HADDONFIELD – According to one of the traditions of Moorestown High School’s legendary girls lacrosse team, the No. 51 holds a lot of significance.
“It’s a number that’s been passed on through the years to somebody who is the heart and soul of the program,” said Moorestown coach Deanna Knobloch.
“If you look through the years,” Knobloch added, “everyone who has worn that number has been – not necessarily the best player field -- but someone who believes in this program so much so that she would do anything for it.”
This season, senior Quinn Nicolai wears the No. 51, just as she did as a junior when she earned consensus honors as South Jersey’s player of the year.
As you might expect, she wears the number as a badge of honor.
“There’s a lot of girls behind me who have worn it, and they kind of left behind a great legacy on this team,” Nicolai said. “It’s an honor to wear it in their name and to add onto that legacy every year.”
Nicolai made her usual contributions to the team on Monday when her three goals helped the No. 1-ranked Quakers turn back No. 10 Haddonfield 16-7 in a non-league game.
Knobloch has come to expect no less from the four-year starter.
“Quinn is the epitome of what a Moorestown girls lacrosse player is,” the coach said. “She gives 100 percent effort all the time. She’s a great player, and she can play every end of the field for us.”
Then Knobloch went on to elaborate.
“She’s great defensively in the midfield,” she said. “She’s amazing on the draw, and offensively she’s a threat every time she has possession of the ball.”
And Knobloch said all of those attributes only scratch the surface of all the intangibles Nicolai brings to the team.
“She bleeds black and gold,” the coach said. “She loves this program every time she steps onto the field, whether it’s practice or a game. When she speaks everybody listens. She’s one of the most highly respected players in the program.”
With her output on Monday, Nicolai now has 17 goals with 14 assists this season. She is coming off a junior season in which she scored 77 goals with 26 assists.
The Penn State recruit has 165 goals for her career, which puts her well within reach of finishing her high school years with more than 200 goals.
For her part, Nicolai understands the responsibilities that go to the person who wears 51.
“It goes to someone who really understands the meaning of the `M lax’ program,” she said. “It goes to someone who loves it and honors it and knows how to lead younger girls.
“It’s really a leadership role and I’m honored to take it on.”
This season Nicolai faces special challenges as team leader, considering the Quakers are a young team that starts only three seniors.
The Quakers have already absorbed one loss to state power Bridgewater, but – as usual – there is little doubt that they field the best team in South Jersey.
Nicolai says the team still has plenty of potential to improve.
“I think we just have to keep working on our mental toughness,” she said. “Our confidence is our biggest thing.
“We’ve been doing really well in practice. We’ve been stepping up and I think a lot of girls are stepping up too.”
On Monday, Nicolai got a lot of support from some of the younger players.
Junior Robin Panzarella led the attack with four goals and sophomore Kayla Frank scored three. Panzarella scored the first three of the game when the Quakers took the lead for good.
Ay Wayden and Katie Pileggi scored two goals each for Haddonfield.