There is a simple equation at the heart of girls’ lacrosse: score more goals than the other team and you win.
Red Bank Regional High School is doing a ton of scoring –and winning– in 2019.
Behind three dynamic goal scorers, Meghan Murray and first cousins Claudia and Madeline Kelly, the Buccaneers are 8-2 with 139 goals. Murray, who has connected for 42 goals, Claudia Kelly, who has scored 35, and Madeline Kelly, who has produced 32, have combined for 109 of those goals.
“It’s cool,” said Red Bank coach Brook Connell. “You can tell they read each other before a play even happens.”
“We trust each other. I look up and can spot them right away,” added Claudia Kelly. “And they know how I like to cut.”
Connell took over the program in 2016, Murray’s freshman campaign. Professional sports commentators often talk about “the infrastructure,” or when a pro franchise has a great coach and star player that lead a run of success.
In 2016, for Red Bank girls’ lacrosse, Connell and Murray became “the infrastructure.” Murray scored 57 goals and led her team to a 10-8 record.
Each year, the attack player kept scoring more goals and leading the Bucs to more victories. She scored 63 times and sparked Red Bank to 12 victories in 2017. Then she recorded 84 goals and galvanized the Buccaneers to 14 triumphs in 2018.
But throughout the Connell-Murray era, Red Bank has struggled in the state sectional tournament, going just 1-3 with two first-round defeats. The program’s deepest state run came last spring, when it lost in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 tournament, 16-5 to Chatham High School.
The Kelly cousins were a part of some of those teams, as Claudia is a junior and Madeline a sophomore. But it wasn’t until last year that all three played together for the Buccaneers. Not coincidentally, in 2018 the program enjoyed the best record, 14-8, and the deepest postseason run of the Connell-Murray era.
Now, with all three players fully formed, the program is in line for a banner year.
“This year it’s been awesome to have all three of them shining at once,” Connell said. “I hope this team can exceed what we’ve done (in the past).”
“Claudia and I have a strong connection because our families are so close and we’re so close,” Madeline Kelly said. “And being on a team with Meghan is so much fun.”
“She does all these cool moves that I’m trying to learn,” Kelly added.
Murray’s signature move is to drive straight at a defender and whoosh her stick across her body. This shifts the defender’s eyes and gives Murray a split second to spin around toward the goal.
“It helped me watching her do that,” Madeline Kelly said. “Now it’s something I like to do too.”
Murray, Kelly and Kelly are constantly raising the bar for each other. They have done the same for their team in 2019.
But can they keep it up and set a new postseason standard?
Red Bank’s second-half schedule includes Shore Conference powers Ocean Township High School on April 25 and Manasquan High School on May 3. Connell thinks this will prepare the Bucs for the Central Jersey, Group 3 state sectional tournament, which does not include Ocean and Manasquan.
“And we have a good chance against teams like Ocean,” Madeline Kelly said.
“We’re definitely looking to go further,” Connell added.