Danielle Porzio is not a girls’ basketball coach.
She’s a girls’ soccer and girls’ lacrosse coach at North Brunswick Township High School.
But all three sports are about controlling the flow of the game, not scripted or individual plays like in football and baseball. So naturally, Porzio wants her North Brunswick girls’ lacrosse team to play like a basketball squad.
On defense, the Raiders play a high pressure zone to force turnovers and start offensive run outs.
“Caused turnovers are huge,” Porzio said. “They give us opportunities to score.”
North Brunswick started the 2019 season with two straight losses. But since then the Raiders have won seven consecutive games, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 113-46.
Porzio’s defensive unit is executing her basketball like vision: forcing turnovers and sparking offense. Seniors Keyara Hill and Kiera Welsh have set an aggressive tone in the defensive third.
“Our defense has been on fire,” Porzio said. “They are clicking as a hole.”
After they force turnovers, Hill, Welsh and their fellow defenders are zipping outlet passes up to a talented foursome of offensive standouts in Hayley Greenberg, Alexis Rich, Katherine Manley and Julia Davies.
Greenberg is a senior, a fourth-year varsity player and a reigning All-Greater Middlesex Conference First Team selection. A locus is the center or source of something, and Greenberg is the locus of North Brunswick’s offense.
She penetrates the offensive third like a great basketball creator, either finishing with a rocket shot or a kick out pass. The senior leads the Raiders in goals (36) and assists (21) this year.
“She’s very fast and she uses her speed when she sees an open lane,” Porzio said. “Hayley likes to take people one on one.”
Katherine Manley, or “Kat,” as she is known to teammates, is the sidekick of North Brunswick’s attack. She lines up behind the net and hits cutting Raiders for open looks. She is also a master of the hockey style wrap around shot.
Her 46 points (28 goals, 18 assists) are second on the Raiders, trailing only Greenberg.
Rich and Davies play in the midfield, so they frequently take connecting passes and transition the ball to the offensive side of the field.
Davies is “extremely fit and has the speed to take people on,” Porzio said.
Rich, as a sophomore, is the only underclassman in this foursome. She played defense last year, but had the stick skills to play anywhere.
Porzio told her to get in better shape over the offseason, so Rich could play in the midfield in 2019. Through winter track and club lacrosse, Rich developed the conditioning necessary to play a position that includes offensive and defensive responsibilities.
But her finest contribution has come on the offensive side. Rich both creates possessions, with 28 face off victories and 33 ground ball pick ups, and scores goals, with 31 so far this season.
“We needed her to step up and she took it well,” Porzio said.
“Everyone makes me feel at home. It doesn’t feel different,” Rich added. “I just fit in.”
With a balanced and connected lineup, North Brunswick has high expectations for the rest of the season. The Raiders fell in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinals a year ago, 11-8 to South Brunswick High School.
Their goal is to take the GMC this spring.
“We have the team to do it and the chemistry is there,” Porzio said.