After coming off one of their most successful seasons in program history, the Montclair State Women’s Lacrosse team came into the season with high expectations.
Overall, the Red Hawks finished the 2022 season with an overall record of 7-7 and a conference record of 3-3. Their season ended heartbreakingly on Saturday, April 30, falling short to the Rowan University Profs 18-7.
Even though they did not meet their team goal of qualifying for the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament, some of the key players reflected positively on this season and held themselves accountable for the program’s future success.
One of the 12 graduating seniors on the team is All-American goalkeeper Allyn Lilien. She conveyed how not only was their tough out-of-conference schedule a lesson for the team but how this season overall was something they can learn from.
“In the beginning, I think that tough schedule was good to have to try and challenge us, and it really did show us what we needed to change for the rest of the season,” Lilien said.
Graduate student attacker Rhiannon Brown notes that this season was not just about wins and losses and numbers.
“For our schedule this year, we played a lot of hard teams in the regular season outside of our conference, and we knew that going into it was going to be hard,” Brown said. “We knew that our record [did] not [reflect] who we were as a team and that we are better than what that record says.”
Lilien mentioned how different players stepped up throughout the season, even though they were not titled with being a captain of the team. It was clear their contributions did not go unnoticed. Lilien explained how leadership was exemplified among the Red Hawks.
“We have three captains, but I do not think that leadership has to have a title,” Lilien said. “Throughout the season people have stepped up, but it was very nice that on any given day, a different player could be our leader or our strongest player out on the field. So, it was nice to have many different leaders playing in different capacities and maintaining these roles. Whether it was motivation or connecting with the teammate next to them in order to give us that fire for that day.”
A huge loss to the Red Hawks was senior midfielder Amber Gonzalez, who had a career-ending injury tearing both of her meniscuses in her right knee. From both the attacking and defensive standpoints, Gonzalez was missed from this team. She was on pace to top her career-high of goals.
Brown acknowledged how the loss of Gonzalez had both a positive and negative effect on the team.
“It was definitely different because personally, I felt like there was a hole in the attack because I am so used to having [Gonzalez] by my side on the field,” Brown said. “I am extremely grateful that we had ‘Coach Amber’ on the sidelines because she saw things we as players did not see, and it was perfect, but obviously I wanted her on the field more.”
Gonzalez, aka “Coach Amber,” immediately adapted to her injury and took on a different role of helping out her teammates from the sidelines.
Having Gonzalez’s player expertise alongside head coach Nicol Parcelluzzi and assistant coach Sarah Burkarth was monumental for the Red Hawks. However, it was frustrating for the senior midfielder to be watching on the sidelines.
“Obviously it was very frustrating because I wanted to be out there playing with all my teammates,” Gonzalez said. “There were moments where I was saying to our trainer to put me in and just let me just go in, but I obviously could not do that.”
Gonzalez reflected on her four-year career as a Red Hawk, and what she values most about this team.
“Something I value is definitely the people,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve had my best friends playing with me for four years now. With each other, these bonds that we have, you really do not find that often in life, especially with them having your back. Just being able to have that opportunity to play on a team and learn all these values and meet all these friends is such a great opportunity, and that is what I’m going to miss the most.”
Lilien, along with 11 other players, will be graduating at the end of this semester. But with their collegiate careers coming to an end, the goalkeeper does not want the team to harp on their mistakes.
“Regardless of what happened this season, we did accomplish so much together,” Lilien said. “When we get together, we will talk about how much we meant to each other, not that ‘practice was not intense enough.’ This season provides that opportunity to have all of us take a step back, and say ‘yes, this may not have been the same success that we had last year, but through it all, we did learn.’”