.
“Caitlin Carothers led with her optimism on and off the field,’’ Kelly said. “When we were losing, she gave all the athletes positive affirmations to keep digging deep, never give up. Every game is a lesson-learning opportunity to get better as an individual as well as a team.
“Mallory Morelli led the team with her heart and willingness to [help us] be a better team as a whole. Madison Maguire led the team with her knowledge of lacrosse, good stick skills and drive to always be the best she can be, as well as the team. Mia Lauzon led the team with her drive to win and her ‘never give up’ attitude. She worked hard to be successful and to communicate with teammates to be better than they were in the beginning of the season.”
A number of players on the squad demonstrated constant improvements, which impressed the coaching staff.
“Samantha Piotrowsky, Keira Donegan, Jordyn Smith, Alyssa Trendafilov, Lauren Pennino, Anna Daggett and Kate Fiore — all new to the team and showed continual improvement as the season went on,” Kelly said.
Pope John tallied nine overall victories and they were 5-3 in the NJIGLL Colonial North competition. They advanced to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group B Tournament where they were defeated by Holy Spirit.
“There is no reason to not be optimistic for the next season,” Kelly said. “Each year should be better and better. We do have a young team, losing four impactful players. Last season we had five upperclassmen starting in the varsity games and the rest underclassmen.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, not surprisingly had an impact on the past few seasons.
“The COVID pandemic affected this team in many ways,’’ Kelly said. “The senior’s freshman year was their only year where the season was not affected by COVID. As sophomores, they had a new coach and a virtual meeting on Mondays for their season.
“We had one senior that year and a total of 14 girls on the roster, only enough for one varsity team. For two weeks of our season we had seven girls practicing due to COVID and quarantine guidelines. Our juniors were our leaders on the team. Their senior year, we were able to double our athlete roster, we had 26 girls — enough for a varsity and JV team. Our team became a family in one short season, helping each other on and off the field. Just like any family, we had our roads to cross and lessons to learn.”
“One reason I love coaching is to see the growth in one season, to see the connections the athletes make and the lessons they learn,’’ had coach Kyla Kelly said. “Each game was a test to their growth as a player and as a teammate.”