Coming into the season, Allentown High School had one girls’ lacrosse standout on each part of the field.
The Redbirds featured junior Brianna Samuels on the attack, senior Kaitlyn Bergen in the midfield and senior Abby Howell in goal. And all three players have not disappointed.
Samuels, who has recorded 23 goals, and Bergen, who has scored 24, have combined for 47 goals. Howell has 68 saves and is allowing just 4.5 scores per contest.
The trio has sparked Allentown to a 6-4 start. But the trio and the solid record are not exactly why Allentown’s coach, Jen Garavente, is confident going into the stretch run of the regular season.
Garavente feels good about her team because it has developed balance in the most important part of the field, the midfield. Alongside Bergen, sophomore Alyssa Castellano and junior Kylie Reed have rounded out Allentown’s midfield unit.
Castellano specializes at winning draw controls and transitioning the ball to the offensive third. She is Garavente’s attacking midfielder.
Reed is the Redbirds’ best defender in the middle of the field, so she excels at halting opposing attacks and moving the ball back upfield.
Between these two and Bergen, who is the team’s best two way player, Garavente has three midfielders ideally suited to their specific roles in that part of the field. Every lacrosse team wants the attacking midfielder, the two way midfielder and the defensive midfielder. Garavente has all those pieces.
“I’m very luck to say I have a super talented group,” Garavente said. “They are going to come together in the final games and allow us to feel confident going into the postseason.”
They already have chemistry to a large degree. Since Howell is one of the best passing goalies in central New Jersey, the Redbirds are a really connected club. They pass the ball swiftly and advance it upfield efficiently.
“We work well together and have a connection on the field,” Castellano said. “Abby is extremely helpful.”
“The chemistry has come together,” Garavente said. “Making that work before the postseason is a good sign.”
The emergence of Castellano and Reed has transformed Allentown from pretty good to NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional tournament contender.
Castellano earned a varsity letter last spring, but she didn’t start for the Redbirds. But she could have. The sophomore plays lacrosse year round for the South Jersey Select club team, and she is already a polished player.
That earned her a starting spot this year. It also made her ready to thrive on varsity right away.
“She plays very maturely and composed,” Garavente said. “And she’s very precise with the draw.”
Reed did start last season, but she wasn’t as good as she is now. The junior needed a year to get used to varsity lacrosse.
“The difference between her last year and this year is the way she’s become a leader,” Garavente said. “She’s always positive on the field and can implement it offensively and defensively.”
Despite this talent and balance, Allentown hasn’t reached its peak yet. The Redbirds have not yet won more than two straight games. But Garavente is pretty sure that the team will, perhaps a few times over.
“We haven’t been able to show what we do well to its full effect,” she said. “I’m excited to see it come together and to see us reach our full potential.”