There are only 12 spots up for grabs in the annual DIAA Girls Lacrosse State Tournament. With this season winding down, the fight for playoff berths have begun to ramp up.
The Appoquinimink Jaguars qualified for the playoffs last year as the No. 10 seed and look to return to the postseason after compiling a 7-2 mark entering this week.
After a tough start, the Lady Jags have caught fire, and they hope to ride the recent wave of success they’ve battled to create.
“I think our most challenging games have yet to come this season, therefore we need to work even harder in these next few weeks,” said Appoquinimink head coach Laurie Garrison.
One of Appo’s main strengths has been an explosive and well-rounded offensive attack. At the spring break, only Ursuline Academy (180), Cape Henlopen (160) and Sussex Academy (145) have scored more than the Lady Jags’ 140 goals on the year.
While the team has its offensive leaders, 16 different Lady Jags have found the back of the net at least once this season.
Appo has three players who’ve already topped the 20 goal plateau, including junior Shelby Graser and freshmen Rachel Thomas and Samantha McMahon.
Graser is currently second on the team in both goals and assists, scoring 25 goals while adding nine assists through nine games.
“Shelby has been an important piece of AHS girls lacrosse since her freshman year,” Garrison said. “This season, her accountability to the team is not just measured in intensity and productivity in practice and games, but in her role as a leader and motivator.”
Meanwhile, the freshmen duo of Thomas and McMahon have combined for nearly a third of Appo’s scoring this year.
Thomas’ 27 goals lead the team, McMahon is third with 21 goals, while both have assisted on six more tallies.
“Rachel and Samantha are great additions to our family,” Garrison said. “As freshmen, I have given them roles out of their comfort zone. With the support and encouragement of their teammates, especially our veterans, they have exceeded my expectations.”
The core of veteran returnees this year for Appo have been a huge part of the team’s success. Seniors Jillian Morris, Emily Brown, Alyson Laumeister and junior Brooke Lawrence have been with the varsity since their freshman year.
That group is joined by fellow returnees like Kelsey Higgins, Carlyn Steckline, Julie Fryer, Brianna DiStefano, Sinclaire North, Allyson Sweeney and Karina Larinavicius.
Along with a proven offense, Appo also boasts a very tough defense. At the break, only Tower Hill (36), Archmere Academy (49) and Concord (41) have allowed fewer than Appo’s 52 goals.
With strong defensive play in front of her, junior goalie Darcy Judd has been sold, keeping five opponents to three goals or fewer this season.
What Appo’s team is capable of on both ends of the field has been on full-display during a still active seven-game winning streak.
After opening the season with losses to Dover and Smyrna when they gave up 23 combined goals, the Jags put together wins in each of the last seven games, allowing just 29 goals
During the streak, the offense has also been hot. Appo has won six of the last seven games by
double-digits, scoring 120 total goals against A.I. duPont, Delaware Military Academy, Christiana, Hodgson, Mt. Pleasant, Middletown and Brandywine.
“The last seven games have given the team an opportunity to learn from our Smyrna and Dover games, jell as a team,” Garrison said. “Allowed the players to get a better sense of their role on this team this season. We still have more work to do!”
Currently sitting atop Flight A of the Blue Hen Conference with Concord (6-1), Appo has six games remaining, three against divisional opponents. The first of those three division games comes on at home against St. Georges Tech when Appo returns from the break on Monday, April 29.
“We’re eager to earn a conference championship,” Garrison said. “And to see if we can get
another postseason and beyond the first round of the state tournament.”