HADDON HEIGHTS – There’s a new game in town for the students at Haddon Heights High School as the Garnets on Friday launched their inaugural girls lacrosse season.
Even though the opening result – a 16-0 loss to Paul VI – wasn’t what the girls had hoped for, enthusiasm is high for the landmark season.
“I think it was good,” said junior Anna Bailey in reaction to playing her first-ever game of lacrosse. “It’s just an aggressive sport, with a fast pace. That’s what I like.”
Like many of the girls on the team, Bailey has experience playing other varsity sports, in her case soccer and winter track.
She saw playing lacrosse as a chance to try something new.
“It’s been difficult,” she said. “But we’re all putting in the hours and I feel like the entire team is looking good.”
Kelly Ferrante has taken on the role as the team’s first head coach. A real estate agent by trade, Ferrante was a four-year starter for the lacrosse teams both at Eastern High School and Rowan University.
As is usually the case with a new program and with an unfamiliar sport, there have been some difficult times, but Kelly says she has enjoyed the journey
“We have about 25 girls out, which I was very pleased about, considering nobody has ever played,” she said. “It took a lot of courage for these girls to come out and try something new and it’s been great.”
A mother of three, Ferrante has a daughter who she hopes will one day play for the Heights program.
Eager to usher in a new era for the high school, Ferrante has done everything from raising funds to teaching the game to all the newcomers.
She found many who were willing to help financially support the program, which exists entirely on donations.
“We have a lot of really generous donors,” she said. "Everybody was excited to hear we were starting lacrosse. Because it was new, a lot of our local businesses – especially our small businesses were really great.”
As for her other challenge, Ferrante says the girls have been responsive to learning something new.
“We have a lot of good athletes,” she said. “Lacrosse is something that, if you’re athletic, they will pick it up.”
Haddon Heights athletic director Joe Cramp credits Kelly for doing the leg work needed to get the program off the ground.
“When Kelly approached me about starting this up, she had a great plan on how to do it and fund it,” he said. “She has done a great job. We have a good number of girls out there, so I was excited for something new and I think the town is excited.”
Many players were intrigued about the opportunity of playing lacrosse, including sophomore Saylor Allen, a varsity soccer player.
“Lacrosse just looked like it would be fun,” she said. “It’s a fast, aggressive sport and it’s just like soccer with the positions, and stuff – playing your position and staying on you’re girl.”
One of the factors that came into play was whether the program should start off as it has – jumping right off at the varsity level.
Other programs in other sports have built from the JV level, giving the athletes a chance to sharpen their skills against a lower level of completion.
However, that was an idea both Ferrante and Cramp rejected fairly early in the process.
“Go big or go home,” is the way Ferrante expressed her thoughts about opening at the varsity level.
Cramp agreed, noting that in recent years a number of schools have recently begun both girls and boys programs in the growing sport.
“It’s up and coming in the area,” he said. “We talked about going JV, but there are a number of others schools who are just starting so we thought we can compete. If we take our lumps, we take our lumps.”