By Jean DePlacido
---- — Year after year, the Waring School girls lacrosse team is the one to beat in the Independent Girls Conference.
In the eight years that Ambrose Devaney has been coaching at the Beverly school, the Mavericks have won the IGC crown seven times and finished one game behind in 2012. This spring, they were back on top again and are already looking forward to another strong season in 2014.
On paper this season might have appeared to be a rebuilding year for Waring, with four eighth graders and nine freshmen seeing considerable time on the field. But the girls, said Devaney, had a different idea.
“We knew this could be a rebuilding year because we were such a young team, and the plan was to build a solid foundation. But as soon as we got outside (in the spring), we knew we were going to be really good,” said junior Eleanor Lustig of Wenham, one of two Maverick players to record her 100th career goal this season along with senior Emily Friend. “We felt certain we could make a go of it.
“Our goal is the same every year: win the league. And the one thing that never changes from year to year is how supportive everyone is. We have such good senior leadership (that) the younger girls all look up to them, and they begin to love the sport of lacrosse. When you’re on the field you don’t feel any age difference; that’s unique to our team.
“We’re a small school,” added Lustig, taking about the co-educational day school, which has about 160 students in grades 6-12. “So there’s a great opportunity for the newcomers because we need them to be a vital part of our team.”
A South Hamilton native, Friend was highly recruited and finished the season as Waring’s leading scorer with 41 goals and 16 assists. The All-New England Prep School star will continue her career collegiately at Hobart & William Smith in Geneva, N.Y.
Lustig, who was also All-New England, led the Mavericks in goals (47) and finished with 52 points. After beginning her varsity career as an eighth grader, she broke out as a sophomore with 46 goals and took off from there.
“It was great having two prolific scorers,” said Devaney, whose team finished 9-3 this spring. “They’ve been playing together for four years now and push each other. Both girls are terrific in the classroom, too.
When Emily came out as an eighth grader we called her ‘Bambi’ because she was all arms and legs. She has grown into a very graceful lacrosse player with fluent movements.”
Young players key help success
The Mavericks’ potent scoring attack was aided by sophomore defensive wing Sara Kessler, who was the third-leading point getter with 24 goals and three assists. Ayla Rauhala, Kessler’s defensive wing partner, was accurate with quick connecting passes to put Waring on the attack and helped the transition game click.
“We worked so well together,” said Kessler, who is from Byfield. “I used to be a floater, but started playing defensive wing this year and it’s a great position for me because I have access to the whole field. It involves a lot of running, and I love to run.
“This was an amazing year; it was great to see our eighth and ninth graders grow over the season. We had a lot of new members on the team, but we all were very close and worked together, which is why we were so successful.”
The reason they scored a lot of goals every game, said Devaney, was because of efficient passing. They kept the ball in the air almost all the time and hit the open person with pinpoint accuracy, making such a swift transition from defense to attack that most opponents were unable to adjust to quickly enough.
Another key member of the team, groundball leader Brooke Adams, was a First Team IGC all-star since her freshman year. Senior goalie Two-time league all-star Maddie Crowley, a tri-captain with Friend and Lustig, was recruited to play in college, but decided to attend Northeastern to pursue a career in nursing.
“Maddie could have played at a number of schools, but she’s going to follow her dream career instead,” said Devaney. “She did a great job for us and could have been a terrific field player. In one game she played one half in the field, scoring a goal and getting an assist.”
College opportunities for players
Waring graduates have gone on to play varsity or club lacrosse at Yale, Wesleyan, Vassar, Skidmore, NYU, Wake Forest, Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, Vermont, USC, Delaware and Kenyon.
Maverick players are frequently recruited, and Devaney has six returning seniors next season who will attract a lot of attention. Bringing the young talent along, he said, is the key to the program’s long-term success.
“We only had two seniors this year, but a lot of juniors who will come back and make us strong once again,” said Lustig.
The IGC does not have playoffs, so after the final game the season comes to an abrupt halt. “It’s like turning a light switch off,” said Devaney. “The improvement is gradual throughout the season, and by the end they’re world beaters. Suddenly, after all the hard work, it’s all over.
“We are fortunate to have tremendous mentors to help bring the younger kids along. Eighth graders who can start will start. Waring is a great lacrosse option for North Shore kids, and it’s great working with these girls because there’s such a strong student body at Waring. I’m very fond of the school and want my grandchildren to attend because of the wonderful educational opportunities.”