With teams across the Hudson Valley starting practice today I decided to head out to the reigning Class A sectional champions. There is no doubting that North Rockland graduated a lot of talent, but the Red Raiders still have plenty of firepower leftover from a team that finished with the most wins in the section in 2012.
In fact, despite having only two seniors, coach Greg Borchers said this group of girls has the most game experience of any he’s ever coached. The majority of this year’s team is a product of North Rockland’s youth program.
Below you’ll find my story on North Rockland’s outlook for 2013. Later in the week I will be posting preview capsules of all local teams. For constant updates on breaking news follow me @LoHud_DeFran.
THIELLS A lot has changed since the North Rockland girls lacrosse team won its first sectional title in school history last spring.
While the graduation of five players might not sound like much, the accolades tell a different story.
With the loss of Tara Monaghan, a 2012 all-American and The Journal News Rockland County player of the year, defender Erin Dowd and goalie Katie Lonergan, both all-section honorees, and all-section honorable mention midfielder Amber June, it’s clear the Red Raiders have a large void to fill.
“I’ll never tell a player they need to take on more or take on less,” said Borchers at the team’s first practice of the season Monday. “If they do what they’re capable of doing and the other players fall in line, it seems to help right the ship.”
Kaitlyn Rau (pictured right) is the biggest piece returning to a North Rockland team that ended Lakeland/Panas’ streak of five-straight Class A championships and finished with the most wins in program history (19) before falling in the regional final.
The junior attacker accounted for 68 goals and 13 assists. Rau, who has committed to play at Villanova, sits fourth among North Rockland’s all-time points leaders with 192.
“All the seniors last year, I always played with them the whole time I was on varsity and now they’re gone,” said Rau, who has been on varsity since the eighth grade. “Now the little kids look up to me.”
Midfielders Jeanie Peluso and Kelly Dowd (pictured above) also will take on leadership roles as the captains and the only seniors on the team.
While Dowd said the team can benefit from last season’s playoff run, the players can’t dwell on their past achievements.
“Just to come in with a positive outlook and make sure that we play every game like it’s our last,” Dowd said. “It’s a new season so we have to start off fresh.”
Peluso is coming off a torn ACL that prematurely ended her junior season. Peluso has been on the varsity since she was a freshman, but that was her only injury-free season.
“It stank watching them go that far and me not being able to do anything about it,” said Peluso of last season.
Junior midfield/attackers Lauren Mazza and Angela Kelly also should be big factors in North Rockland’s season, according to Borchers.
“If you go into a game with just one player, it’s easily shut down,” Borchers said. “If you go into a game with seven good players, now you have some options.”
Photos courtesy of Matthew Brown/The Journal News.