By BRIAN CUNNIFF
As in most years, lacrosse gets the early regular-season start in the high school spring sports season as the first games are set for Wednesday afternoon.
Locally, we’ll see two big rivalry games straightaway as Lower Cape May takes on Middle Township.
The boys game, set to be played at Middle, features two teams expected to be improved this spring.
The girls game, scheduled at Lower, will see two of the top teams in the CAL clash in an early-season test for both clubs.
Both games are slated for 4 p.m. starts.
The following is a look at boys and girls lacrosse teams from Lower Cape May and Middle Township:
LOWER CAPE MAY BOYS
Lower Cape May begins the season with a new head coach in Cole Blackley, a former standout player for the Tigers who took on an increased role with the staff when head coach Chris Boyle resigned for personal reasons in the middle of last season.
Blackley has the luxury of returning his top three scorers from a year ago in sophomore Macky Bonner (31 goals), senior Matt Brown (27 goals, team-best 26 assists), junior Taj Turner (18 goals) and junior Gavin Hill (14 goals) from a Caper Tiger team that finished 5-9 last spring.
Senior Wayne Reichel, sophomore Jackson Brown and sophomore Oguer Nunez lead the defense in front of new goalkeeper Quinten Hagan.
Freshmen Jake Robson and Zac Castellano are newcomers expected to contribute.
MIDDLE TOWNSHIP BOYS
Middle Township begins the season with a new head coach in Justin Haworth.
He inherits a team that went 5-12 last spring but brings back 11 players with experience from last year’s team.
Leading the way are seniors Brett Nabb (MF), Matt Frame (A), Austin Shagren (GK) and Mitchell McNichols (LSMF). Nabb led the team in goals with 49, assists with 33 and ground balls with 88, while Frame scored 43 times in 2021.
Other returnees include juniors Ryan Roscoe (D), Landon Osmunden (D), Greg Hrynowski (MF) and Jack Knieriem (LSMF) and sophomores Danny Brady (D), Tommy Shagren (MF) and Isiah Carr-Wing (face-off specialist).
New varsity players expected to contribute include juniors Jerome Licata (D), Ryan Franchville (D/MF), Chase McCray (MF) and Jesse Hickman (D); sophomores Justin Linhares (A) and Sean Brennan (GK); and freshmen Eddie Hirsch (A) and Joe Berrodin (D/MF).
With so many returnees and some promising talent among the newcomers, Middle is expected to be improved this spring.
LOWER CAPE MAY GIRLS
Lower Cape May enjoyed a winning season last spring, going 9-6. With eight seniors leading a rather experienced team, fifth-year coach JoAnn McLaughlin is optimistic for a very competitive season for the Lady Tigers.
Many of the returning seniors were also key players on Lower’s successful field hockey team in the fall.
There is a lot of offensive firepower among the retning senior group. Maddie Schiffbauer (MF), Sabrina Faulkner (MF), Maggie Boyle (A) and Julia Gibson (A), have each scored more than 60 goals in their careers, with Faulkner leading the way at 102. Schiffbauer, Faulkner and Jenna O’Neill (D/MF) are the team’s leaders in draw controls.
Other returning seniors include defenders Shea Bonner, Kristina McClain and Alyssa Lemmon.
Other returnees include junior GK Ally Walsh (202 saves) and sophomore MF Tessa Hueber.
The top newcomers to the varsity are sophomores Brianna Loper (A) and Sianna King (D).
Lower should be among the better teams in the Cape-Atlantic League this spring.
MIDDLE TOWNSHIP GIRLS
Middle went 12-5 with a rather young team last spring, so the Lady Panthers are poised to return to the elite of the Cape-Atlantic League this spring.
Senior Brianna Robinson returns as one of the top offensive players in the CAL after netting 66 goals last spring. Sophomore Abbie Teefy also returns after establishing herself as one of the league’s top newcomers last season by posting 37 goals as a freshman.
Other key returning players include seniors Savannah Hulme, Morgan Delaney and Amelia Slick (215 saves as goalkeeper last season); juniors Maddyn McAnaney, Hailie Seitz, Rylee McFaddenEliza Billingham and Holly Mader; and sophomore Brooke Nabb.
Freshmen Jax Pickering and Carmen O’Hara are expected to contribute as newcomers.
Tina Prickett enters the season in her fifth year as head coach.