The way things are going, it appears the Millburn girl’s lacrosse team is ready to take a big step forward.
After finishing 8-10 a year ago and being eliminated from the first round of the state playoffs for a second straight season, the girls are brimming with experience and talent heading into this spring.
Seniors Nicki Schiller, Janie Penney and Hallie Pickard headline a group of 16 returning varsity players, which include the team’s top defenders, scorers and midfielders from a year ago. The trio brings back more than 150 goals from a year ago, meaning the locals could be a very potent offensive team.
“Now I think that they have the confidence,” said new Millburn head coach Penny Kaye of her returning offensive stalwarts “They’ve always had the confidence, but now they know what to expect as seniors. They know what to expect from the other teams.”
Kaye, who served as co-head coach a year ago, and as the assistant head coach for four years before that at Millburn High School, is very excited about how good this team is and can potentially be.
“I think this is the best team I’ve had since I’ve been at Millburn,” she said. “We’re pretty excited, we have a very strong midfield. …It just means that we’re strong on both ends of the field. With a strong midfield and a strong low D, there’s no stopping us.”
Midfielders Emily Butcher and Megan Weissman are two of the team’s other top returnees, as well as co-captain Veronica Durando. Kaye also said she will be playing four sophomores as well, and that team depth has become a strength.
“My bench is a lot stronger than it was. My starters don’t have to play a full game, which is great,” Kaye said.
Millburn had an up and down season last year, never getting on a winning streak longer than two games. They have moved up from the Super Essex Conference Liberty Division to the American Division (the top division in the county) and should have their work cut out for them, with the likes of West Essex, Montclair and Caldwell vying for a division title as well.
“We have a really, really tough schedule and I think the girls are ready to play hard every game,” Kaye said. “We put up a pretty good fight against some of the top teams last year. … I think some teams, we’ll be able to sneak up on them.”
Aside from two pretty lopsided losses to West Essex a year ago, Millburn either defeated or lost close matches to every team currently in the American Division. On top of that, the Millers play all of their American Division matches at home this season, which could provide a nice advantage.
Millburn’s season gets kicked off Saturday at home against Livingston.